Robert Allyn of Largo holds the book, “Gordon Solie: Something Left Behind,” which includes Solie’s writing and many pictures.
LARGO – He was known as the “Walter Cronkite of Wrestling,” the “Howard Cosell of Wrestling,” and the “Dean of professional wrestling announcers.”
But the voice of Gordon Solie was silenced when he died five years ago. Nonetheless, a book titled “Gordon Solie: Something Left Behind,” with stories and poems by him, as well as pictures galore, commemorates Solie’s life.
The book was published this year by his daughter and her husband, who live in Largo. The book captures that voice in print. Written by Gordon Solie and Robert and Pamela Allyn, the book sells for $19.95 and can be found at www.floridabookstore.com.
The 224 pages includes 180 images, 150 of which are photos. Robert said the publisher – Florida Media – plans to put it in bookstores in June. For now, it is available only online.
“Not many people knew Gordon wrote all of his life,” Robert Allyn said. “He wrote on legal pads, napkins – everything. He even wrote on bathroom tiles one time.”
Solie left Pamela his short stories and poems. He told her, “You will know what to do with them when I am gone.” The couple spent three years putting the stories, poems and photos into a hardbound book.
For 27 years, from 1960 to 1987, Solie hosted Championship Wrestling from Florida. From 1973 to 1984 he hosted Georgia Championship Wrestling. And he hosted World Championship Wrestling Saturday Night from 1989 to 1995 on the WTBS Superstation.
Pamela remembers many of the wrestlers from when she was a child, and she remembers going to race tracks with her dad, according to her husband, Robert. She called wrestler Don Curtis her “knight in shining armor.” He would pick her up and carry her on his shoulders. Dotty Curtis, Don’s wife, became like a second mother to her after Pam’s mother died.
Solie hosted live shows at Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in Tampa, where a collapsible card table occasionally would be crushed by wrestlers fighting outside the ring. Televised shows came from the Sportatorium in Tampa. WTVT-Ch. 13 first carried the shows and they were later aired on WTOG-Ch. 44.
Solie created phrases like, “the crimson mask” to describe a face covered by blood, and that it was “a Pier Six brawl” when wrestlers got rough with each other. He explained why “the sleeper hold” would cause a wrestler to lose consciousness.
Promoter Cowboy Luttrel started Solie as a ring announcer in 1950, after Solie had been announcing wrestling matches for a small Ybor City radio station. When Solie asked how to announce the wrestling matches, Luttrell is quoted in the book as saying “Treat it like you do your paycheck – seriously.” That’s what led to Solie’s professional voice for the sport.
Born Jan. 29, 1929, Solie died July 27, 2000 at age 71 in his home in New Port Richey of brain cancer. In 1999, Solie lost his larynx to cancer, the result of years of smoking.
Jack Brisco, one of the famous wrestlers of the Solie era, said in an e-mail interview, “The book is a fitting tribute to the greatest announcer in the history of professional wrestling. The fact that Gordon understood both professional and amateur wrestling was a perfect match for my style. I don’t know if I would have ever been as popular in Florida without his skill in calling my matches. I especially enjoyed the inside look at the man and Gordon’s personal writings. Looking at all the pictures in the book brought back a lot of great memories.”
Dusty Rhodes, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying, “He was the man – the absolute best to ever call a match. Back in the ’70s, the announcer wasn’t in on everything that was going on in the ring and behind the curtain, so Gordon had to call it like he saw it.”
Matches with Ric Flair, Harley Race, Dory Funk Jr., Lou Thesz, and B. Brian Blair and many other professional wrestlers were covered by Solie.
Solie was well known in the local stock car racing circuit, too. Stories and photos about that part of his life are in the book. Solie brought figure eight auto racing to Florida in the 1960s, Robert said. Solie introduced it here after seeing it in Anderson, Ind. Solie was president of Suncoast Speedways Inc., which promoted Sunshine Speedway in Pinellas Park, Golden Gate Speedway in Tampa and a stock car track in Sarasota.
Suncoast Speedways was the foundation of what became Gordon Solie Enterprises, which exists today. Mark Nulty, a journalist who has been in the professional wrestling industry since the mid-80s as an announcer, referee and promoter praised Solie.
“Gordon may not have wanted the fans to know how talented he was, but we knew. The fans knew, the promoters knew and the wrestlers knew. Everybody knew how special Gordon was and how important he was,” Nulty said in a e-mail. “And announcers that follow him will marvel at how effortless he made it all look.”
Earl Oliver, a man who has been a ring announcer, disk jockey and in other trades where he used his voice said, “Solie’s voice was the thing. That raspy growl that seemed to occupy a place somewhere in high register, but was in fact a very low tone, amplified and enhanced by his energy and enthusiasm. That voice cut right through all of the emotion and excitement of the moment so that the viewer was able to zero right in on the action in the ring and understand what was going on.”
This book captures that tone, Oliver said. There is only one way to end this story about a book concerning the most famous Florida wrestling announcer.
“So long from the Sunshine State,” as Gordon Solie said when he ended his Championship Wrestling from Florida programs.