Bill Brown (radio personality)
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Bill Brown (August 15, 1942 – October 9, 2011) was a long time air personality on the "oldies" radio station WCBS-FM in New York City. For most of his tenure there he aired at midday on the station. Brown also did many voiceovers on commercials airing on that and other New York City radio and television stations.
Brown was born in Lawrenceville, Georgia in 1942. Bill Brown began his radio career at various radio stations, including San Diego Top 40 station 136/KGB (now KLSD). Brown began working on WOR-FM (now WRKS) in 1966 doing various swing airshifts, eventually becoming full-time. Initially, WOR-FM was a progressive rock station, but it evolved into an adult top 40/oldies station by 1968.
In 1969, WCBS-FM traded in their easy listening 'Young Sound' format for an album rock format similar to WABC-FM (later WPLJ) and WNEW-FM. Brown was on the original airstaff. Unfortunately, WCBS-FM could not lay claim to sizable ratings in the New York City radio market while other stations such as WNEW-FM and WPLJ gained most of the rock n'roll radio audience. After research and several years of very low ratings WCBS-FM dropped the AOR format on July 7, 1972 at 6 AM and began playing Oldies from 1955 to then current product. Initially the station played both rock and roll songs and non rock songs of the 1950s and early 60's and only softer rock and pop hits of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Brown, along with the rest of the airstaff including Don K Reed (who was hired in January 1972) all stayed on with the Oldies format. Back then, it was common for airstaffs to stay on after format changes and not as common to lay off entire airstaffs. By the end of 1972, Brown was on the station weekdays 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Over the next few years most of the staffers of the station would leave, but Brown and Don K Reed stayed on and were still part of the station in 1974. In 1975, Brown also became Program Director of WCBS-FM. For a few months he gave up his midday airshift. By the end of 1976, Brown was on from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays along with his Saturday morning shift. Under Brown, WCBS-FM moved away from easy listening and began to play more 60's rock. In 1978, Brown gave up his program director position but retained his airshifts. His shift was still 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays and 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Saturdays.
In 1984, when Ron Lundy arrived, Brown was moved to 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. while Ron moved to the 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. slot. Harry Harrison now aired from 5:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. (previously he was on 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.). Bill's Saturday shift was then 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. every second week. Bill Brown also continued doing voiceovers for many commercials airing on WCBS FM and other radio stations. He celebrated 20 years in 1989, 25 years in 1994, and 30 years of service in 1999. In 1994, he officially dropped his Saturday morning airshift in honor of his many years of service at the station.
As airstaff occasionally came and went (though staffers stayed many years in most cases), Brown continued on consistently from noon to 3 p.m until 2005, when his airshift was moved to 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. With his years of service, age, and retirements of other well known staffers it was speculated that his retirement was not far off.
The switch to JACK
Bill Brown remained at WCBS-FM until June 3, 2005. Although ratings were decent and the station was profitable, CBS executives abruptly laid off the entire airstaff at 4 p.m. that day. Bill Brown was the last live air personality to sign off several minutes before 4 p.m.. He came out of Margaritaville by Jimmy Buffett and played Rescue Me by Fontella Bass. It was unclear whether or not he knew the end was happening from his last statement, though he did not say a typical goodbye. His last words were, "CBS-FM 101.1, Fontella Bass... Do you ever feel the urge to just kinda scream, "RESCUE ME!?"... I'm beginning to get that feeling, here's Fontella Bass." Other airstaffers definitely did not know the end was near as they said goodbye and stated when they would be back. The rest of the airstaff did not know what was happening until after Brown signed off and was at the meeting. In fact, half the airstaff did not even attend this meeting and were told through a conference call. These staffers could not be present because this meeting was only announced at 2 p.m. that day. At the 4 p.m. meeting, the staffers were laid off and informed that Oldies and Greatest Hits CBS-FM would be shut down immediately and replaced by an adult hits format of over 2,000 songs called, "Jack FM". From the 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. hour the station played 8 oldies and greatest hits with jingles in between, followed by 30 minutes of stunt montages. At 5 p.m., the jockless JACK format signed on.
Brown then retired from CBS-FM after 33 years of playing oldies, as well as nearly 36 years of service. He is the only air personality to be with the station through their entire first run using live on-air personalities. He did one of their first shifts the day WCBS-FM adopted the rock format in 1969 and the very last live airshift doing oldies in 2005 (Don K. Reed was the only other air-personality to have been with CBS-FM during their entire run as an oldies station. He did the fourth shift on July 7 into July 8, 1972 and did the 4th to last live airshift from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. on June 5, 2005).
Brown died on October 9, 2011 at the age of 69.