Norm Schrutt, a charismatic former radio executive and long-time agent to many of Atlanta’s biggest radio stars, has died. He was 87.
His daughter Marcy Turnbull made the announcement on Schrutt’s personal Facebook page Wednesday. She did not identify cause of death.
NIcknamed the “Radio Rabbi” by his clients, Schrutt brought humor and smarts while massaging egos and negotiating contracts.
“Norm loved the art of negotiation, which I hated,” said Ryan Cameron, who used Schrutt as his agent for many years while working at Hot 107.9, V-103 and now Majic 107.5/97.5. “He would always say that’s what I had him for. When he showed up with his brown leather [briefcase], there was always a deal inside it.”
“He gave a [expletive]” said Melissa Carter, who was a morning host at both Q100 and B98.5. “Sounds better for him than saying he cared, which he’d roll his eyes at.”
Chris “Crash” Clark, now a traffic reporter for 11Alive who worked at 99X, V-103 and Dave FM over the years, said Schrutt supported Clark early in his career despite the fact he was “raw and unrefined.”
“I was like a pet project of his,” Clark said. “My fee was a tank of gas to him but he was hooked on tutoring me.”
One time, Shrutt and Clark had an argument and Schrutt took the radio host to Schrutt’s favorite meeting place - Goldberg’s in Buckhead. “He taught me to talk and be a man and work things out,” he said. “We did and I walked away a much better person.”
Schrutt’s best advice to Clark? “Shut up and call him.”
Over the years, Schrutt represented a wide range of radio hosts nationwide, including many of Atlanta’s most notable talent of the past two decades including Christopher Rude (formerly morning host 680/The Fan), Mark Arum (currently a host on WSB), Mara Davis (former Z93/Dave host), 2 Live Stews (former 790/The Zone team), Cadillac Jack (former Kicks 101.5 country morning host), MIke Bell and Carl Dukes (current afternoon team at 92.9/The Game) and John Kincade (680/The Fan afternoon host).
Even the executives who put together contracts didn’t mind battling him. “He was so vigorous in representing his clients, yet so very much fun to deal with him,” said Pete Spriggs, who recently retired from WSB news/talk after 19 years as program director. “He and I each laugh a lot through negotiations. He really made his mark on me given his deep experience in broadcasting.”
Schrutt would hold an annual shindig for his 20 or so clients at his home with plenty of free booze. (He said he would cap his client list so he could maximize his ability to manage his talent.).
“Party of the year,” said Carter, “and the only time you really had a chance to hang out and let your hair down with a room full of radio people from all over the country.”
Schrutt, a Buffalo native, served in the Army during the Korean War. He worked in sales at a auto dealer before joining former radio company Capital Cities in 1963 at its Buffalo WKBW station as an account manager. Eight years later, he became local sales manager and then general sales manager in 1974. He became general manager in 1977. He left Buffalo to run two Los Angeles stations in 1980 but soon after, took over the purchase of country station WKHX (Kicks 101.5).
>>RELATED: Norm Schrutt obit in the Buffalo News
There, he was known as the boss. He had a button in his office that would automatically close the door, which caused some air personalities to sweat when they were called there.
Schrutt hired Moby from Houston in 1991 to be the Kicks morning host, convincing him to leave a rock-and-roll format and jump into country.
“Never think this is your radio station,” Moby recalled Schrutt telling him. “This is my radio station.” But Schrutt’s tough armor covered a sweet underbelly. “Norm was brilliant,” Moby said. “If you believed in him, and you let him know you believed in him, working for him was easy.” Even when Moby got in trouble with clients or listeners, he said Schrutt supported him. (It helped that Moby pulled in the ratings, too.)
Jim Vann, Moby’s sidekick and long-time traffic reporter for Kicks, said Schrutt took his job seriously but also knew this was a radio station full of wacky personalities, not a buttoned-down accounting firm.
“He used to love swinging the studio doors open after the mic light went off and yell, ‘You’re all idiots!’“ Vann recalled. “I once said, ‘You know how much you’re paying us?’ He’d say, ‘Okay. We’re all idiots!‘”
Schrutt also helped negotiate the deal to buy rival country station Y104/Y106, effectively swallowing his competition. (That station would eventually become Eagle 106.7, which lasted until 2008, and would go through multiple formats. It’s now a Christian contemporary format).
He retired from radio in 1996 at age 63. Moby said he loved air talent so much, he suggested Schrutt become a talent agent. That’s exactly what Schrutt did for the next 23 years, working with renowned entertainment attorney Joel Katz.
In interviews with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution over the years, Schrutt made it clear that his experience being a radio station boss enabled him to represent his air talent better because he knew what the suits across from the desk were thinking and could counteract that.
He was inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2006.
Schrutt is survived by his long-time companion Tamary Fuchs and his daughters Susan Schrutt Goldberg and Marcy Schrutt Turnbull, along with two grandsons.
A graveside funeral service was private. A public celebration of his life will be scheduled at a later date.
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