By Randy Lane
The sale of WABB-FM/Mobile not only represents the end of a 50 year era for a legendary Top 40 radio station. In many ways, it symbolizes the end of radio’s golden age.
Bernie Dittman, WABB’s colorful owner who passed in 2006, is surely wearing both a sad and happy face today. Sad that the station he built with unmatched passion is disappearing. Happy that it was never sold to a major commercial company. WABB started and ended as a local, family owned station. WABB has been acquired by EMF and will become a Pop Christian station March 1st.
Bernie hired me as General Manager of WABB in 1983. He mentored me in the sales, engineering and business sides of radio. Most importantly, though, I learned the value of being part of a family business and for the past several years have continued working with WABB as their consultant.
Bernie was one of the last independent owners who created a local 100,000-watt radio station that was as much a part of its community as shrimp and oysters. WABB contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to local charities and causes over the years. Bernie took WABB’s role as the region’s EBS station seriously. He and deejays like Leslie Fram hunkered down in the building for several days during two Category 5 hurricanes to broadcast emergency information to residents.
Bernie was unwavering in his personal commitment to WABB and the community to remain a local and independent owner, turning down huge offers from several of the top broadcasting companies during radio’s financial heyday in the ‘90’s and early 2000’s.
Although Bernie was a salesman by trade nothing thrilled him more than his love of music, big promotions and entertaining air personalities. Scott Shannon, Mike McVay, Leslie Fram, Mark St. John, Lee Chesnut, Paul and Al, Bill Evans, David Page, Jeff Davis and many more of today’s top talents and programmers helped make history and launch their careers at WABB.
I too feel both sadness and joy with this news. I am honored to have been part of WABB’s legacy.