Friday, March 23, 2018
News Roundup

Tedd Webb, co-host of top morning radio show, calling it quits after five decades

TAMPA — It's 9 Monday morning, and Tedd Webb is exhausted.

Sure, he's been up since 3:30 a.m. and just finished co-hosting the AM Tampa Bay show on News Radio 970 WFLA-AM, but it's the same schedule he's kept through most of his five decades on the radio.

No, his fatigue is different now, tied to the congestive heart failure and diabetes that have plagued him for years but grown worse in recent months.

"This is tough," says Webb, 68. "I am giving up one of the loves of my life."

Webb is retiring at the end of January, four months from now, taking away a voice that has been a staple of the Tampa area's radio airwaves since 1963.

If up to it, he hopes to continue joining host David Graham on the hourlong financial program The Opening Bell, heard noon weekdays on WHNZ-AM 1250.

But he's punching the off button on early-morning radio.

"I had a heart attack. I'm on dialysis three times a week," Webb says. "I'm drained. My heart wants to go on, but my body won't let it."

What he'll miss most, he says, are covering the "big stories" and working with Jack Harris, his AM Tampa Bay co-host since 1994.

"It's going to be tough without Teddy," Harris says. "It's like Sonny without Cher, Cheech without Chong."

Aaron Jacobson, who has been the third wheel of the Webb-Harris team, will move into the co-host slot. Harris is confident Jacobson is up to the task, but still, he says, "Tedd is hard to replace. He's the most beloved guy in Tampa."

Webb, a West Tampa native who has been with WFLA-AM 970 since 1983, broke into radio at 14 when he was still known by his birth name, Henry Ruiz.

Radio station WALT-AM 1110 was having an audition for a weekend disc jockey and Webb, then an aspiring lead vocalist in rock bands, figured it was an easy way to earn money for a car.

"The job was sitting in air conditioning, which I did not have at home, and honeys calling in to the request line all day," Webb says.

He did not get the job. But, a few months later, he was hired by WALT as a correspondent covering sports at Jesuit High School, where he was a student.

The Tedd Webb name was born in February 1969 when he was hired as a morning DJ for WCWR in Clearwater. Station management randomly gave him the choice of three aliases — Ricky Robbins, Danny Miller or Ted Webb.

"I chose Ted, added a second d to balance it out, and that's it."

Webb would go on to become a morning DJ for stations featuring country, classic rock, hard rock and oldies before moving into talk radio in 1980.

"I prefer talk," he says. "When you're in music, you get tired of playing the same songs 110,000 times day."

Plus, he enjoys the roughhouse of political debate.

Raised in a family of Democrats, he changed to a conservative later in life and now says he "hates both parties equally," registering no-party affiliation as a voter.

Still, the point of view is unmistakably right-wing when he and Harris take to the airwaves, where frequent targets in the Trump era include liberal "snowflakes," Muslims, John McCain and the mainstream media, including the Tampa Bay Times.

AM Tampa Bay is the top show on morning AM radio in the local market, according to Nielsen, but not necessarily among Webb's mostly left-leaning family.

When a false rumor spread that Webb would run for the Florida House, he asked his sister Violet McGimsey if she'd support him.

"My sister said no. She only votes Democrat."

Throughout his career, he's made a few real headlines.

There was April Fools' Day 1976 when Webb pretended to be a fan who broke into the radio station and stabbed an employee for refusing to play a hard-rock song.

Listeners called 911 and police responded.

"Boy, did we get in trouble for that," Webb says.

And in 2011, on AM Tampa Bay, he called Ron Reagan Jr. a profanity during a phone interview with the former president's son.

As for career highlights, Webb points to his nomination this year to the National Radio Hall of Fame, even if it fell short.

"When I was a kid, I didn't think there was a world outside of West Tampa," Webb says.

"Then you realize there is a whole other world out there, and I got to cover it."

Contact Paul Guzzo at [email protected] Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

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