Miami radio in 1963 was a major force in national playlists for R&B, pop, and dance music not only in the U.S., but the Caribbean as well.
Even a little AM station like WMBM could be picked up as far away as the Bahamas, Cuba, and Jamaica, where fans of the newest American hits tuned in for crucial sounds and entertaining DJ’s, even if they had to wade through some static to do so.
From the 1950’s forward, DJ’s like Milton “Butterball” Smith and Terry Johnson became stars in Miami, but also the island nations where their influence helped shape new genres like Ska in Jamaica, and also gave Cuban salsa orchestras the latest jazz chops to study and quote in their sounds.
China Valles, who was buds with Duke Ellington, was the jazz man. Rev Ira McCall preached and played gospel. Frank Martin handled news. Louise Griffin was a community specialist. Sam Gyson loved conducting interviews. Terry Johnson was into R&B, and so was the famous Butterball, who upon leaving radio joined Henry Stone’s T.K. Productions as a promotions powerhouse.
This classic ad from the pages of the Miami Times newspaper dated October 5th, 1963 is a great piece of history. Today WMBM is still alive and well and playing all gospel, all the time, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.