Saturday, September 26, 2015

Man behind the Mike: Gordon Solie

From Wrestling Revue
February 1966

At the age of twelve, when most boys dream of becoming firemen, policemen or aviators, Gordon Solie was entertaining thoughts of becoming a radio announcer. He followed the idea through high school, taking all available courses in broadcasting and dramatics. Today, at thirty-six, Solie is one of the foremost announcers in the nation. This distinction is due largely to a syndicated television program entitled, "Championship Wrestling From Florida."

After finishing high school, Solie joined the United States Air Force and was sent to Okinawa. Upon returning to the United States, Solie was assigned to the Seventh Geodetic Squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base. Here, he became a member of WRCN, the base radio station.

While announcing for Uncle Sam, Gordon got acquainted with Vinn Marshall of KWKH radio. Marshall, an "old pro," gave Solie many valuable "pointers" whenever Gordon visited the commercial station following his own sign-off trick at WRCN. Through it all, Solie managed to eke out three or four hours sleep each night, as he was also working a regular daytime shift with the Air Force. It was sometimes pretty hard to keep going," Gordon recalls, "but the valuable experience I got was worth it." Upon leaving the Air Force, Gordon Solie journeyed to Tampa, Florida, to try his luck as a professional announcer. His first job was at a small independent radio station known as WEBK. The station (now WSOL) had no sports programming whatsoever, and Solie was quick to recognize the opportunity. It wasn't long before he had his own fifteen-minute sports show each evening.

As WEBK's first sports announcer, Gordon interviewed many of the day's top wrestlers, such as the late Gorgeous George, Primo Carnera, Baron Leone and Wild Red Berry.

After one year at WEBK, Solie was contacted by WFLA, then the area's top radio station, and asked to join the staff. He readily accepted. At WFLA, Gordon soon became good friends with Milt Spencer, that station's sports director, and it wasn't long before the two of them came up with a late night show which rapidly became the most popular in the entire area.

Not long thereafter, Solie announced a live automobile race at Speedway Park, just outside of Tampa. He did so well he was offered a full time job at it. After three years with Art Swenson and the Auto Thrillcade, Solie was named as the outstanding outdoor announcer in the country. When he returned to Tampa, weary of the road and looking forward to settling down to a more normal existence, "Cowboy" Luttrall, Tampa's wrestling promoter, offered Solie a job as publicity man. Solie accepted, and it was natural for him to become the wrestling commentator on the now highly popular weekly TV program.

The next big development in Solie's career came when Frank Dery Jr. interested him in building a race track for stock cars in Tampa. The resultant Golden Gate Speedway has become the finest short track stock car race-way in the entire United States. Solie handles the mike for the races at Golden Gate every Friday and Saturday night.

A many-faceted person, Gordon is also half owner of a new motor oil distributorship in Florida, is secretary of the Southeastern Promoters Auto Association and chairman of the Babe Zaharias Cancer Fund Drive in Tampa. Known as "Scrambler" according to a recent story in the Tampa Tribune, Solie continues to look for new fields to conquer.

"My first love is wrestling," he told us. "I feel that wrestling and stock car racing are the two outstanding action sports in the United States. The men I have met in both professions lead me to believe that you will go a long way to find nicer, more sincere people anywhere. Lou Thesz, Don Curtis, Eddie Graham, Haystack Calhoun, Fireball Roberts, Ned Jarrett, Art Malone and Don Garlits are some of my favorite people and I feel that I am privileged to know them."

Married to the former Eileen Thibaut of Lorain, Ohio, Solie has three children, Denise, sixteen, is an athletic young lady with an interest in acrobatics. Greg, a fourteen-year-old wrestles as an amateur. Eric, the eleven-year-old, in interested in be-coming a race driver.

With such a talented family Gordon Solie could even produce his own shows.

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Thanks to Carroll Hall at All Star Championship Wrestling who provided this article to the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.