WSB radio celebrates 100 years on air

WSB Radio jockey Jim Wesley in 1955. LANE BROTHERS

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WSB Radio jockey Jim Wesley in 1955. LANE BROTHERS

The news/talk station debuted on March 15, 1922, playing classical music.

A century ago, when Betty White was an infant, WSB Radio was born on March 15, 1922, originally owned by The Atlanta Journal.

A vast history of the station resides at Georgia State University and was lovingly curated by former WSB news anchor and talk show host Mike Kananagh, who died of a heart attack in 2009 at age 57.

ExplorePhotos of the classic days of WSB radio and TV

Here is a decade-by-decade summary of how the station has evolved over the years.

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Henry Ford (seated) is shown in WSB's first studio in 1922 with Major John S. Cohen (right) then Journal editor and publisher. Others are Montgomery Haynes, Walker Lee and L.W. (Chip) Robert. (Lane Bros.)

Credit: Lane Bros

Henry Ford (seated) is shown in WSB's first studio in 1922 with Major John S. Cohen (right) then Journal editor and publisher. Others are Montgomery Haynes, Walker Lee and L.W. (Chip) Robert. (Lane Bros.)

Credit: Lane Bros

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Henry Ford (seated) is shown in WSB's first studio in 1922 with Major John S. Cohen (right) then Journal editor and publisher. Others are Montgomery Haynes, Walker Lee and L.W. (Chip) Robert. (Lane Bros.)

Credit: Lane Bros

Credit: Lane Bros

1920s

When WSB launched, original owner The Atlanta Journal published articles instructing amateurs how to build radios. The station opened with Franz von Suppé's “Light Cavalry Overture.” A sound truck cruised the city, and loudspeakers were set up in Piedmont and Grant parks.

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WSB Microphone, ca. 1923. WSB, the South's first radio station, went on the air on March 15, 1922.

Credit: Courtesy Special Collections and

WSB Microphone, ca. 1923. WSB, the South's first radio station, went on the air on March 15, 1922.

Credit: Courtesy Special Collections and

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WSB Microphone, ca. 1923. WSB, the South's first radio station, went on the air on March 15, 1922.

Credit: Courtesy Special Collections and

Credit: Courtesy Special Collections and

It was considered the first radio station to use a slogan: “The Voice of the South.” Early fans of the medium were dubbed “WSB Radiowls.”

By 1925, the station had become a big enough deal to move from the Journal building to its own spacious home on the top floor of the Biltmore Hotel in Midtown.

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Clark Gable at the microphone addressing the crowd on the WSB radio platform in front of the Georgian Terrace Hotel on Peachtree Street for the premiere of "Gone With the Wind" in December 1939. AJC FILE

Credit: AJC FILE PHOTO

Clark Gable at the microphone addressing the crowd on the WSB radio platform in front of the Georgian Terrace Hotel on Peachtree Street for the premiere of "Gone With the Wind" in December 1939. AJC FILE

Credit: AJC FILE PHOTO

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Clark Gable at the microphone addressing the crowd on the WSB radio platform in front of the Georgian Terrace Hotel on Peachtree Street for the premiere of "Gone With the Wind" in December 1939. AJC FILE

Credit: AJC FILE PHOTO

Credit: AJC FILE PHOTO

1930s

The station began airing commercials for the first time in 1930. It covered the Great Depression, golfer Bobby Jones and the launch of “Gone With the Wind.”

Gov. James M. Cox of Ohio purchased both the newspaper and the radio station in 1939.

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Cotton Carrier and his band at WSB Radio in 1949. LANE BROTHERS

Credit: LANE BRO

Cotton Carrier and his band at WSB Radio in 1949. LANE BROTHERS

Credit: LANE BRO

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Cotton Carrier and his band at WSB Radio in 1949. LANE BROTHERS

Credit: LANE BRO

Credit: LANE BRO

1940s

World War II led the station to play more news. Among the programs: “Reveille In Dixie,” a weekly dramatic series, to explain the necessity of winning the war; “Camp Crossroads, which broadcast interviews with servicemen from the Atlanta Serviceman’s Center; and “The War Mailbag,” which provided information about life in wartime.

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Feb. 1941 - Atlanta, Ga.: Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, recouperating in Piedmont Hospital from injuries suffered in an airplane crash near Morrow, speaks on WSB-radio from his hospital bed. (AJC staff) 1941

Credit: AJC Staff

Feb. 1941 - Atlanta, Ga.: Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, recouperating in Piedmont Hospital from injuries suffered in an airplane crash near Morrow, speaks on WSB-radio from his hospital bed. (AJC staff) 1941

Credit: AJC Staff

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Feb. 1941 - Atlanta, Ga.: Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, recouperating in Piedmont Hospital from injuries suffered in an airplane crash near Morrow, speaks on WSB-radio from his hospital bed. (AJC staff) 1941

Credit: AJC Staff

Credit: AJC Staff

The station, with a boost from Martha Carson, also launched a popular music program called the “WSB Barn Dance,” featuring what advertisements called “the cream of the hillbilly world.”

WSB radio legends who started this decade included announcer Bob Van Camp, who stayed until 1972, and executive Elmo Ellis, a key figure who worked at the station into the early 1980s.

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Bob Van Camp in 1953 at a WSB radio promotion. LANE BROTHERS

Credit: LANE BROTHERS

Bob Van Camp in 1953 at a WSB radio promotion. LANE BROTHERS

Credit: LANE BROTHERS

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Bob Van Camp in 1953 at a WSB radio promotion. LANE BROTHERS

Credit: LANE BROTHERS

Credit: LANE BROTHERS

1950s

Among the popular shows this decade was “The Kitchen Klub,” where folks like George Crumbley, Bett Johnson, and Lee Morris rated records, drank coffee, and chatted with guests. Van Camp hosted a game show, “It Pays To Listen,” where he played tunes on the organ. “Nightbeat,” an interview program, featured Jerry Vandeventer and became a national phenomenon because the signal carried so far at night.

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ATLANTA, GA - Feb. 8, 1950 - Journal Columnist Morgan Blake, right, talks with evangelist Billy Graham. The interview took place on The Journal's program 'Views of the News' on WSB. AJC FILE

Credit: Journal photo

ATLANTA, GA - Feb. 8, 1950 - Journal Columnist Morgan Blake, right, talks with evangelist Billy Graham. The interview took place on The Journal's program 'Views of the News' on WSB. AJC FILE

Credit: Journal photo

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ATLANTA, GA - Feb. 8, 1950 - Journal Columnist Morgan Blake, right, talks with evangelist Billy Graham. The interview took place on The Journal's program 'Views of the News' on WSB. AJC FILE

Credit: Journal photo

Credit: Journal photo

Ellis became program director and gave the station a big boost, dubbing WSB “America’s Radio Active Station.” He hired Aubrey Morris away from The Atlanta Journal to become the station’s first news reporter.

In late 1955, WSB moved into a new building on Peachtree Street nicknamed White Columns, along with the TV station.

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New York, June 4 - Mayor Ivan Allen, center, of Atlanta, Ga., boards a plane at New York's Idlewild Airport last night for flight to Paris and scene of Air France jetliner crash yesterday with killed 130, most of them Atlanta residents. With him are Edwin L. Sterne, left, assistant Atlanta city attorney, and Aubrey Morris, an Atlanta newscaster. 1962. AJC FILE PHOTO

Credit: AP

New York, June 4 - Mayor Ivan Allen, center, of Atlanta, Ga., boards a plane at New York's Idlewild Airport last night for flight to Paris and scene of Air France jetliner crash yesterday with killed 130, most of them Atlanta residents. With him are Edwin L. Sterne, left, assistant Atlanta city attorney, and Aubrey Morris, an Atlanta newscaster. 1962. AJC FILE PHOTO

Credit: AP

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New York, June 4 - Mayor Ivan Allen, center, of Atlanta, Ga., boards a plane at New York's Idlewild Airport last night for flight to Paris and scene of Air France jetliner crash yesterday with killed 130, most of them Atlanta residents. With him are Edwin L. Sterne, left, assistant Atlanta city attorney, and Aubrey Morris, an Atlanta newscaster. 1962. AJC FILE PHOTO

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

1960s

The station in 1960 purchased a helicopter to cover news and traffic. After a tragic jet crash in France that killed 122 prominent Georgians in 1963, Morris traveled to Paris with Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen and provided radio news reports.

Larry Munson came to WSB in 1966 as play-by-play announcer for the Atlanta Braves and the Georgia Bulldogs. Munson was so popular that many fans would turn down the sound on their TVs and listen to Munson instead. He retired in 2008.

During civil rights protests in 1966, WSB reporter Andy Still was assaulted and a news vehicle overturned by protesters. Two years later, when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, station manager Ellis went on air to call for unity, providing a moving tribute to the slain “gentle preacher.”

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May 31, 1965 - Atlanta, Ga.: An eternal flame was installed Monday in front of the downtown Carnegie Library honoring Margaret Mitchell, author of 'Gone With the Wind.' Here at the Monday ceremony are, left to right, J.T. LaBoon, gas light company vice-resident; Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. and Elmo Ellis of WSB. (Staff photo/Ken Patterson)

Credit: AJC staff

May 31, 1965 - Atlanta, Ga.: An eternal flame was installed Monday in front of the downtown Carnegie Library honoring Margaret Mitchell, author of 'Gone With the Wind.' Here at the Monday ceremony are, left to right, J.T. LaBoon, gas light company vice-resident; Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. and Elmo Ellis of WSB. (Staff photo/Ken Patterson)

Credit: AJC staff

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May 31, 1965 - Atlanta, Ga.: An eternal flame was installed Monday in front of the downtown Carnegie Library honoring Margaret Mitchell, author of 'Gone With the Wind.' Here at the Monday ceremony are, left to right, J.T. LaBoon, gas light company vice-resident; Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. and Elmo Ellis of WSB. (Staff photo/Ken Patterson)

Credit: AJC staff

Credit: AJC staff

1970s

WSB ran a popular contest called “WSB Mysteree,” in which the audience guessed the celebrity voice. Santa Claus began using the WSB Skycopter to fly to Lenox Square to officially open the holiday shopping season.

WSB newsman Gordon Van Mol entered a burning house and rescued an elderly woman. Ellis recorded the song “Hammerin’ Hank” to honor Hank Aaron as he sought to break Babe Ruth’s home run record. Milo Hamilton and Ernie Jackson captured that historic moment on the air in 1974.

When Jimmy Carter was elected as president in 1976, WSB reporter Peter Maer accompanied him on the flight to Washington.

Skip Caray started his Braves announcing career in 1976, retiring in 2008. Kerry Browning began his 30-year news career in 1978. Kim “The Kimmer” Petersen debuted on WSB in 1974 and stayed until 1991.

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Undated photo of radio humorist and former WSB host Ludlow Porch. (Special to the AJC)

Credit: Special

Undated photo of radio humorist and former WSB host Ludlow Porch. (Special to the AJC)

Credit: Special

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Undated photo of radio humorist and former WSB host Ludlow Porch. (Special to the AJC)

Credit: Special

Credit: Special

1980s

Dave Baker, who is still doing his “Home Fix It” show, joined WSB in 1985 as a caller on Bobby Harper’s show, which ran mornings from 1985 to 1991. Meteorologist Kirk Mellish started doing weather forecasts in 1987 and retired last year. Condace Pressley started as a reporter in 1986. Scott Slade signed on as a traffic reporter in 1984 and has been the morning host since 1991.

And legendary southern cooking expert Ludlow Porch set up shop with his call-in “wackos” in 1982, hosting his well-loved show for almost a decade.

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Traffic reporter, Herb Emory, from WSB Radio, giving a traffic report from a helicopter. Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium sits in the background, Atlanta, Georgia, January 3, 1994. AJC FILE PHOTO

Credit: AJC FILE PHOTO

Traffic reporter, Herb Emory, from WSB Radio, giving a traffic report from a helicopter. Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium sits in the background, Atlanta, Georgia, January 3, 1994. AJC FILE PHOTO

Credit: AJC FILE PHOTO

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Traffic reporter, Herb Emory, from WSB Radio, giving a traffic report from a helicopter. Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium sits in the background, Atlanta, Georgia, January 3, 1994. AJC FILE PHOTO

Credit: AJC FILE PHOTO

Credit: AJC FILE PHOTO

1990s

By this decade, the station largely dropped music and focused on talk.

The “Talkmaster” Neal Boortz moved to WSB in 1993 and stayed until his retirement in 2013. Other big names who came to the station that decade include Jason Durden, Bob Coxe, Jeff Dantre, Jamie Dupree, “Captain” Herb Emory, Steve Holman, Clark Howard, Sandra Parrish, Walter Reeves, Veronica Waters, Mark Arum and Richard Sangster.

WSB’s radio and TV operations moved to a new building in 1998 next door to White Columns, which was subsequently torn down. The columns were saved and placed in a rear garden of the new buildings.

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Former presidential candidate and Stockbridge resident Herman Cain, who host of his own radio show on WSB, died in 2020. JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: AJC

Former presidential candidate and Stockbridge resident Herman Cain, who host of his own radio show on WSB, died in 2020. 
JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: AJC

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Former presidential candidate and Stockbridge resident Herman Cain, who host of his own radio show on WSB, died in 2020. JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: AJC

Credit: AJC

2000s

Herman Cain joined the station as an evening host in 2008, eventually running for president, then taking over for Boortz in 2013.

WSB’s annual Care-a-thon began at the turn of the century, and over its 21 years has raised more than $28 million to fight childhood cancer through the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

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WSB vets Scott Slade (right), who came up with the whole Care-a-thon idea, and Clark Howard get to hang out. They co-hosted the final hour of the two-day careathon. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Credit: Rodney Ho

WSB vets Scott Slade (right), who came up with the whole Care-a-thon idea, and Clark Howard get to hang out. They co-hosted the final hour of the two-day careathon. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Credit: Rodney Ho

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WSB vets Scott Slade (right), who came up with the whole Care-a-thon idea, and Clark Howard get to hang out. They co-hosted the final hour of the two-day careathon. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

2010s-present

The addition of an FM simulcast on 95.5 in August 2010 boosted WSB’s reach and hastened Atlanta listeners to the FM dial and away from AM.

Eric Von Haessler, Erick Erickson and Mark Arum all became regular talk-show hosts on the station, which was the No. 1 in ratings for nearly the entire decade.

At the same time, the past decade has involved a lot of tragedy. Beloved Boortz producer and host Royal Marshall died of a heart attack in 2011 at age 43. Popular traffic reporter Emory was just 61 when he too died of a heart attack. The Georgia 400-I-85 flyover ramp was named in Emory’s honor. Cain died of COVID-19 in 2020, while talk radio pioneer Rush Limbaugh died a few months later of cancer.

Hundreds of thousand of people listened to WSB in 2014 when an ice storm trapped thousands on highways overnight and forced many to abandon their vehicles. During the wee hours, having otherwise run out of things to say, host Erick Erickson read his Sunday School lesson.