WSB Radio 100 Years

Sports Voice of the South

WSB (750 AM) is a commercial radio station in Atlanta, Georgia. It airs a news/talk radio format, simulcast on co-owned 95.5 WSB-FM. Atlanta, Georgia’s first radio station fired up its 100 watts and began broadcasting on March 15, 1922.

The original station was owned by The Atlanta Journal newspaper and was located in a studio on the fifth floor of The Journal building on Forsyth Street in downtown Atlanta. The new station was randomly assigned the call letters of WSB and aired on 360 meters (833 kHz). Later, people would say that it stood for “Welcome South Brother” but this was just by chance.

The Constitution’s station, WGM, debuted two days later on March 17. Because it also was transmitting on 360 meters, the two newspapers had to set up a time-sharing agreement allocating broadcast hours. The competition was so fierce between the two that WSB’s manager, Lambdin “The Little Colonel” Kay, banned any person who had previously appeared on WGM from broadcasting over WSB.

In September of that year, The Department of Commerce set aside the wavelength of 400 meters (750 kHz) which both WSB and WGM were assigned. In May 1923 they were both reassigned to 700 kHz, but in July WGM ceased operations. In the summer of 1927, WSB began transmitting on 630 kHz.

By early 1923, it became obvious that two entertainment frequencies were not going to be enough, and a conference was called by the Secretary of Commerce (later to be President), Herbert Hoover. The conference that year issued a report recommending an expansion of the band. On May 15, 1923, the government started assigning different frequencies to different stations, at 10khz intervals.

360 meters833 kHz03/1922
400 meters750 kHZ09/1922
428 meters700 kHZ05/1923
476 meters630 kHZ1927
405 meters740 kHZ11/1928
400 meters750 kHZ03/1941
WSB station frequencies by date

On November 11, 1928, under the provisions of the Federal Radio Commission’s General Order 40, WSB was reassigned to a “clear channel” frequency of 740 kHz. WSB was the dominant station nationally on this frequency. In March 1941, as part of the implementation of the North American Regional Broadcasting Agreement (NARBA), WSB moved to 750 kHz, where it has been ever since.


Broadcast Band

Initially, these went only from 550 to 1360 kHz. The frequencies from 550 to 1040 kHz were set aside for Class B stations, while the remaining frequencies were designated for Class A.

550 to 1300 kHZ1923
550 to 1500 kHZ1925
550 to 1600 kHZ1941
540 to 1600 kHZ1954?
540 to 1700 kHZ1995

In 1924, Lambdin Kay referred to Art Gillham as “The Whispering Pianist” while performing on WSB, a name he used in billing on Columbia Records, radio, and theatre. Gillham returned to WSB in 1937 for regular programs. In 1924, WSB became an NBC Red Network affiliate. The trademark three-tone NBC chimes were first played in the WSB studios.


Sound files

WSB spread southern gospel music throughout the listening area with regular programming hosted by Charles Davis Tillman. Dan Hornsby was the first morning show announcer for the station. Kay referred to him as “90% of the local talent on WSB.” n 1939, the Journal newspaper and WSB radio station were sold to James Middleton Cox, the founder of what would become Cox Enterprises.

Wright Bryan, a WSB news reporter as well as managing editor of the Atlanta Journal, was also a stringer for NBC during World War II. He was the first war correspondent to broadcast an eyewitness account of the D-Day invasion, reporting from London in the early hours of June 6, 1944. Elmo Ellis, who programmed WSB in the 1950s and 1960s, is remembered as an innovator among Southern broadcasters. He provided the on-air editorials for the station, and in the 1960s, consistently supported civil rights. WSB grew rapidly from its opening in 1922 and hastily constructed and cramped quarters on the roof of the Journal building to capacious studios in the Biltmore Hotel in 1925.

The station also grew in power increasing wattage from a mere 100 watts to 500 watts on June 13, 1922. WSB entered the field of commercial broadcasting when it became affiliated with the National Broadcasting Company in 1927. This was a definite recognition of the stations’ accomplishments in the radio world, and WSB is now regarded as one of the most important links in this national chain of stations. On September 9, 1933, WSB increased its power to 1,000 watts.

On June 29, 1934, NBC broadcasts a special program originating on WSB saluting Admiral Richard Byrd. The program was rebroadcast to the South Pole via shortwave and featured a 25 piece dance band playing “The Byrd Expedition”, written by Lambdin Kay and Ernie Rogers.

In October 1940 WSB launches a series of half-hour programs saluting each of Georgia’s 159 counties. The programs, recorded and live, originated from the county being honored and featured local talent. On November 16, 1940, WSB Barn Dance, featuring hillbilly stars, went on the air. In 1944 WSB, in anticipation of the invasion of Europe, broadcasted 24 hours a day for two weeks.

During the 1950s, The Kitchen Klub was one of the most popular shows on WSB. Panelists, including George Crumbley, Bett Johnson, and Lee Morris, rated records, drank coffee, and chatted with guests. December 29, 1955, WSB signed on from its new studios at White Columns on Peachtree. The first broadcast was done by Mike McDougald.

In the 1960s I remember WSB broadcasting the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart hits. I used to catch my Dad singing along to songs like “Windy” by the Association and when I would say “I didn’t think you liked rock”, he would respond, “It’s not rock, it’s WSB”.

WSB has long served as the flagship radio station for the University of Georgia Bulldogs Radio Network, carrying its football and basketball games. Larry Munson was the voice of the Bulldogs from 1966 until 2008. He also handled play-by-play for the Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Falcons, and many sports-talk shows. He was also on the first Atlanta Braves broadcast team.

WSB was the Atlanta Braves station, from the first day in Atlanta in 1966, with Milo Hamilton exclaiming, “Big-league baseball has come to the South”, until 1991. WSB picked them back up in 1995, the season in which the Braves won the World Series, and dropped them again in 2004. WSB also carried the Atlanta Falcons football and the Atlanta Hawks basketball some years. Skip Carey called the Hawks and Braves games for many years.

Personnel that I recall
  • Bob Van Camp – worked at WSB radio from July 14, 1947, until his retirement Feb. 1, 1974. He had served as chief announcer, music director and host of the “Morning Merry-Go-Round” show. Bob also played the The Fox Theatre’s Mighty Mo from 1963 until 1987.
  • Guy Sharpe – Guy worked at WSB in the 50’s before moving into television. He is a 2007 Legacy inductee into the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame.
  • Roz Abrams – came to WSB in 1975 and was a news anchor and reporter until 1978.
  • Mike Kavanagh – joined WSB in 1976 and was a reporter until 1977. He returned in 1990, staying only one year. He returned in 1991 and stayed until 2006 in a full time news anchor capacity. He continued on to host “Money Matters” on Sunday mornings until his death in 2008.
  • Kim Peterson – joined the WSB news department in 1974. He did news on the Bobby Harper morning show. He left in 1991.
  • Dave Baker – began his radio career in 1985 phoning in to WSBs Bobby Harper show as “Dave from Conyers.”  Eventually he hosted a weekend radio show that brought on experts to advise people on how to fix problems around their homes.  The Home Fix It Show is now an Atlanta institution.
  • Bobby Harper – known as “Skinny”, he hosted the WSB morning show from 1985 until 1991.
  • Kirk Mellish – joined WSB in 1987 as the full time meteorologist. His live forecasts were heard weekdays on Atlanta’s Morning News and prerecorded throughout the day until his retirement in 2021.
  • Wes Minter – hosted an evening talk show on WSB from 1989 until 1992.
  • Bob Neil – came to AM750 as program director in 1986. He was named General Manager in 1989 and in 1996 moved into the position he holds today, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cox Radio.
  • Brad Nessler – was at WSB Radio as sports director and the sports voice of the morning show from 1985 until 1988.
  • Ludlow Porch – Ludlow was a talk show host on WSB from 1982 until 1991.
  • Condace Pressley –  came to WSB as reporter in 1986 and has served as producer, assistant news director, and now is assistant program director.
  • Scott Slade – joined WSB in 1984 as the Skycopter traffic reporter. In 1991 he was promoted into his present position as host of Atlanta’s Morning News.
  • Neal Boortz –  began his tenure as WSB Talkmaster in 1993. He left WSB January 21, 2013. His conservative talk show was fun to listen to.
  • Chris Camp – is WSB News Director. He joined the station in 1992.
  • Jamie Dupree –  was the Washington correspondent for WSB Radio.
  • Herb Emory – Captain Herb has been the major domo in the WSB Skycopter lounge since 1991. He also hosted a NASCAR talk show on weekends. He died April 12, 2014.
  • Clark Howard – a popular consumer expert and former host of the nationally syndicated Clark Howard Show since 1991. He has been big in Habitat for Humanity since 1996.
  • Royal Marshall – was hired by WSB to engineer the overnight shift in 1993, later promoted to daytime, then again to engineer of the Neal Boortz show.  He hosted his own show, The Royal Treatment, for a time.
  • Gary McKee – hosted “The Hometown Radio Show” and the morning show at WSB FM in the 90’s. He was previously a staple on WQXI FM in Atlanta.
  • Walter Reeves – hosted the Lawn and Garden Show on WSB each Saturday from 1994 until 2020.
  • Jeff Van Note – did color for WSB’s Atlanta Falcon broadcasts as well as hosting sports talk shows from1990 to 1998.
  • Veronica Waters – came to WSB in 1997. She has served as an evening anchor, a general assignment reporter and part-time anchor. 
  • Marcy Williams – has co-anchored Atlanta’s Morning News since 1993.
  • O’Niell Williams – hosts “O’Niell Outside” every Saturday morning from 4 until 6 AM dispensing valuable information for fishing and hunting enthusiasts.
  • Neil Williamson –  joined WSB in 1991. He is co-host of the Bulldogs Tailgate Show, Half-Time and Post-Game shows and serves as spotter during the games. He is also the host of two weekly in-season Georgia Bulldogs football programs: “The Bulldog Brunch” and “Best of the Bulldogs.”
  • Mark Arum – started in 1997 with Triple Team Traffic and now hosts one of the most popular talk shows from 4-7pm.
  • Eric Von Haessler – Libertarian that hosts ‘The Von Haessler Doctrine” from 9-noon an hilarious political show
  • Herman Cain – chairman and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, a role he held from 1986 to 1996, he had a political talk show on WSB and even ran for President of the United States in 2012.
  • Belinda Skelton – started in 1992 as Clark Howard’s phone screener, beacame Neal Boortz’s producer and now has her own show Saturday afternoons.


Sources

Wikipedia
Georgia State University Library
Radio-TV Broadcast History
The NBC Chimes Museum



Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

5 thoughts on “WSB Radio 100 Years”

  1. That was the only radio station my parents listened to. What great memories you have brought back. The 60’s through the 90’s created so much history. we didn’t know that until we are reminded from posts like this.

  2. There are many fine, talented people who have worked at WSB. In the 1970s they gave me a job as radio newsroom assistant, which led to my future career as a public affairs TV producer. During my time at WSB I had the opportunity to work with Aubrey Morris, Bob Ketchersid, Gordon Van Mol, Steve Coco, Kim Peterson, Collie Burnett and many others who helped guide my future career. And Elmo Ellis always made time for me when questions arose.

  3. You left out Ray Moore, who started at WSB Radio in 1951 and soon after moved to WSB-TV, where he eventually became TV News Director and Anchorman, and also a stringer for NBC’s Huntley-Brinkley Report (the National nightly newscast) during the Civil Rights era.

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