On February 3, 1926, excited people began gathering outside city hall for a historic event – the inaugural broadcast of WCOA Radio. Precisely at 8:30pm, WCOA went on the air and except for occasional interruptions from a few hurricanes over the years it has been on the air ever since. Depending on whom you talk to WCOA is the second, third or fourth oldest radio station in the state. Owned by the City of Pensacola for a time, City Clerk John E. Frenkel Sr. was placed in charge. He obtained the proper permits, figured out how to operate the equipment and came up with the call letters of WCOA, which stood for “Wonderful City Of Advantages:. Calling himself the “Breezy Boy from the Gulf” Frenkel was the voice of WCOA for several years and even sang “Down Pensacola Way,” the original song written for the first broadcast.
Seven months later the hurricane of 1926 devastated the City and knocked the station off the air for a time. But they were soon back on the air, broadcasting information about damage and passing on personal messages from people looking for friends or relatives. WCOA has always been the station to whom people have turned during times of emergency, especially hurricanes. When Erin and Opal struck Pensacola in 1995, WCOA provided round-the-clock coverage. As the designated Emergency Alert System radio station in this area, WCOA is still ready to respond when necessary.
Many well-known people have been associated with WCOA over the years. Don Priest was news director for 41 years until his retirement in 2001. Hired away from a radio station in Sarasota by owner Mack Miller, Priest worked with WCOA longer than any other employee. Known for his excellent work as a newsman he also was deeply involved in local sports broadcasting high school football games for many years. Other broadcasters who worked with WCOA over the years were Luke McCoy, Don Griffith, Sally Henderson, Gordon Towne, John Teelin, Dave Pavlock, Arlene Sadrow, John Richardson, Marty White, Steve Remel, Don Redfield, Pappy Lynn, John Waite, Dan Lucas, Ellis Davis, Jim Young, Laura Lunsford and Bern Benicks.
One of the best known broadcasters was the late Ted Cassidy, who played Lurch on the Adams Family TV show.
The current broadcast team is Jim Sanborn, Don Parker and Bryan Newkirk (Program Director).
Now part of the second largest media company in the US, Cumulus Broadcasting L.L.C., WCOA has been owned by a number of different companies since going on the air in 1926. Broadcasting music for many years the station shifted to an all news/talk format in 1991. Carrying syndicated, nationally-known radio personalities – Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Phil Valentine, Michael Savage, and Bob Brinker – WCOA programs and produces local shows as well.
Today, WCOA 1370 AM continues to do what it has always done best – provide local and national programming along with news, sports, weather and traffic information to the community.