WXTB (97.9 FM) – branded 98 Rock – is a commercial active rockradio station licensed to Clearwater, Florida, serving the Tampa Bay Area. Owned by iHeartMedia, Inc., WXTB serves as the local affiliate for Sixx Sense with Nikki Sixx and Skratch 'N Sniff. The WXTB studios are located in South Tampa, while the station transmitter resides in Holiday. In addition to a standard analog transmission, WXTB broadcasts over two HD Radio channels, and is available online via iHeartRadio.
The station signed on the air in December 1967 as WQXM with a beautiful music format with owners John T. Rutledge and Joseph S. Field, with Jerry Reeves as music director and station manager until the sale of the station to Plough Broadcasting in 1975, switching to an AOR format under the name "98 Rock, Your Album Station" in 1977. In 1983, the station changed their call letters to WZNE and rebranded as "The New Z98 FM, Tampa Bay's Hottest Hits!". The station aired a AOR/CHR format until 1986.
The WKRLclassic rock format lasted from 1986 until late December 1989, when the signal went silent briefly, and then Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" began playing in constant rotation, eventually lasting for 24 hours, as an early form of stunting. Finally, the repetition gave way to the announcement on New Year's Eve, 1989, that 98Rock, now controlled by Great American Broadcasting, would be the first all-Led Zeppelin format station in the country, playing the band's entire catalog in its entirety as well as solo efforts by the bandmates and their other music-related projects. WKRL received national coverage from MTV to CBS and many other outlets, and was the first station to get worldwide coverage for a true "artist flip", where a broadcaster based its entire business on one group or solo artist.
Two weeks unfolded with conjecture from various news outlets as to how long this format could last, given that all studio Zeppelin recordings available at the time added up to less than 10 hours of continuous play. The station responded over the following week by adding a few classic acts such as the Rolling Stones and Van Halen. With the bells of AC/DC's "Hells Bells" playing in the background, a major announcement came at Noon on January 18, 1990, that the station would be changing its call letters to WXTB, and the station would be relaunched as The New 98, Rocks The Bay! or The New 98 Rock.
New Program Director Gregory Mull, brought in from 96 K-Rock in Fort Myers to replace the outgoing Beau Raines, immediately reorganized the On air personality list. Brian Smith and Bruce Barber, morning D.J.s who trailed in the ratings, were released and replaced by Tommy "Sea Bass" Sebastian, who stunted his first few weeks as "Buck Maui", and was also the voice of the popular character "The Big Chief Meteorologist". Ted "Kamikaze" Cannarozzi was assumed to do the 10 am to 2 pm slot. Scott Ledger and Austin Keys kept their afternoon and evening spots, respectively. Kelli "K.C." Casey, Ron "Big Rig" Michaels, and Peter McClaren rounded out the schedule.
In late 1990, 98ROCK launched what would turn into a 15 year tradition-the "Livestock" annual rock festival. A fusion of "Live Aid" and "Woodstock". Livestock was the brainchild of both Greg and Tom. Each weekend-long Livestock event brought well known national acts such as Soundgarden and Tesla together with lesser-known bands hoping for a chance at success. In keeping with the charitable spirit of Live Aid and other rock benefits, bands donated their performance time and a portion of the gate proceeds were donated to charities such as Greenpeace.
As the station rose in the ratings books, WXTB took over local promotional opportunities at The Rock-It Club and Killian's Rock Cafe in Ybor City. Meanwhile, WXTB gained a huge piece of the morning show market with the everly popular Sea Bass and Marla morning show. The New 98 Rock became a ratings success.
In 2000, the station moved its studios from Feather Sound Corporate Center to new owner Clear Channel's broadcast complex in southwest Tampa in an attempt to consolidate overall operations of Clear Channel stations in the area.
On January 18, 2010, at noon, WXTB replayed its format launch from 20 years earlier, including the final countdown in which soundbites from phone calls, many of which trashed WYNF, were played. The first four songs played after the launch ("Hells Bells" by AC/DC, "Kickstart My Heart" by Mötley Crüe, "Paradise City" by Guns n' Roses, and "Hot for Teacher" by Van Halen) were played again in tribute to the current format's 20th anniversary, along with original bumpers.
Notable on-air staff
WXTB-FM was the home of the top rated Sea Bass & Marla Morning Show, and later the flagship of the former regional radio host Todd Clem, better known as Bubba the Love Sponge. Bubba arrived on the air for the mornings at a time when the station was struggling to find a morning personality to replace the popular Sea Bass. Bubba had handled nights for Contemporary Hit station WFLZ 93.3 "The Power Pig". A huge backlash followed for months where Bubba's urban-influenced broadcast style conflicted with the 'radical surfer' Sea Bass and the hard rock listener mentality. Following a record-setting fine assessed by the Federal Communications Commission in February 2004 over alleged indecent content, he was fired and his morning show ceased the syndication by affiliated stations mainly throughout the Southeast.
WXTB was home to the "Sea Bass" morning show hosted by Tom Sebastian during 1990-93. Marla Stone was added to make "Sea Bass & Marla" from 1993 to 1995. Sea Bass departed at the height of the morning show's popularity. The station brought in former rival WYNF PD Charlie Logan to replace Sea Bass. Charlie and Marla teamed for less than one year; Marla was paired with others as well. The morning drive slot was picked up by Lex and Terry, who covered it until December 2009.
- Livestock concert series; now retired
- 98RockFest new annual concert series
- World's Largest Barbecue concert series; now retired