By H.L. Stewart
Back in the summer of 2020 when loyal listeners to Atlanta radio’s old school musicologist Kenneth “Youngblood” Sharpe learned he was no longer on the air, historian Dr. Herman “Skip” Mason told his loyal legions via his own internet talk show to remain optimistic.
“He’s just between radio stations,” Mason said. “He’s enjoying a break. He’ll be back.”
He was right.
September 11, 2021, the popular platter pusher has resurfaced on www.live365.com from 7a.m.- noon, Saturday mornings. “He is an icon,” Mason said. “He’s back playing the songs we grew up to, laughing at his stories and dancing to that old school music while doing household chores”.
Youngblood is a product of Atlanta’s west-side community and a graduate of Atlanta Public Schools’ Booker T. Washington High and Morehouse College, with some law school training wedged in.
Sharpe started the radio program “Spotlight Gold” in 1984 at Clark Atlanta University’s WCLK-FM, replacing a similar show launched in 1979 by now retired Atlanta announcer Hal “Papa Gold” Lamar. Before WCLK in the mid-1970s, he was an announcer for the late “Godfather of Soul” James Brown’s WRDW-AM in Augusta, Ga. (“Crazy guy, but I learned a lot,” Sharpe remembers.
The program became the most popular show on CAU’s public radio station where Sharpe first learned his radio skills while a student at Morehouse.
“Whenever the on-the-air fundraising campaign hit, we had to extend the show at least for another hour so we could accommodate all of the pledge calls,” said former WCLK news and public affairs director Stan Washington (now Editor-at-large of The Atlanta Voice). I remember once we collected over $14 thousand in pledges in three hours with volunteers answering just 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 was trending in the ratings. The brass over at Cox Broadcasting’s urban station made ‘Blood “an offer he couldn’t refuse.”
Despite attracting great ratings and advertising dollars, Youngblood and KISS parted ways in 2011. The show may have been a hit with listeners but it was never a favorite of program directors who felt that they could program the show better than he could. The show was never canceled because of lack of ratings but because of differences of programming philosophies with management.
“Every time a new program director would be hired by KISS they had to put their stamp on the line-up which included “Spotlight Gold,” Washington said. “I just felt the show was in jeopardy each time. The program directors would be much younger and didn’t share the same appreciation for the music like the mostly boomer listeners.”
It generated public outcries from his followers. The station then brought him back a few months later. The reconciliation lasted nine more years before the two sides divorced for a final time in the fall of 2020 with neither side offering any details. Lips have remained tight between the two factions ever since.
Sharpe, meanwhile, admits privately that he continued to crave a return to radio and the profession which he has said is, 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 took the wraps off his new internet venture.
In an interview with The Atlanta Voice from his studio, the native son said he was nudged to return to the microphone by a fan who also provided some financial backing to get him re-booted.
He was further encouraged by another Atlanta native, Ricky Steele, who said he was attracted to Youngblood while residing for several years in Columbus, Georgia where he became hopelessly attracted to R&B music.
“He’s (Youngblood) not just a DJ, ” said Steele. ” He’s a great community servant. I told my wife that if I ever won the lottery, I was going to give Youngblood a million dollars. She told me that wasn’t going to happen but if you want to meet him, call the station and invite him to lunch.”
Steele heeded the advice of his Mrs. which resulted in a budding friendship, several more lunch dates and eventual visits to the station.
Steele was soon joined by another “friend of Youngblood”, James Sturgis. The native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania moved to Atlanta in the early 1970s.A devotee of R&B and especially “Philly Soul” (he was a high school classmate with noted songwriter/producer Kenny Gamble), Sturgis soon became fast friends with Sharpe and joined him and Steele breaking bread.
“We got together every week,” he told AV. “All three of us just meshed. “
Since last September, Youngblood’s internet program has generated about 4000 respondents or “hits” to his website thanks to media publicity and frequent appearances on Mason’s ” Vanishing Black Atlanta” internet talk show (www.facebook.com/groups/skipmasonblackatlantahistory ) which reportedly enjoys some 58.1 thousand regular followers.
Sharpe says the goal now is to increase their own hit count to at least 10,000 which he says will put them in a position of soliciting advertising support from companies like AARP which targets a 50+ age demographic.
“And I’m not going to rest until we get there,” said Sturgis, a feeling echoed by Steele.
“If we can get to 20,000, we’re in the game, ” said Sharpe.”
Tune in to Youngblood radio, Saturday mornings from 7a.m. – noon over www.live365.com/station/Younglood-radio-a26465