Five years ago this week, I was working at CNN. I had taken the weekend to drive with my family to Kiawah Island, SC for Awakenings, a conference of mostly evangelical oriented conservatives.
We were driving home that Sunday because an ice storm was coming and I had to get to Atlanta. That Monday, five years ago, was my first day on radio at WSB.
God has a funny sense of humor sometimes. I had been a lawyer in Macon, Georgia, and really did not much care for it. Sure, I loved the transactional part. I loved writing complex agreements. I had been doing bond work and loved it. But the daily grind just was not for me. My friend Kenny Burgamy had let me fill in for him on radio a couple times and I loved it. But I did not much care for the 6am to 9am shift.
Kenny had left, a new guy had come on, and one day the program director at the local station, WMAC, asked if I could fill in for the new guy. That three hours turned into three unpaid months. The new guy had gotten arrested in a drug raid.
I walked away from it after three months. A host up at WSB in Atlanta had been let go and WMAC snapped him up. But it was not too long before the newest guy got promoted to Dallas, TX’s market and I stepped in again, without pay, for a few months.
Still doing RedState and CNN, the head of the Cox Media Group happened to read RedState, see I was doing radio, and tuned in. Next thing I know, I’m getting a call from a guy from Michigan asking if I wanted to be on radio. WSB had a weekend slot.
I said, “Absolutely not. I’m already working enough. I don’t need a weekend show.”
Then they asked if I’d fill in for Herman Cain one night during the week. I was happy to do that.
In October of 2010, I drove up to Atlanta and filled in for Herman Cain. When the show was over, a group of people from management came in. I thought I must have screwed up. Instead, they told me Herman was thinking of running for President and they wanted to know if I wanted his job.
I would like to tell you that I told them I needed to talk to my wife first. But I agreed on the spot.
Five years ago on Monday, January 10, 2011, I started the Erick Erickson Show at 9pm on WSB, one of the nation’s most listened to talk radio station, and pretty regularly is the most listened to talk radio station in the country. On the day I started my radio career an ice storm hit Atlanta. I had a hotel room three blocks from the station, but my car had gotten snowed in and the roads were so thick with ice that people were ice skating. I had to walk to the station at 8pm that night to do the show.
The ice had taken out the phone lines, so for four days it was me talking from 9pm to midnight with no callers.
I slept on the floor of the station that first night. It was too cold and icy to get back to the hotel, which was out of rooms that night anyway.
The next day, I was able to get my car and move to a new hotel, but got stuck on ice. A group of drunk college students hanging out at a local Taco Mac helped push my car off the ice and invited me in for a beer. I wound up stuck in Atlanta for four days because the ice would not melt, trees were down, and it was impossible to drive back home.
I made it a week on radio from 9 to midnight with no callers and at the end of the week my new boss told me he thought I’d held my own.
Within a month, they moved me from a 9pm start to a 7pm to 10pm show. Within another four months, I was going from 6pm to 9pm. Within a year of being on radio, I was in drive time from 5pm to 7pm. It is a massive audience on a massive radio station. It has been a pleasure to do it.
Three years after starting radio, I became a fill in host for Rush Limbaugh.
But perhaps the coolest thing was telling my Aunt Lela, who recently passed away. She was in her mid-nineties and I told her where I was working. “Where?” she asked me again. I told her, “WSB radio in Atlanta.”
Her face lit up. Back during the depression, the whole family needed to work and Aunt Lela went out and found a job in Atlanta. She’d walk up Peachtree Street from her house every weekend and sing hymns and play piano on Saturdays and Sundays on the radio. Her first job in radio was also on WSB Atlanta.