Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
We’re back from a somewhat unintentional long summer hiatus, finishing up the last two installments of our Sorta-Big-Trip to the Radio Show in Orlando last September. That trip began and ended in Georgia, giving us the chance (at long last) to see much more of the state beyond metro Atlanta.
Little did we know when we headed up I-95 from Jacksonville on the next-to-last day of the trip that we’d be visiting coastal Georgia not once, not twice but three times in six months – which is why we tried to see everything there was to see in Brunswick, Georgia all in the space of a couple of hours.
And little did we know, when we pulled off 95 at the southern end of Brunswick, that on our way to our first AM stop we’d also see the city’s only TV station. WPXC-TV (Channel 21) serves the big Jacksonville market an hour south with ion Network programming, broadcasting from a tall tower in Kingsland, just north of the Florida-Georgia state line – but its studios are in Brunswick itself, on Blythe Island Highway near the I-95/US 17 interchange on the south side of town.
This was once a sort-of-local station, as WBSG, starting in 1990; it became the WB affiliate for the market in 1995, and two years later combined with new WJXX (Channel 25) south of Jacksonville to become the ABC affiliate for greater Jacksonville; in 1999, WJXX was sold to Gannett and combined with NBC affiliate WTLV, which sent WBSG over to what was then Pax.
Right across the street, the two tower array of WSFN (790) sits behind what I think were once the studios for this 500-watt daytimer (which later added 115-watt night service.) WYNR signed on here in 1966, and was later known as WPIQ and WHJX before taking its present calls. (It also has a translator on 103.7 for its “ESPN Coastal Georgia” format, simulcast to the west in Blackshear/Waycross on WFNS 1350.)
From out here in the sprawl along I-95, we head east over the US 17 bridge to historic downtown Brunswick, a picturesque town that sits on a peninsula surrounded by Fancy Bluff Creek.
The downtown area hugs the creek on the west side of the peninsula; on the east side, at the end of the causeway that leads across to St. Simons Island and Sea Island, we find the oldest station in town. What’s now iHeart’s WBGA (1490) started up back in 1940 as WMOG, and held those calls into the 21st century before spawning an FM translator at 96.3 and becoming “B96.3 Jams” in 2014. (It’s flipped again since our 2018 visit, and is now “Hallelujah” gospel.) The WBGA tower north of the causeway also holds the antenna of WSSI (92.7 St. Simons Island), Golden Isles’ Broadcasting’s classic hits signal.
North of downtown, there’s a heavily-laden tower in an industrial park on Rose Drive that’s home to more Golden Isles stations – country “Wave” WRJY (104.1), hot AC “Magic” WXMK (105.9 Dock Junction), plus QBS Broadcasting’s news-talk WBQO (93.7 St. Simons Island) and religious WAYR-FM (90.7 Brunswick), along with low-power WWZR-LP (100.3).
(Just east of here, near the College of Coastal Georgia campus, there’s the tower of Georgia Public Broadcasting’s WWIO-FM 89.9, which we didn’t get a picture of through the trees, as I recall.)
The rest of iHeart’s Brunswick cluster is over on Blythe Island, across the creek northwest of the city near the northern I-95 interchange.
We caught this site, tucked away amidst the pines in a residential neighborhood, at a time of transition. WGIG (1440) has been here since it signed on back in 1949, raising power over the years from 1000 watts to 5000 watts day, 1000 watts night from three towers.
An FM sister station, rock “Fox” WHFX (107.7 Darien), came along later – and we took what turned out to be some rare pictures of two WHFX towers standing side by side next to the WGIG array. The old WHFX tower (on the right here, I believe) was just about to come down, replaced by a stouter new stick for 107.7 and two iHeart translators, WBGA’s 96.3 and the 98.7 that relays WGIG’s news-talk format. (There’s also an aux site here for another iHeart signal, WYNR 102.5 from nearby Waycross.)
From here, it was up I-95 to see the sights (and taste the tastes) of Savannah, and we’ll show you some of that fascinating market in our next installment.
We have a great lineup of podcasts here on our site. While you’re catching up with your summer reading, don’t forget about your summer listening. Now is the time to make sure you’re up to date with Top of the Tower.
Our latest one features Donna Halper discussing her life in radio, from her time at WMMS when she helped Rush get US airplay, to what she learned from Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg.
Don’t forget you can still visit our store to check out our other great products. We’ll be taking preorders for the 2021 calendar soon. Stay tuned!
And don’t miss a big batch of Brunswick/Golden Isles IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: Savannah, Georgia