Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Michael D. Osterhout

Michael Osterhout revolutionized FM radio at WRBQ in Tampa

TAMPA — The Q Morning Zoo broke rules and records in the 1980s, hooking listeners of all ages with a brand of irreverent FM radio that captured the world.

Under the leadership of general manager Michael Osterhout, WRBQ (Q-105) blew away the staid "time-and-temperature" FM stations he so detested with talent like Scott Shannon, Cleveland Wheeler and Nancy Alexander.

Mr. Osterhout, who invented programming that became commonplace, died June 26, of esophageal cancer. He was 61.

"It was the golden era of Tampa Bay radio, and Osterhout was the driving force," said Tedd Webb, a Q-105 DJ during the 1980s. Webb, now with WFLA, called Mr. Osterhout's death "truly a great loss for radio in general, (and) a huge personal loss for me."

Mr. Osterhout joined WRBQ in the late 1970s, and trotted out a lively, in-your-face format that kept even the shortest attention spans tuned in.

While competitors such as WMGG "Magic 96" aired "adult rock" to a sliver of the market, Q-105 DJs mixed it up with Huey Lewis, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson and Guns N' Roses between skits lampooning corruption on the Hillsborough County Commission and other favorite targets.

"Michael had a wonderful line when people would call in and threaten to sue. He would tell them to 'get in line,' " recalled Luis Albertini, a former Q-105 vice president who succeeded Mr. Osterhout as general manager.

He pushed Q Zoo hosts Shannon and Wheeler to be "equal-opportunity offenders." Their mocking skits cost lucrative advertising contracts from the Tampa Tribune and Tampa Electric Co. They made fun of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers even after landing a play-by-play contract for their games.

Mr. Osterhout also broadcast Q Zoo shows on television, an unheard-of move at the time that later would be made famous by Howard Stern.

By the mid 1980s, Q-105 was one of the top 10 radio stations in the country, attracting 367,000 weekly listeners with $16 million a year in advertising revenue.

"I don't think today in Tampa Bay there is a station generating $16 million in billing," said Albertini, who now lives in Houston. "Q-105 had the teens, the young males, the young women, the mothers and the fathers, even the grandmothers and grandfathers. We were No. 1 in every part of the day and every demographic."

The success was quickly copied. Shannon moved to New York in 1983, where the Z Morning Zoo quickly rose to the top of the nation's largest radio market.

"It was like lightning," said Steven Saltzman, a former Q-105 employee under Mr. Osterhout who went on to produce Rock Over London, a syndicated program broadcast in the U.S. "It was an entire movement that radio needed to have a personality, catalyzed by his management."

A Tampa native who enjoyed organized sports, Mr. Osterhout graduated from Mercer University in Macon, Ga., and received an MBA from the University of South Florida. After serving in the Air Force, he joined WDAE radio before moving to WRBQ.

He joined Edens Broadcasting, an ownership group that included WRBQ and stations in Richmond and Norfolk, Va., Phoenix, and San Diego. WRBQ foundered after he left, losing a ratings war to rival station WFLZ, the "Power Pig," and was sold to Clear Channel in 1992.

Mr. Osterhout worked with European radio stations, both as a consultant and an investor, and had worked for about nine years at Morris Communications in Augusta, Ga., where he was chief operating officer.

He included his family in his success. He brought his wife and daughter to Monaco last year, where he was consulting for Riviera Radio. Mr. Osterhout wanted his daughter, Sidney, a competitive swimmer, to meet former South African Olympic swimmer Christine Wittstock. The family had lunch with Wittstock and her fiance, Prince Albert of Monaco.

"Today his work has an impact on a global basis," Saltzman said. "It started in Tampa and went across America. End of story."

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or


Michael D. Osterhout

Born: Sept. 14, 1948.

Died: June 26, 2010.

Survivors: Wife Marsha; daughter Sidney; mother Imogene; and sisters Carole Osterhout, and Alice Glickman and her husband Zack.

Michael Osterhout revolutionized FM radio at WRBQ in Tampa 07/03/10 [Last modified: Saturday, July 3, 2010 10:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. James Wilder Jr. back at running Canada


    Remember when former Plant High star and Florida State running back James Wilder Jr. announced he was switching to linebacker?

    That was short-lived, apparently.

  2. Unlicensed contractor accused of faking death triggers policy change at Pinellas construction licensing board

    Local Government

    The unlicensed contractor accused of faking his death to avoid angry homeowners has triggered an immediate change in policy at the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board.

    Last year Glenn and Judith Holland said they paid a contractor thousands of dollars to renovate their future retirement home in Seminole. But when they tried to move in on Dec. 14, they said the home was in shambles and uninhabitable. They sent a text message to contractor Marc Anthony Perez at 12:36 p.m. looking for answers. Fourteen minutes later, they got back this text: "This is Marc's daughter, dad passed away on the 7th of December in a car accident. Sorry." Turns out Perez was still alive. Now the Hollands are suing him in Pinellas-Pasco circuit court. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  3. What you need to know for Tuesday, June 27


    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    Former St. Petersburg mayor and current mayoral candidate Rick Baker, left, and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman square off tonight in a debate. [Times]
  4. Once 'angry' about Obamacare, Republican David Jolly came to see it as 'safety net'


    Former Congressman David Jolly, who ran against Obamacare in 2013, said in an interview Monday night that he now considers it a "safety net."

  5. Five children hospitalized after chlorine release at Tampa pool store


    Five children were sickened at a pool store north of Tampa on Monday after a cloud of chlorine was released, according to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.