WSB (750 AM), branded as "News 95.5 and AM750", is a commercial radio station licensed to Atlanta, Georgia, broadcasting a news/talk format. It also uses the slogan "Atlanta's news, weather, traffic, and Georgia Bulldogs station." The station made its debut broadcast on March 15, 1922, as one of the first in the United States.
|Broadcast area||Atlanta metro area|
|Branding||News 95.5 and AM750 WSB|
|Slogan||Depend On It|
|First air date||March 15, 1922|
|Power||50,000 watts (day and night)|
|Callsign meaning||Welcome South, Brother (call letters were randomly assigned call letters, slogan came later)|
|Former frequencies||(kHz) 1922: 833 & 619|
1922-1923: 750 & 619
|Affiliations||Westwood One Network|
ABC News Radio
Georgia Bulldogs (IMG)
|Owner||Cox Media Group |
(Cox Radio, Inc.)
|Sister stations||WALR-FM, WSBB-FM, WSB-FM, WSRV, WTSH-FM, WSB-TV|
WSB is the AM flagship station for Cox Media Group, the television and radio subsidiary of Cox Enterprises. Sister stations include WSBB-FM, WSB-FM, WALR-FM, and WSRV, all owned by Cox, which also owns the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper and Atlanta's ABC television affiliate, WSB-TV. The station's studios and offices are located at the WSB Television and Radio Group building on West Peachtree Street in Midtown Atlanta, which is shared with its television and radio partners.
WSB transmits with 50,000 watts of nondirectional power day and night, the highest power permitted for AM stations by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). WSB is a clear-channel Class A station, under the North American Regional Broadcasting Agreement (NARBA) signed by the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The transmitter and radiating tower are located 7 miles (11 kilometers) northeast of Atlanta at the Northlake Tower Festival Shopping Center in Tucker, Georgia. Daytime signal coverage is somewhat less than some other 50,000-watt AM stations, due to Georgia's poor ground conductivity, thus many Atlanta suburbs (Gainesville, Newnan, Griffin) only receive a grade B signal. Even so, it still provides at least secondary coverage well into the north Georgia mountains, and as far south as Macon. WSB's nighttime signal is heard across a wide coverage area, covering the Southeast and reaching into the East Coast and Midwestern United States.
Since August 2010 WSB's programming has been simulcast at 95.5 FM on WSBB-FM in nearby Doraville. Although WSB is licensed to make HD Radio digital transmissions, it is not currently doing so, apparently due to listener complaints of RF interference.
WSB has long served as the flagship radio station for the University of Georgia Bulldog Radio Network, carrying all Bulldogs football and basketball games. WSB has also served as the flagship station for Atlanta Braves Major League Baseball, Atlanta Falcons NFL Football and Atlanta Hawks NBA basketball. WSB carried Braves baseball coverage from 1966, the year the Milwaukee Braves moved to Atlanta, until 1991. Braves game coverage moved to rival WGST from 1992 until 1994, returning the next year to WSB, for the season in which the Braves won their only Atlanta World Series title to date. That same year the Atlanta Hawks game coverage was also picked up by the station. From 1995 until 2004, WSB was branded as the "Sports Voice of the South", carrying play-by-play game coverage of Braves baseball, Hawks basketball and UGA football and basketball.
In early 1922 there was tremendous public interest in the then-new technology of radio broadcasting. On December 1, 1921 the U.S. Department of Commerce, which regulated radio at this time, adopted a regulation formally establishing a broadcasting station category, which set aside the wavelength of 360 meters (833 kHz) for entertainment broadcasts, and 485 meters (619 kHz) for market and weather reports. By the end of the year the number of authorized stations would exceed 500.
In many communities a race broke out to see who would be the first to get a station on the air. In Atlanta the primary contenders were the two major newspapers, the Journal and the Constitution. The Journal established a makeshift studio on the fifth floor of its building at 7 Forsyth Street. A transmitter had been ordered, but facing a delay the newspaper arranged for the equipment used by Gordon Heidt for his amateur station to be temporarily installed. A broadcasting license was normally needed before a station could go on the air, but it was arranged to have an initial telegraphed authorization, which was sent by the Department of Commerce on the evening of March 15, with the station's debut broadcast taking place that evening. The Journal's new station was issued the randomly assigned call letters WSB, and later station management would say the call letters stood for Welcome South, Brother.
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. 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 1922 the Department of Commerce set aside a second entertainment wavelength, 400 meters (750 kHz) for "Class B" stations that had quality equipment and programming. Both WSB and WGM were assigned to this new wavelength. In May 1923 additional "Class B" frequencies were made available, and Atlanta was assigned the use of 700 kHz. Once again both WSB and WGM were assigned to this new frequency. However, at the end of July WGM permanently suspended operations, which gave WSB exclusive use of the assignment.
In February 1924, Lambdin Kay called Art Gillham "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 1927, WSB became an NBC Radio Network affiliate. The trademark three-tone NBC chimes were first played in the WSB studios.
In the summer of 1927, WSB began transmitting on 630 kHz. 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, on which it was the dominant station nationally. In March 1941, as part of the implementation of the North American Regional Broadcasting Agreement, WSB moved to 750 kHz, where it has been ever since.
WSB smoothed the way for the radio spread of southern gospel music, through regular programming hosted by Charles Davis Tillman. The Shelby Star newspaper, in an issue dated November 1985, wrote that the talented Dan Hornsby, after the national disaster crash of the stock market, found himself working no longer for Columbia Records but for radio stations like WGST, WATL and WCON, along with being the first morning show announcer for WSB in Atlanta. Lambdin Kay called Hornsby "90% of the local talent on WSB."
In 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 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.
From 1925 to 1956, WSB radio, along with sisters WSB-FM and WSB-TV, operated out of the top floor of the Atlanta Biltmore Hotel in lower Midtown. Afterward, the WSB stations broadcast from a Colonial-style mansion specially built for broadcasting, informally known as White Columns, also located in midtown, where Peachtree Street crosses West Peachtree Street near Ansley Park. In 1998, all of the Cox Radio stations located in the Atlanta radio market, as well as WSB-TV, moved into "Digital White Columns" on the same property, the original one being demolished afterward.
WSB formerly broadcast in AM stereo using the Motorola C-QUAM system during the 1980s, a period when music could still be heard on the station. The on-air talent in this era included morning hosts Russ Spooner and Dick Hamby, playing "middle of the road" music, and Skip Caray presenting morning sportscasts. As WSB's format progressed to a full-time news/talk radio format by 1987, the AM stereo system was turned off.
On August 16, 2010, WSB programming began to be simulcast on then-WBTS 95.5 FM, replacing the former rhythmic CHR format "95.5 The Beat." On October 1, 2010, WBTS-FM changed its call letters to WSBB-FM. The extra "B" was added to the FM call letters because Cox already owns a station with the WSB-FM call sign on 98.5.
- As of March 10, 1922, 5 days before WSB started broadcasting, the Department of Commerce reported that there were 67 authorized broadcasting stations, including, in the South, WGH in Montgomery, Alabama. ("List of stations broadcasting market or weather reports (485 meters) and music, concerts, lectures, etc. (360 meters), (March 10, 1922)" Radio Service Bulletin, March 1, 1922, pages 13-14.)
- "AM IBOC Stations on the Air" by Barry McLarnon (topazdesigns.com)
- Welcome South, Brother: Fifty Years of Broadcasting at WSB, Atlanta Georgia, Cox Broadcasting Corporation, 1974, page 10.
- "Amendments to Regulations", Radio Service Bulletin, January 3, 1922, page 10.
- The Journal was an afternoon newspaper, while the Constitution published in the morning. The two papers came under common ownership in 1950, and were merged into the Journal-Constitution in 2001.
- "The Voice of the South", Peachtree Parade by Ernest Rogers, pages 73-75.
- "New Stations: Commercial Land Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, April 1, 1922, page 2.
- "WSB" had previously been assigned to the SS Francis H. Leggett, which sank off the Oregon coast on September 18, 1914, with a loss of all but two of the 62 aboard, ("No. 2925: The Francis H. Leggett", Engines of our Ingenuity by John H. Lienhard, January 31, 2014. Retrieved June 14, 2018) and later to the Firwood, which burned off the coast of Peru on December 18, 1919 with 28 persons on board, all of whom survived. ("Broadcast Station Calls With a Past" by William Fenwick, Radio Broadcast, July 1928, page 150. This source incorrectly states the ship's name as Firewood.) Because superstitious seafarers objected to being issued a call sign previously used by an ill-fated ship, "tainted" calls like "WSB" were quietly issued to unsinkable land stations. ("Mystique of the Three-Letter Callsigns" by Thomas H. White.)
- Journey Through My Years by James M. Cox, 1946, page 387.
- "Amendments to Regulations: Regulation 57", Radio Service Bulletin, September 1, 1922, pages 10-11.
- "Radio Conference Recommendations: New Wave Lengths", Radio Age, May 1923, page 11. Beginning with these assignments radio stations ended the practice of broadcasting their market reports and weather forecasts on the separate 485 meter wavelength.
- "Class B Calls and Waves", Radio Age, June 1923, page 12.
- "AM Network-Affiliated Radio Stations, 1949" (jeff560.tripod.com)
- "Broadcasting Stations, by Wave Lengths", Commercial and Government Radio Stations of the United States (June 30, 1927 edition), page 87.
- "Broadcasting Stations, by Wave Lengths, Effective November 11, 1928", Commercial and Government Radio Stations of the United States (June 30, 1928 edition), page 172.
- Welcome South, Brother, page 17.
- "WSB-AM adds FM home at 95.5" by Rodney Ho, August 16, 2010 (blogs.ajc.com)
- "Peabody Awards for '46 Announced" (PDF). Broadcasting. April 21, 1947. p. 15. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
- "Special Collections and Archives: WSB Radio History" Georgia State University Library Research Guide
- Welcome South, Brother: Fifty Years of Broadcasting at WSB, Atlanta, Georgia. Cox Broadcasting Corporation. 1974.