November 11 marks the 30 year anniversary of WAYF/West Palm Beach, FL (WayFM). 88.1 WayFM South Florida was launched in 1993 by then Station Manager Dusty Rhodes, who spent the previous 9 months raising community awareness and necessary funds to cover startup costs. The WAYF launch made it the media group’s 3rd full power staffed station at the time. Today the station is owned and operated by Hope Media Group.
Pictured L-R on launch day Nov 11th, 1993 Station Manager Dusty Rhodes, Founder/President Bob Augsburg, Board Member & Radio Ink Publisher Eric Rhoads.
Rhodes remembers, “I was the new kid in town having moved down from Pittsburgh, PA. I learned someone had tried raising money a year earlier for a different Christian music station which never materialized, leaving people feeling skeptical when I showed up. My challenge was to establish trust and credibility as fast as possible in order to raise the money needed. Fortunately and unlike those others before me, I had an FCC permit in one hand, and the WayFM story video in the other hand which helped to quickly dissolve the skeptism.”
That FCC permit and story video represented tons of work already accomplished by WayFM Founder and then President Bob Augsburg. He had launched the first two WayFM stations, WAYJ/Fort Myers, FL in 1987 and WAYM/Nashville, TN in 1992, so there were plenty of statistics and stories to share about the ministry impact about to come to a new market.
With only 2 months of operating cash in the bank, the station signed on-air Thursday morning November 11th 1993 and the first song played was “Creed” by Petra. The original staff was SM/PD Rhodes hosting the morning show, Production Director Chris (Rapp) Carson doing a split shift of middays and evenings, Music Director Penny (Galloway) Martin hosting afternoons, Proverb Newsom hosting weekends, and Patti Palusis as Office Manager.
Pictured L-R The original staff of 1993 who launched WayFM/West Palm Beach Penny Martin Galloway, Station Manager Dusty Rhodes, Evening Host Chris Carson Rapp, Office Manager Patti Palusis.
Rhodes recalls, “I told Chris and Penny, who both moved down from Ohio, if by faith you come join me, we’ll trust the Lord together for the resources. During those first two days on-air we received over 2,000 phone calls (and faxes!). It was like the Lord showing us He will provide. Two months later we conducted our first on-air fundraiser and raised $360,000 from 2,000 listeners. We were on our way!”
During those early years as WayFM West Palm grew stronger, Augsburg gave Rhodes the autonomy to try new things. It was the first WayFM station to host annual mission trips with as many as 140 listeners traveling to serve the poor, the first to produce its own A-level artist concerts at large mainstream venues, and the first to conduct programming research…which has its own story. Dusty contacted local businessman Paxson Communication’s president, Bud Paxson, to hopefully engage him in supporting the station. Bud agreed to pay for the research and as a bonus introduced him to two guys to do the project, Alan Mason and John Frost. Alan and John conducted WayFM’s first music & programming research in 1998, which led to many years together as Mason and Frost’s first official Christian radio client.
Since those early days, many Christian music and radio rock stars have found their way through South Florida’s WayFM including: Consultant Dave Senes, EMF’s Network Program Director Troy West, Hope Media Group Chief of Media Operations Jim Marshall, Northwestern Media KTIS/Minneapolis GM Dave St. John, Christian radio host/author Brant Hansen, WFSH Atlanta’s Kevin and Taylor, Keep the Faith Co-host Donna Cruz, Vidare Chief Business Officer Paul Goldsmith, Boxer Poet President Andrea Kleid, KSBJ/Houston air talent Theresa Lynn Conner, and radio talent and fundraiser Bobi Ryan.
Pictured L-R 1998 staff at WayFM/West Palm Beach Morning Show co-host Taylor Scott, Evening Host Chris Carson Rapp, Station Manager Dusty Rhodes, Weekend Host Proverb Newsom, PD/Morning Show co-host Kevin Avery.