Skip to main content

Special Collections and Archives: WSB Radio History: 1940s

This guide chronicles the history of Atlanta's first radio station.

Events 1940-1949

1940's WSB begins farm programming which contributed greatly to popularizing modern farming methods in Georgia.

1940 Elmo Ellis joins WSB as the station's first public relations and publicity director.

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.

November 16, 1940 WSB Barn Dance, featuring hillbilly stars, went on the air.

1941 WSB receives a George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished public service.

1942 WSB modified its programming to include 19 news programs during its broadcast day in response to World War II. Atlanta listeners tuned to WSB for the explanation of the first city-wide blackout. The station produced special programs like: "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, "Atlanta Army Reports" answered listeners questions about the war, and "The War Mailbag" broadcast information about price controls, food and gasoline rationing, and other facets of life in wartime.

1942 Variety honors WSB for Outstanding Wartime Service.    

1943 WSB and 4H members brought about the sale of $10 million dollars in war binds, enough to build five Liberty ships and fill them with food.

1944 WSB In anticipation of the invasion of Europe, WSB broadcast 24 hours a day for two weeks. 

November 16, 1944 WSB began experimental broadcasts on FM, the first in Georgia.

September 28, 1948 WSB FM was authorized to begin commercial operation at 104.5.

Personnel 1940-1949

Lee Roy Abernathy Lee Roy Abernathy
He was also a fixture on WSB Radio for several years on music shows in the 1940's.

 

Bobby Atcheson Bobby Atcheson
A popular performer on the WSB "Barn Dance" radio program from 1944-46.
Mac Atcheson Mac Atcheson
Best known as the smooth and talented steel guitar player who was a member of the Peachtree Cowboys on WSB Radio in the 1940's.
Jimmy Bridges Jimmy Bridges
Jimmy joined WSB, fresh out of the U. of Ga., in the spring of  1940, as a staff announcer and continuity editor. In 1942, his radio career was put on hold as he entered the Army Air Corp pilot training program. After rising to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant and flight instructor, he returned to WSB Radio at the end of World War II. In 1946, he provided NBC with live coverage of the Winecoff Hotel fire. Bridges moved over to WSB TV (then channel 8) in 1948 and gave Atlanta' first television newscast. He returned to radio in 1953, as news editor and on air personality.  In 1958, Jimmy left programming to become an account executive  and in 1973 was promoted to Manager of Sales Operations. After retiring and doing voiceover from his home studio, Bridges rejoined WSB radio as business news reporter; his last broadcast was on December 27, 1982.
 
Wright Bryan Wright Bryan (*Courtesy of the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism)
Editor of The Atlanta Journal who broadcast the first report of D-Day to a national audience on WSB and NBC in 1944.
  Anna Mae Buskee
Personal secretary to J. Leonard Reinsch from 1945 until 1973.

 

Martha Carson Martha Carson
Helped form the WSB Barn Dance and was a featured performer until 1950. She later became known as "The First Lady of Gospel Music", performed on The Grand Ole Opry, and was memorialized by the Smithsonian Institute.
Albert Coleman Albert Coleman
Led the WSB Orchestra as its musical director and conductor of a daily live "Concert in Miniature" in the 1940s. In 1945, he founded the Atlanta Pops Orchestra and led that ensemble for 55 years.
  John Cone
John worked for WSB Radio in the music library and as a sound effects master in the 40s.

 

Helen Cox Helen Cox Pogue
Helen worked part time at WSB when it was still in the Biltmore Hotel. She was attending college from 1943 until 1945 and continued to work there on breaks and vacation while attending the University of Georgia from 1945 until 1947. One of her first jobs was reading sports scores on the air. She was one of many female WSB employees who stepped in when many of the men at the station left to serve in WWII.  She returned to WSB in January ’76 in the Continuity Department and retired as Continuity Director in 1986
George Crumbly George Crumbley
Marcus Bartlett hired Crumbley in 1948. He became sales manager at WSB and left in 1957.
Elmo Ellis Elmo Ellis
He began his career in radio as director of public relations for WSB Radio in 1940.  When World War Two broke out, Mr. Ellis joined the U.S. Air Force where he worked as a writer and producer for radio programs that aired on the major radio networks.  He rose to the rank of Captain in the U.S. Air Force.  He returned to work in network radio in New York after the war and among his accomplishments in the years that followed, Mr. Ellis would work as a writer and producer for the famous "We The People" and other network radio shows.  He moved from radio to the infant industry of television in 1948 as production manager for WSB-TV.  He would stay in that role until 1952 when he was called on to revive WSB Radio - an era that became famous for Ellis's call to "remove the rust" from radio.  He was the Programming-Production Manager for WSB Radio from 1952 until 1964 - a time of innovation and pioneering that would serve as a guiding light for the rest of the radio industry in this period of time.  In 1964, Mr. Ellis was promoted to the job he is best known for in Atlanta and radio history, when he became General Manager of WSB-AM and WSB-FM.  He would be promoted during this time also to Vice President of the Cox Broadcasting Corporation. He retired from radio work in 1982 and went on to continue a career as the author of books and a newspaper columnist for local newspapers in Atlanta. Mr. Ellis was inducted into the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame in2007. In 2008, The Elmo Ellis Spirit Award was begun by the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame to honor Georgia Radio professionals who made contributions in the state, nation and the industry as a whole.
  Bob Gerson
Began his career at WSB Radio in 1945 as a soundman for locally produced radio dramas.  He worked closely with directors Brand Crandal and later Elmo Ellis. He learned his craft while still at Boys High School in Atlanta, at the old radio station WATL. Bob went to Emory in 1945, was a journalism major, and met a professor named Marcus Bartlett who hired him to work for WSB. After graduation, Bob moved from radio drama part time and was employed full time in the advertising department of WSB radio.

 

Ernie Harwell Ernie Harwell
Was a bat boy for the Atlanta Crackers.   In high school and college, he worked for The Atlanta Constitution. When I got out of Emory University, there weren’t any jobs open on the paper, so he took an audition at WSB in 1940. They gave him a job doing play-by-play of the Atlanta Crackers until 1942.
Lee Jordan Lee Jordan
He had a golden voice and was hired at WSB Radio by Marcus Bartlett as an announcer in the 1940’s.
Chuck McClure Chuck McClure
McClure was an announcer at WSB Radio in the 1940’s.
Mike McDougald Mike McDougald
Upon entering Emory in 1948, Marcus Bartlett offered him a job at WSB Radio. As with many young WSB employees, the war interrupted his employment. After the service and at the urging of Elmo Ellis, he returned to WSB as morning host and was the first person to broadcast from the new facility known as White Columns. Mike is a member of the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame Council of Advisors.
  Vic Piano
Promotions director of WSB for over a decade. 

 

Annie Lee Stagg
WSB and Atlanta's first female announcer.

 

Bob Van Camp Bob Van Camp
Bob Van Camp came to WSB through his association with Elmo Ellis. They served in the Army Air Force together. He 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 giant Moller theater organ at the Fox from 1963 until 1987.
Bob Watson Bob Watson
Hired by Marcus Bartlett while he was still in high school, Watson hosted “Platter Party” and occasionally did the news. He left WSB in 1953.
Jane Sparks Willingham Jane Sparks Willingham
Jane began working at WSB-Radio in 1944 and was the second female announcer in Atlanta. Marcus Bartlett, Elmo Ellis, Don Heald, Walter Pascall and others were at war, and she was on the air for two hours on the Morning Merry-Go-Round, and was announcer and poetry reader on The Chapel in the Sky, with the Suwannee River Boys. When Bob Van Camp took over morning duties, Jane became Woman’s Program Director, writing, producing and participating in several shows.

Special Collections and Archives

Special Collections and Archives
Popular Music and Culture Collection

Phone: (404) 413-2880
Fax: (404) 413-2881
E-Mail: archives@gsu.edu

Mailing Address:
Special Collections & Archives
Georgia State University Library
100 Decatur Street, SE
Atlanta, Georgia 30303-3202

In Person:
Library South, 8th floor

Employee Directory