The legendary Bill Brown was truly "born to be a DJ." In the course of a radio career spanning close to 50 years he became one of the most-respected and best-loved air personalities in the history of broadcasting.
He started out in 1957 at WCLB in Camilla, GA when he was only 15. In 1966 he worked at KGB, a big rock station in San Diego. The following year he traveled east to accept a job at WOR-FM in New York City: he initially did weekends and then mornings, and remained there for two years. Then late in 1969 another NYC station, WCBS-FM, decided to change from an easy listening "Young Sound" format to an album rock format, Bill was one of the first DJs hired. In 1972 the station changed its format to playing oldies from 1955 but Bill stayed with the station.
Bill remained with WCBS-FM until June 3, 2005, when the station switched to an automated (no live DJ) format called "JACK." All told Bill spent an incredible total of 36 years with WCBS-FM, 33 of those years playing oldies. He had many different weekday and Saturday airshifts and he also did voiceovers for many commercials airing on WCBS-FM and other stations. For three years he was the station's program director (1975-1978) but decided to give that up to devote full focus to what he loved doing the most,which was being behind the microphone.
Because Bill had been with WCBS-FM longer than anyone else, it was fitting that HE would be the last DJ voice heard prior to the switch to JACK. A few minutes before 4 PM, Bill came out of "Margaritaville" by Jimmy Buffett and went into "Rescue Me" by Fontella Bass. Instead of saying goodbye in his normal manner he said, "did you ever get the urge to scream RESCUE ME!! Well I am beginning to feel that way right now...here's Fontella Bass!"
To have been the longest-running DJ on arguably the most famous oldies music station in the country was truly an unbelievable accomplishment. And he he did it with total grace, style and professionalism.
Bill passed away October 9, 2011. Since that time there has been an enormous amount of public tributes to him on several message boards and elsewhere. Here's a sampling of comments from the New York Radio Message Board.
Allan Sniffen: "Bill Brown was the quintessential "Drake DJ". Terrific voice, flawless mechanics and he limited his mic time to the essentials. The music didn't stop on Bill's shows for anything other than required elements and he executed them quickly. He could read commercial copy without a mistake and jump to a live promo like he had practiced it for hours. That kind of tight, big voiced Top 40 radio is gone. If you didn't grow up with a WOR-FM or listen to Bill Brown on CBS-FM, you probably don't know just how great it can be when it's done well."
Peggy Santiglia Davison: "He did take his work in a precise serious manor and always felt the music was more important than endless chatter."
Pat St. John: "Bill was not only a true gentleman, he was the pro of pros."
Bill Reilly: "Bill was one of the SMOOTHEST talents on vocals and board ops. Ran one of the tightest board I ever heard. I always marveled at this."
Ronnie Allen: "It's difficult to come up with something to say about this remarkable man that no one else has already. In his quiet and unassuming way he was indisputably a phenomenon. His job was so very difficult but yet he managed to make it sound effortless, which is one of the hallmarks of a professional. He came across not just as an air personality but as a friend. And his "Brown Bag" feature (playing several records devoted to a specific theme) allowed his listeners to become an integral part of his shows. And, oh yes, he had as much of a passion for what he did as anyone who was ever on the air. Bill was truly one of the best of the best."
Bill's wife Debbie created the following message especially for this page.
"I and our entire family have been so moved and comforted by all of the tributes to Bill, recognizing his talent, professionalism and the kind of man that he was. I had the opportunity to experience his professionalism up close because we met at WCBS/FM when he was Program Director, and he hired me to be the Music Director. I always enjoyed watching him in action in the studio and never tired of listening to him on the radio. We celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary on September 11th, 2011, having made many wonderful memories along the way. I already miss him terribly but have so much to be grateful for, not the least of which are tributes like this to him. Thanks to all who have taken the time to write, call, email and post. Most appreciated."
Debbie also sent us this 1993 flyer from a series of events hosted by Bill and two other DJs at the World Trade Center.
Below you can not only hear Bill but also watch him as well. This is truly an incredible video.
The following is his YouTube comment: