WSB History - the 1950s

For the radio industry, the early 1950s were horrifying. Television quickly established itself as the audience favorite, seriously eroding the mass popularity of both movies and radio. The fabled “WSB Barn Dance” was canceled in 1950.  By mid-1953, the most popular TV program in Atlanta, “I Love Lucy”, drew 58% of the available audience; the most popular radio program, comedian Jack Benny, drew just 11%.   Sponsors who had footed the bills for expensive network entertainers fled in droves, and most of the prime-time stars soon moved over to TV.  But General Manager Elmo Ellis, who had arrived at WSB in 1940, seized upon a trend:  local radio listening remained strong in other time periods--early evenings, daytime, weekends.  His 1953 “Shake the Rust Off Radio” campaign shifted much of the station’s airtime to innovative (and more profitable) local programs including an Atlanta-themed police drama, “Car 48″; the Saturday morning kiddie western “Phantom Cowboy”; and a low-budget revival of the “Barn Dance”, now featuring records and canned applause rather than live performers.  The programs were frankly dreadful (the local dramas’ “star” actors were actually station janitors, secretaries, and bookkeepers), but the effort itself won a Peabody, the broadcasting industry’s most prestigious award.  Two years later, WSB moved into fancy new digs dubbed “White Columns” off West Peachtree.  In 2022, though the building is long since demolished, columns still stand in the courtyard.  Jerry Vandeventer and Bob Van Camp were well-known station personalities of this period.  Longtime and legendary news director Aubrey Morris--dubbed “Atlanta’s first radio newsman”--arrived in 1957, plucked from the Atlanta Journal.  He stayed for 30 years.

>>WATCH: WSB facts from the 1950s

>>PHOTOS: WSB in the 1950s





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