Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bruce Williams says buh-bye ...

I added the Bruce Williams show from NBC's Talknet to my lineup at WRNL in Richmond/VA in the early 1980's when we were scrambling to replace the AM country format.  Bruce and Sally Jesse Raphael were the first coming of talk radio's epiphany and the direction I wanted the station to take: Oldies 6AM-6PM and Talk 6PM-6AM.  It didn't work out that way for the station (or me -- I moved to STL)...I was a few years too early for the renaissance.

I did, though, bring Bruce in for a personal appearance in Richmond.  It was, shall we say, an interesting evening...eventful, at least.  Details will have to wait past several lifetimes.

From Tom Taylor:

Bruce Williams, a founding father of modern talk radio, decides to sign off.

No more “Hello, Tiger” when greeting a caller who’s vexed by a landlord, neighbor or a lawyer. (I once heard Bruce tell a caller “You sound like you’re coming down with a bad cold.” The caller was two days away from a court date he obviously wasn’t prepared for, and Bruce kept saying “I think you’re really getting sick”, until the guy got it and realized he should ask for a postponement.)

Then-local mayor Bruce pestered WCTC, New Brunswick manager Tony Marano until Tony gave him a small radio show in 1975. Later on, Bruce campaigned with great enthusiasm to make Mark Mason give him a shot at WMCA, New York (over a hundred phone calls and some highly creative mailings). Bruce and fellow NBC Talknet personalities like Sally Jessy Raphael helped make talk radio what it was in the 1980s and 1990s, before Rush Limbaugh showed the world that political talk without callers or guests could also work.

But Bruce kept giving practical advice – and he’s never really gotten the credit he earned. (If you say “Rush Limbaugh saved AM radio”, Bruce might interject “now, wait a minute…”) He’s leaving his current self-syndication effort after March 5, though he’s not quite closing the door “if someone made an overture” he fancied. Bruce will continue writing his column for United Features and he says “I never expect to retire in the traditional sense” and sit around the fireplace.