1968 Atlanta Radio Time Warp
The year 1968 was an important one in Atlanta radio because it marked the beginning of the end of AM domination in the market. NBC radio affiliate and 50 kW clear channel WSB-AM "Wis-Bee" was the market leader. The former Atlanta Journal station had a middle of the road format and tried hard to be everything to everybody. Judging from the number of listeners, it succeeded royally. WSB carried University of Georgia football, the Braves, the Hawks, NBC news on the hour, NBC Monitor on the weekends, and a cornucopia of music, news, and information programs. It was much more involved in the community than any other station in the market. When news broke out, Atlantans turned to WSB.
WGST "your guest, WGST 92, very Atlanta" tried mightily to compete with WSB, but it really never succeeded. At that time, WGST was owned by Georgia Tech and the studios were on the campus. Petula Clark's "Downtown" was typical of the musical sound of the station which was the flagship for Georgia Tech sports. But most college graduates who lived in Atlanta went to the University of Georgia and listened to their team on WSB. The only Top 40 station was WQXI where the mighty "Quixie in Dixie" Tigers spun the latest 45s. It was the only Atlanta station with reverb in the background. A new talk station WRNG "Ring Radio" had just gone on the air at the beginning of 1968. It was an instant success as Atlanta's first talk station. Its format would be duplicated by other stations in the ensuing years.
The FM band was occupied mostly by automated, easy listening stations that had few commercial sponsors. One format exception was WKXI which featured an instrumental upbeat "now sound" with continuous coverage of the stock market and financial news from Reynolds Co. It was the only FM signal with aggressive audio processing. WKXI would literally jump from the loudspeaker when tuning to it from another station. Another exception was classical WGKA-AM-FM. With new studios and FM transmitter atop Peachtree Center in downtown, the stations were the class act of Atlanta broadcasting. WGKA was sold in 1968 and Atlanta lost its commercial classical stations. There was a groundswell of opposition, primarily to the change in format on the AM station, which resulted in a then record number of complaints to the FCC in opposition to the sale.
Atlanta was on the verge of being a boomtown in 1968. Residents and visitors flocked to the new Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown to ride the bubble shaped elevators up into the canopy of the atrium lobby. The rotating floor of the Polaris Lounge on top of the Regency gave a panoramic view of the city through the transparent blue dome over the lounge. The Braves on WSB-AM and the Falcons on WQXI-AM were new teams in town and the Hawks were on their way with WSB-AM to be their home. Atlanta had just discovered live theater and theater reviews were becoming common on the radio. The now defunct Theater Atlanta was a ground breaking class act which went to Broadway and performed a play that spoofed then Governor Lester Maddox who, in the early '60s, gave out pick ax handles at his Pickrick fried chicken restaurant as a symbol of resistance to integration.
The Vietnam war was raging and tearing the country apart in 1968. Atlanta was a magnet in the south for hippies and youthful war protesters. The sidewalks in the "Tight Squeeze" area around 10th and Peachtree Streets were packed with so many hippies that pedestrians literally had to walk in the streets. People driving through the area stopped to stare, creating massive traffic jams that snaked for blocks around the area. The alternative newspaper The Great Speckled Bird was hawked by vendors wearing tie-dyed T-shirts from street corners for 15 cents a copy. As a sign of the changes that were to come, Plough's WPLO-FM would soon convert to an automated underground rock format.
Military service was mandatory in 1968. The young men who were drafted that year who were fortunate to make it back to Atlanta would find a big change in the radio scene. When they left, people were listening to AM. When they returned, people were listening to FM. As an example of how little broadcast professionals would anticipate the changes to come, see the November quote above from Elmo Ellis, former general manager of WSB-AM-FM, when he was asked his opinion on the future of FM broadcasting. In 1968, Ellis was certainly "Mr. Broadcasting" in Atlanta. He probably had more power in the industry than all others in the market combined.
In January of 1968, there were 19 AM stations and 9 FM stations listed in the Atlanta newspapers. These are listed below.
Sample Program Notes from 1968
WQXI-AM - The new show "Center Stage" is hosted on Fridays by station drama critic Maureen Roberts. Maureen reviews live theater and cultural events in Atlanta.
WGKA-AM-FM - "The Atlanta Symphony Hour" is broadcast on Sundays, "Music and Arts Calendar of the Air" daily, and "Gallery Promenade" on Thursdays. Renee Huie of the High Museum of the Arts hosts the latter show.
WSB-AM - The twice daily show "Around the Town" covers current happenings in Atlanta. The evening show "Nightbeat" covers the Atlanta scene after dark.
WSB-FM - "Spotlight" is a daily information and events program covering the Atlanta scene. One of the hosts is station manager Elmo Ellis.
WGST-AM - The Metropolitan Opera is broadcast on WGST each Saturday afternoon.
WQXI-AM and WAOK-AM - Both stations air the 5 minute "Bill Cosby Show" on weekdays.
WRNG-AM - The morning show "Call Kate" is hosted by Katherine Bankston.
WPLO-FM - The format is being tightened up. No longer are Georgia State students allowed free reign over the station. Station manager Dan Michaels said that the primary format will be Top 40. The country music of WPLO-AM is simulcast from 10 am to 2 pm, Monday through Friday. Top 40 DJs John Charles, Dan Michaels, Dennis St. John, Bruce Williams, Chris McKee, and Sandy Ray take over for the 2 pm to 8 pm slot. "Folk World" is hosted by Kay Cothran from 8 pm to 9 pm on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Jazz is broadcast from 10 pm until midnight each weekday. Connie Vance hosts "Calendar of Events" which targets younger people looking for places to go on dates. WPLO-FM also broadcasts Georgia State basketball.
WABE-FM - The 15 minute spoken word program "Pause for Poetry" will be broadcast each Tuesday and Thursday.
WKLS-FM - The program "Music Without Words" will premiere from 10 pm to 1 am each evening. The program will have no commercial breaks. Featured artists include Montavoni, David Rose, Percy Faith, Andre Kostelantz, plus big band tunes by artists such as Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, and Harry James.
WFOM-AM - DJ Red Jones has taken the place of Hugh "Big Hugh Baby" Jarrett at the station.
WQXI-AM - Former Quixie Tiger DJ Pat Hughes has joined WAGA-TV 5.
WGUN-AM - The "Big Gun" country and western DJs will be featured Sunday afternoon on the "J. R. Jamboree" on WJRJ-TV 17 (now TBS).
WSB-AM - The new 50 minute Tuesday night program "This is My Religion" is moderated by Wilson Nearing who is associate pastor of North Avenue Presbyterian Church. The program covers controversial issues such as dancing, abortion, etc.
WBIE-FM has ceased simulcasting the popular music of its AM side. The station has converted to an automated country format, the first such FM format in Atlanta. Station manager James M. Wilder hosts a 6:45 - 9 am show. The station is automated from 9 am until sign-off at 11 pm. CBS radio news airs on the station.
WABE-FM program director Van Joyner has announced two new programs. "Prospect of a Union" features readings on the American Revolution. "Curtain Time in Altanta" covers what's new in live theater in the city.
WSB-AM begins three new programs. The series "Georgia College of the Week" will focus on one of the 50 colleges in the state each week. A day of each week will be devoted to introducing listeners to one of the station's personalities. "Where Is It?" will feature information on the streets and neighborhoods of Atlanta.
WYNX-AM DJs Jerry Wallace, Steve Warren, and Ken Arnold will appear on the "J. R. Jamboree" Sunday afternoon on WJRJ-TV 17 (now TBS).
WSB-AM will present a one hour concert by 13 year old pianist Jeffrey Stivers. The station is preparing to carry the entire '68 Braves season with Milo Hamilton as the announcer. Phil Shaefer is the station sports director. WSB will also feature play-by-play coverage of the Georgia High School AAA basketball tournament.
WIIN-AM will broadcast Saturday at the Met's "Die Walkure" by Wagner which has been bumped from WGST because of Georgia Tech basketball.
WABE-FM will air the radio drama "The Last Summer of Childhood" each night for one week. Program director Van Joyner has promised that it is far better than anything that can be found on the tube.
WGST-AM - The League of Women Voters presents "Citizen Reports" each Sunday night at 10.
WKLS-FM - The new "Morning Information" show from 6 - 9 am will feature news on the half hour, weather every 10 minutes, and music.
WERD-AM has converted to a "Top 40 Gospel" format featuring modern gospel music with little talk. Bert Weiland, formerly with WIGO, is the new station manager. DJs are Rev. Roy Blake, Robert Scott, and Ralph Riley.
WPLO-AM will feature Braves spring training reports with Braves announcer Milo Hamilton. The "WPLO Shower of Stars" concert this year will feature Jerry Lee Lewis and Ferlin Husky along with station personalities Simon Crum, Dottie West, and Jim Ed Brown.
WRNG-AM has been on the air for 3 months now as Atlanta's first talk station. Traffic director Ellen Metz is very pleased with the tremendous response the station has received. Guest host (the late LSD guru) Dr. Timothy Leary hosted a one-hour segment where over 1,400 calls were unable to get through. At 9 am each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, the "Barter Ring" averages over 70 people who offer goodies for sale over the air. The "Barry Farber Show" airs daily from 6:15 to 6:45 pm. Listeners voice their opinions on "Open Line" Monday through Friday from 8:15 to 9 am and from 4 to 5 pm.
WERD-AM - Program director Jerome Johnson is pleased with the great response shown by listeners to the new gospel format. Johnson says that only music with a swinging upbeat sound, not "backwoods type" gospel music, is played on the station. Deacon Harrison Smith is the new morning host.
WBIE-FM program director Roger Allison said that listeners had a bad reaction the first few days after the station converted its format to country. However, they are now showing more interest in the new format.
WABE-FM program director Van Joyner announced the new programs "The Comic Arts" and "The Shadow of the Lion." The latter is about Great Brittain.
WPLO-FM is rumored to switch to an automated top-40 format from noon to 8 pm and jazz from 8 pm to midnight.
WKXI-FM has changed its call letters to WQXI-FM. The station originally signed on in May 1966 with a standards format. It now plays music with an "alive, today-like sound" according to Sylvia Clark, administrative assistant and program director. "The station stays away from hard rock and music that leaves people crawling up the walls," according to Clark. The target audience is the 25 to 35 year old group. None of the music is announced. Stock market and business reports are featured throughout the day.
WSB-AM - The music of a particular artist is spotlighted on "Carnival" at 8:05 pm on weeknights.
WACX-AM 1600 went on the air with "Sound 16" music for a young adult audience. The new station is programmed primarily for residents of Cobb Co. It is a daytime station with a power of 1 kW. The frequency is the former home of WGKA-AM.
WSB-AM has announced that it will broadcast a series of computer simulated great middleweight championship tour boxing matches starting in September.
WGKA-AM-FM has been sold to Strauss Broadcasting of Dallas, Texas, pending approval of the FCC. It is rumored that the AM will be converted to middle of the road background music and the FM will remain classical.
WGKA-AM-FM will cover the Atlanta tour of the Metropolitan Opera this spring. The "Opera Ticket Exchange" will give listeners the opportunity to swap tickets. "Opera Anecdotes" will cover humorous events in opera. Program director Jonathan Phelps will host "Tonight at the Met." Mimi Honce will host "Opera Interviews."
WSB-AM will air a 30 minute special recorded by Bill Cosby before an audience of 10,000 in Cleveland.
WIIN-AM will shift "The Joe Pyne Show" from 8:05 am to 6:35 pm.
WSB-AM will present its "Shining Light Award" this year to the late Dr. Rufus E. Clement, former president of Atlanta University. The new WSB program "Ellery Queen's Minute Mysteries" will give listeners the opportunity to solve a mystery before the super sleuth does.
WSB-FM will cover the 1968 Indiana presidential primaries.
WYNX-AM has replaced country and western music on Sunday mornings with religious music.
WGUN-AM will begin presenting careful driving commendations from the Dekalb County Police to citizens.
WGKA-AM-FM - The battle is brewing to keep the classical format on WGKA. Many letters have been sent by loyal listeners to the station, to the Atlanta newspapers, and to the FCC in protest of the format change. A coed from Briarcliff High School paraded in front of the Fox theater wearing a placard with the caption "Save WGKA" while handing out handbills.
WSB-AM - The program "Open Mike" features interviews by news director Aubrey Morris. WSB will broadcast the NBC radio coverage of the 1968 California presidential primaries.
WGKA-AM-FM plans to cover the Atlanta Symphony's "Theater Under the Stars" throughout the summer. Despite the pending sale of WGKA, station spokesperson Linda Wiemeyer says, "We still have a radio station to operate." Bill Dial of the Municipal Theater will host "Theater Under the Stars Preview." Steve Warren is the morning host on WGKA.
WQXI-AM has named Bob Todd as the new station program director. Todd hosts the "Bob Todd Show" weekdays from 4 to 6 pm.
WSB-AM - Jim Howell has joined the WSB staff. He hails from WFUN in Miami.
WGST-AM - The program "Observations" will feature Roger Caras, vice president of Stanley Kubric Productions. Caras will discuss "2001: A Space Odyssey." The program will be broadcast on Sunday at 7 am and at 10:30 pm.
WGKA-AM-FM - Tucker High School students John H. George, Jr., and Jimmy Atkinson claim to have uncovered one AM frequency and one FM frequency which are open in Atlanta that can be operated as classical stations if WGKA changes formats. The students estimate the costs to build the stations are $35,000 for the FM and $24,000 for the AM. Although they refuse to divulge the frequencies, professional broadcasters in Atlanta are skeptical that there are any open frequencies, especially on the AM band.
WIGO-AM - The new "WIGO First Team" program will air from 6 - 10 am each weekday morning. The program features news, sports, opinion, music, and information. The hosts are James Rowe and Dave Hull. General manager of the station is Carter S. Jones. The program director is Rudy Runnelles.
WYNX-AM has hired UGA graduate Jim Broadus as the new news director. The station will focus on news for residents of Cobb County. The WYNX news team is Ken Arnold, Harold Smith, and Larry Polk. Polk is also President of WYNX. The station broadcasts with a power of 10 kW.
WGUN-AM will celebrate its 21st anniversary by broadcasting live from the Lakewood Amusement Park on Saturday. The DJs will be at the park from 6 am until after dark.
WSB-AM takes to the mall when Jim Howell and Bob Van Kamp will go to Lenox Square for the daily 1 to 3 pm show "Metro on the Mall." The show will feature interviews, information, live concerts, and the performing arts.
WIGO-AM vice president Zenas Sears says that the morning "WIGO First Team" reminds him of the show he did with James "Alley Pat" Patrick on WAOK about 6 years ago. It seems that Sears, who is white, and Patrick, who is black, exchanged some frank and very lively dialog at times. Alley Pat is now running for Sheriff of Fulton County.
WQXI-AM has entered high school student Kathy Jackson in the nationwide Superteen Contest. Kathy is 16 and attends Grady High School. Barry chase has been appointed the new music director at the station. He will continue to host his 9 am to noon show.
WYZE-AM will feature reports by Jim McRee from the Atlanta International Speedway during the GT250 and Dixie 500 races. McRee's ten 5-minute reports will air Wednesday through Friday.
WGKA-AM-FM - The FCC will act in August on the sale of WGKA. The commission has received 1063 letters and petitions with 1008 signatures protesting the sale of the station. This is a FCC record.
WAOK-AM will broadcast the nationwide "Nite Call" talk show program from 11:30 pm to 12:30 am Monday through Friday. Del Shields hosts the show from WRVR-FM in New York. The format features Shields with one guest. The executive producer for the program is Nelson Price, a member of the Television Radio Film Commission of the United Methodist Church.
WSB-AM news director Aubrey Morris will cover the 1968 Republican National Convention in Miami next week. WSB-FM will air complete NBC radio coverage of the convention. WSB-AM will join the coverage each night after Braves games.
WACX-AM - The new news director at the station is Steve Brenson. Gary Kinsey is the new program director. He also hosts a late afternoon show.
WPLO-AM - Jim Clemens from San Antonio is the new midnight to 6 am host.
WIIN-AM has a new controversial talk show that airs from 7:30 to 9 am Monday through Friday. The host is Jack Wheeler from WIVY in Jacksonville who said, "I want to stir people up." Station manager Fred Wagenvoord said that this will not be a "thank you for calling" type of show. WIIN has become affiliated with the ABC American Entertainment Radio Network. Paul Harvey news will air daily at noon.
WRNG-AM has become affiliated with the ABC American Information Radio Network. The network news will begin on the station on September 15.
WAOK-AM will air public service programs on syphilis and gonorrhea for the next six months. Zenas Sears is the vice president of WAOK. The station now describes its format as "Soul." It was previously "Rhythm/Blues."
WRNG-AM - The fairly new talk station is getting a lot of attention. A recent letter to the newspaper described WRNG as a "hate station." The station get so many calls that it has had to impose a limit of one call in three days from any individual. Southern Bell equipment shows that over 10,000 calls are blocked every day while the number of unblocked calls is the same as before the block was initiated. In praise of the station, Pat Watters of the Southern Regional Council said, "It is no exaggeration to say that the station involves its audience more than any radio station I have ever heard."
WSB-FM - Starting September 15, the station will air a 39 week series entitled "Encores from the Bell Telephone Hour." The first show is from April 1940.
WGKA-AM-FM - Each Wednesday at 8:45 am, Steve Warren will review significant events of the week in theater and films. WGKA will act as the originating station for the Georgia Audio News convention reports during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
WABE-FM will air "Book Talk" at 7 pm Monday through Friday. The program is presented by the Atlanta Public Library and features reviews of new releases and best sellers.
WSB-AM will air "Let's Talk About Baseball" on Wednesday at 8:05 pm. The show is hosted by sports director Phil Schaefer. It will feature Bill Bartholomay, president and general manager of the Atlanta Braves.
WRNG-AM will start signing on at 6 am beginning Monday. Ben Baldwin and Preston Charles will host "Newscall" and "Open Line."
WYZE-AM - Jim McRee has returned to the station as sports director after an 18 month absence. His "Sports Digest" is heard 3 times daily in addition to his afternoon show.
WBIE-AM - The "Cobb County Report" starts Monday. "The WBIE Sports Review" starts Sunday.
WQXI-AM broadcasts of the Falcons games will start Saturday. This is the third year of the Falcons on WQXI. Jack Hurst is the station sports director.
WSB-AM begins broadcast of the Hawks games on October 16. All 72 games will be broadcast. Skip Cary is the "Voice of the Hawks" on WSB.
WIIN-AM will launch its "Operation Paperback" drive to collect paperback books to be sent to servicemen overseas and in Vietnam hospitals. The station expects to collect over 200,000 volumes.
WGKA-AM-FM - In a letter to the Journal on September 12, Mr. Michael Humphreys threatened to get a court injunction against FCC approval of the sale of WGKA to Strauss Broadcasting.
WSB-AM will broadcast the entire 1968 World Series. The broadcast of a series of 15 computerized boxing matches will begin Monday at 9:05 pm, starting with the match of Carmen Basilio versus Marcel Cerday. The middleweight championship will be selected by the same miraculous machines that last year picked Rocky Marciano as the heavyweight champion of the world.
WAOK-AM has a new discussion series of programs titled "Two Worlds." The series features dialog between whites and blacks.
WYZE-AM has changed its format from Country to Country/Gospel.
WGKA-AM - A letter to the Journal described the new (non-classical) WGKA-AM announcers as sounding like they have to be wound up in the morning and a button pushed to get them started. The "Broadcast Good Music Committee" has been formed in an effort to change the format back to classical.
WPLO-AM will air public service spots for the City of Atlanta announcing positions available in the city.
WPLO-FM - The new program director is former WQXI newscaster Ed Shane.
WSB-AM - Altanta Journal TV critic Dick Gray declared the music on WSB-AM to be trash, saying that no one radio station could be everything to everybody.
WGST-AM will carry broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera in December. On Monday, WGST will become the exclusive outlet in Atlanta for the Mutual Radio Network. General manager J. W. Collins says that Mutual is the world's largest radio network. WGST will serve as the Southern Regional News Headquarters for Mutual.
WSB-AM-FM general manager Elmo Ellis was asked how he felt FM radio would evolve over the next 10 years. He said, "I would not be surprised if FM proved to be the medium that pioneers a breakthrough into new and effective ways of presenting drama on radio." WSB-FM was licensed by the FCC in 1934.
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