I was thinking the other day of the things that made an impression on my life. One thing I can point to was my portable radio. I loved listening to it.
In the summer, I worked for a country club and would often walk home after an evening of work. My radio would keep me company as I walked the miles through the country to home.
I would listen to the out of state signals. I remember most especially WCFL from Chicago. While I was never really into to top 40 music, even as a young man, WCFL captivated me. There was Big Ron O'Brien and a man who had a funny voice. I believe that was Barney Pipp. I can still remember their top of the hour ID, listening to the voice of labor. And weather was always concluded with the temperature downtown at Marina City it's X degrees at WCFL. The Voice of Labor was larger than life and living in small town Jerome, Ohio, it seemed Chicago was a land where the big life was.
But the station that became a goal for me to work at was much closer to me than WCFL and Chicago. The station was WTVN. None of the other Columbus stations came in well at night in the area where I lived, so WTVN was like the 50,000 watt stations to me. Little did I know that in certain parts of the area, WTVN also had signal short comings. But in my world, the Full Service Giant was that.....a giant. It's signal boomed into my neck of the woods.
My first recollection of the line up had John Fraim doing mornings, Dave Logan middays, Bob Conners afternoon, Dave Parr evenings (and possibly Jim Lohse before him, I just can't remember), then Pat Lucas at 10 and Jack Stewart the grave yard shift. Weekends featured some guys that are long forgotten with the exception of Gene Warman (the world's greatest trumpet player) and Saturday overnight guy Ed Eppley.
As announcers in the lesser dayparts came and left a new voice was hired that captivated me. I don't remember where he came from. His name was Bill Smith.
Bill sparked something that no one else could ever spark. Bill sounded cool. Bill was hip, but not so hip as to drive away his mostly adult audience.
His voice was so friendly. WTVN imaged itself with a jingle package called "Friends" and Bill oozed it. As time went by, Bill was promoted into the spot held by Dave Parr. Parr had been upped to afternoon drive host when Bob Conners made his ill fated move to crosstown WBNS. Bill Smith was now my evening friend on WTVN.
When I got old enough to drive, I would head to Columbus and Bill would let me in the studios on the 16th floor of the Buckeye Building to spin records. For me, it was nirvana. Here I was in my favorite radio station with a guy who spoke to my soul.
I so wanted to become the next Bill Smith.
Bill left not too long after he got his evening gig for Boston and a weekend gig at WBZ. In my world, radio was never the same. I sometimes got to hear him when WBZ blew into this part of the world in the evenings or overnights when he was filling in. The last time I heard him was in 1976 or so. I think he was filling in for Robin Young on the overnight show and I was listening having just finishing an airshift at WBBY.
I envied his opportunity, felt proud that I had known a radio winner, but inside I never forgave that he left my world. As time moved on, Bill left WBZ and went to work for stations in the Boston market that didn't hit skip into the clutches of my radio dial.
The last I heard, he was working in production at WRKO in Boston.
Boston is a better radio market with Bill Smith there. And 30+ years later, I still remember the joy he brought to my ears and still wish was available to me.