Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
Local radio came late to southern Orange County, New York. While the northern part of the county, at the edge of the Catskills, had a local station since the World War II era in the form of WALL (1340 Middletown), the southern part of the county listened to fringe signals from New York City and other nearby areas, right up until the summer of 1969.
But in late July 1969, just a few days before the moon landing and a few weeks before nearby Route 17 was carrying drivers upstate to the Woodstock festival, WTBQ signed on in Warwick as a 250-watt daytimer on 1110 – and more than half a century later, it’s still going strong, now in the hands of its fourth owner, Frank Truatt. (Other owners in its history have included founder Ed Klein and polka host Jimmy Sturr.)
WTBQ has moved around over the years, occupying several studio spaces in Warwick and, for a time, moving to the nearby village of Florida. Since 2012, it’s made its home in a converted barn south of town on Sanfordville Road, and that’s where we found Truatt and his morning co-host, Taylor, when we stopped by in the summer of 2020.
It’s a clean, efficient setup – a small lobby in the front looks into the main control room, which in turn looks into a larger talk studio. A hallway along the side separates the studios from the station offices, where we find Truatt busy digitizing his vintage aircheck collection (8-tracks! Stacks of 8-tracks!), and back to a small kitchen area.
While WTBQ’s studios have moved frequently over the years, its transmitter has been in the same spot since day one in 1969. Back then, the address was listed as West Ridge Road, up on a rural hillside north of Warwick; today, there’s a new cul de sac of suburban homes concealing the path up to the little block transmitter building and to the tower up the hill.
Inside the building, there’s not only the BE transmitter for WTBQ’s AM signal (which was upgraded over the years from 250 to 500 watts, still daytime-only) but also transmitters for two FM translators. W228CG on 93.5 is WTBQ’s FM counterpart, keeping the music and talk going 24 hours a day; W296BD on 107.1 is part of the sprawling WAMC public radio network based up in Albany, relaying WOSR (91.7) from Middletown.
We don’t often get invited to do a guest spot on the morning show, but before we left the studio, Frank and Taylor invited us to stop by some morning and hang out – and with the pandemic finally drawing to a close, we’re going to get back there at some point and do just that, on this fine small-market local radio station. Stay tuned…
Thanks to Frank Truatt, Taylor and Tom Ray for the tours!
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Next week: WWRL, New York