They don’t make ‘em like that anymore

As a teenager growing up in Griffin, Georgia, Scott Slade would point out the local radio station in a two-story walk-up just off the town square and say, “Someday, I’m going to be working there.”

At the age of 15, Slade, looking a bit older with heavy sideburns and a mustache, and freshly in receipt of his broadcasting license (in those days any on-air personality in the industry required a broadcasting license), entered the radio station to inquire if there were any job openings at WGRI Radio, a daytime AM station in his hometown. As it happened, the Sunday noon-6 p.m. host had just quit, and the receptionist told Slade he would need to go into the studio and record a demo for the station’s general manager.

Slade went into the studio, though he had never been in one before, and figured out the equipment sufficiently to produce an aircheck, leaving the same behind for station management. By the time he arrived home, the phone was ringing, asking if he might be available to start that Sunday at noon.

Slade would labor in other stations and markets for nearly a decade before finding a niche in traffic reporting and landing at AM750 WSB Radio in Atlanta. I would suggest to you in the “secret sauce” that would later become Atlanta’s Morning News with Scott Slade on WSB Radio AM, and later FM, is that everyone in north Georgia—old folks, youngsters, Republicans, Democrats, Black, White, Asian, Hispanic—can all agree on one thing. They all hate traffic.

Slade and cohorts such as “Captain” Herb Emory could guide drivers around I-285, the downtown connector and major surface street corridors, avoiding the logjams and tie-ups, providing alternate routing, or even letting drivers know why they were sitting in what appeared to be an endless parking lot of taillights. And they did so while informing the audience of the news and hot topics of the day with an occasional chuckle.

Slade was the air traffic reporter, flying the friendly skies when at the end of a shift in 1990 he was called back into the offices by station management. In an unexpected meeting, with all the brass on hand, Slade was told some changes were coming to the morning show, as well as the station’s branding and format. Slade thought he might be fired but instead was promoted – in some respects to build out the longest-running and most respected radio franchise in the Southeast, rebuilding itself from the ground up, around him.

Also in 1990, the “other” news format station in the market, WGST NewsRadio 640 had several things going for it, including some names many may know in radio—Rush Limbaugh, a young Sean Hannity (then local), Atlanta Braves baseball, and at that time Clark Howard, as well as the Talkmaster Neal Boortz. Eventually, each of those now Atlanta institutions would follow Slade’s morning show and example, moving south from Buckhead to Midtown and WSB studios.

During the summer of 2000, Slade would become the instigator and unofficial “godfather” of the annual WSB Radio Careathon, benefitting the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Service Centers at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Proceeds to date from those Careathons now exceed $30 million over 23 years, and there is a wing of the center at the Scottish Rite Campus of CHOA named for Slade and the WSB Radio listeners who support the Careathon each year.

A Renaissance man of sorts, Slade is also a voracious reader, pilot of planes and helicopters, hiker and horseman. He is constantly reading and devouring content in preparation for the morning show, making it look easy and almost effortless. In early February of this year, he stepped away from the morning show microphone after 32 years of leading the market ratings and Atlanta listeners through 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Snowmaggedon, and a couple of Braves World Series Championships. This month, the Georgia Association of Broadcasters inducted him into their Broadcasting Hall of Fame. I can think of very few broadcasters more deserving.

In a Top 10 media market, it’s uncommon to see that kind of longevity or tenure anymore. His relationship with WSB Radio listeners may be changing, but I am almost certain some of the best is still yet to come from Slade. They just don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

Bill Crane is political analyst and commentator in metro Atlanta, as well as a columnist for The Champion, DeKalb Free Press and Georgia Trend. Crane is a DeKalb native and business owner, living in Scottdale. You can contact him or comment on a column at bill.csicrane@gmail.com.

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