Beginning regular broadcasting on
October 1, 1994, WIFL-FM went on the air as WABU with a blend of easy listening and
beautiful music, broadcasting 24-hours a day covering Florida’s nature coast.
The original owners, Bill and Lucille Lacey from Amarillo, Texas, choose
the call letters WAVQ -"The
WAVE"- to reflect the station’s coverage which was over most of
Florida’s West Coast up and down the Gulf. Although the station is licensed to
the small fishing community of Inglis, located about 35-miles West of Ocala, the
station primarily serves Crystal River, Spring Hill and West Ocala.
Additionally, the Lacey’s had petitioned and received a construction permit
for another class A FM - 96.3 - at Yankeetown, Florida, located less than two
miles from Inglis. The Yankeetown station - now WXOF-FM - and WAVQ
were intended to be a duopoly combo serving Crystal River. Curtis Rich,
who was also the mayor of Crystal River, was hired as WAVQ’s first
general manager due largely because of Rich’s political ties in the community.
Rich had made many business contacts in the community as a political figure,
which contributed greatly to the station’s initial success and acceptance in
the area. Rich’s daughter was an account executive for cross town WXOF-FM
“The Country Fox”. In 1997, the Lacey’s sold WAVQ to Palm Harbor
based The Gull Group, owned by former Philadelphia disc jockey Carl
Marcocci. The price was $625,000 cash., and the station was added to The
Gull Group’s other stations WXOF-FM 106.3 Beverly Hills (now WJQB
Spring Hill), WINV-AM 1560
Inverness (now Beverly Hills), WLCC-AM 930 Sarasota, WGUL-AM 860
Dunedin-Tampa Bay and WGUL-FM 96.1 Dade City (Marcocci later sold WGUL-AM
and WLCC-AM to Salem Communications for $9.6 million). Once WAVQ
was in The Gull Group’s possession, the format became Music Of Your Life,
re-broadcasting WGUL-AM-FM in the Tampa Bay area. WAVQ remained in
the Gull Group station portfolio for a little over a year before it was sold to C.
W. “Bill” Caldwell, former co-owner of WKES-FM (now WPOI-FM
101.5 (“The Point“) Saint Petersburg-Tampa. The price was
$1.3 million cash. Caldwell then donated WAVQ to the Seven Rivers
Presbyterian Church, located in Lecanto, Florida, while Caldwell stayed on
as a consultant. Just 11 months earlier Caldwell had sold WKES-FM, which
he co-owned with the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, to Paxson
Communications Corporation for $35 million.
Seven Rivers changed the format
from Music of Your Life to Religious/Christian Teaching and Talk with the
call letters WHGN (We Have Good News). Two years later in 2000, Caldwell
purchased non - commercial WXJC-FM 91.9 (Exalting Jesus Christ) for
$650,000 and donated WXJC to Seven Rivers as its second station.
The WHGN call letters moved to the 91.9 frequency while the original WHGN became
WIFL-FM ("We’re Inglis, Florida"). The new WHGN-FM
91.9 had the ability to make a technical upgrade to 50kw, so the programming
moved to the more powerful signal while WIFL-FM began simulating the new WHGN’s
programming and was placed on the market for sale. In 2003 Seven Rivers
sold both stations. Because of Caldwell’s connections with the Moody Bible
Institute, WHGN-FM 91.9 was sold to Moody while WIFL-FM 104.3 was
sold to Nature Coast Broadcasting, Incorporated, owned by former
Philadelphia CHR programmer Sabatino Cupelli. The price was $525,000.
Cupelli reformatted the station as "Jack", known as "WOW
104.3", long before "Jack" became a popular format.
The station became an immediate hit in the area, playing the most popular songs
from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and today. After a little tweaking, "WOW
104.3" became a full fledged CHR radio station, but, as a CHR, 104.3
never gained the popularity it garnered with its original "Jack"
format. Long time radio executive Marc Tyll
was brought in as the station’s General Manager to revamp
the station and turn it around into a profitable entity once again. The music
was once again reformatted as Hot Adult Contemporary and later talk programming
was added, known as "Xtreme Talk Radio" www.xtremetalkradio.com.
Today WIFL-FM is once again back on track, gaining popularity and playing
a variety of hit music from the 70s, 80, 90s, and today with an eclectic mix of
talk programming during the mornings and mid-day schedules.