By H. L. Stewart
In the summer of 2020, when loyal listeners of old-school Atlanta radio musicologist Kenneth “Youngblood” Sharpe learned he was off the air, historian Dr. Herman “Skip Mason told his legions followers via his own internet talk show to stay optimistic. .
“He’s right between radio stations,” Mason said. “He is enjoying a break. He will be back.”
He was right.
On September 11, 2021, the popular platter pusher resurfaced on www.live365.com from 7 a.m. to noon, Saturday morning. “He’s an icon,” Mason said. “He’s back playing the songs we grew up with, laughing at his stories and dancing to that old school music while doing chores.”
Youngblood is a product of the Atlanta West Side community and graduated from Booker T. Washington High and Morehouse College of Atlanta Public Schools, with a background in law.
Sharpe started the “Spotlight Gold” radio show in 1984 at WCLK-FM at Clark University in Atlanta, replacing a similar show started in 1979 by now-retired Atlanta announcer Hal “Papa Gold” Lamar. Prior to WCLK in the mid-1970s, he was an announcer for the late “Godfather of Soul” James Brown’s WRDW-AM in Augusta, Georgia (“Crazy, but learned a lot,” Sharpe recalled.
The show became CAU’s most popular public radio station show where Sharpe learned his radio skills while a student at Morehouse.
“Every time the live fundraising campaign hit, we had to extend the show for at least an extra hour so that we could answer all the calls for pledges,” said the former news director and of WCLK Public Affairs, Stan Washington (now editor). great of The Atlanta Voice). I remember once we raised over $14,000 in pledges in three hours with volunteers answering only three phones.
Before long, “Spotlight” found its way to a commercial radio band via WALR, KISS 104.1 FM. The show was the only public radio show in Atlanta that trended in the ratings. The brass at Cox Broadcasting’s urban station made “Blood” an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Despite great ratings and advertising dollars, Youngblood and KISS went their separate ways in 2011. The show may have been a hit with listeners, but it was never a directors’ favorite. of programs who felt they could program the show better than him. The show was never canceled because of lack of ratings but because of differences in programming philosophies with management.
“Every time a new program was hired by KISS, they had to put their mark on the lineup that included ‘Spotlight Gold,'” Washington said. “I just felt the show was in jeopardy every time. Program directors would be much younger and did not share the same appreciation for music as listeners, mostly baby boomers.
This generated public outcry from his supporters. The station then brought him back a few months later. The reconciliation went on for nine more years before the two parties last divorced in the fall of 2020, with neither party offering details. Lips have remained tight between the two factions ever since.
Sharpe, meanwhile, privately admits he’s always longed for a return to radio and that the profession he said it was, to coin a popular phrase from his previous performances, was “in the blood “.
He didn’t have to wait long. On September 11, 2021, Blood unveiled its new internet venture.
In an interview with The Voice of Atlanta from his office/studio in Decatur, Georgia, the country son said he was pressured into getting back on the mic by a fan who also provided financial support to get him restarted.
He was further encouraged by fellow Atlanta native, Ricky Steele, who said he was drawn to Youngblood while residing for several years in Columbus, Georgia, where he was desperately drawn to R&B music. .
“He (Youngblood) isn’t just a DJ,” Steele said. “He is a great servant of the community. I told my wife that if I ever won the lottery, I was going to donate a million dollars to Youngblood. She told me that wouldn’t happen, but if you want to meet him, call the station and invite him to lunch.
Steele heeded his Mrs.’s advice, which resulted in a budding friendship, several more lunch dates, and eventual visits to the train station.
Steele was soon joined by another “Friend of Youngblood”, James Sturgis. The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native moved to Atlanta in the early 1970s. A devotee of R&B and especially “Philly Soul” (he was a high school classmate with famed songwriter/producer Kenny Gamble), Sturgis quickly became friends with Sharpe and joined him. and Steele breaking bread.
“We got together every week,” he told AV. “All three of us meshed. “
Since last September, Youngblood’s Internet program has generated approximately 4,000 responders or “hits” on its website through media advertising and frequent appearances on Mason’s “Vanishing Black Atlanta” Internet talk show (www.facebook.com/groups/skipmasonblackatlantahistory) which reportedly has some 58,100 regular subscribers.
Sharpe says the goal now is to increase their own number of hits to at least 10,000, which he says will put them in a position to seek advertising support from companies like AARP that target an age range of over 50 years old.
“And I’m not going to rest until we get there,” Sturgis said, a sentiment echoed by Steele.
“If we can get to 20,000, we’re in the game,” Sharpe said.
Tune in to Youngblood radio, Saturday mornings starting at 7am. – past noon www.live365.com/station/Younglood-radio-a26465