A mainstay of WCBS-FM has died. Spanning two generations, Bill Brown was on the air for parts of five decades at CBS-FM, predating the famed Oldies format.
Brown died Sunday after a long illness. He was 69.
When CBS-FM launched a freeform rock format in 1969, Brown with his signature deep voice was hired. In 1972, when the station flipped to Oldies, Brown adjusted. He would remain a constant at CBS-FM until the bitter end in 2005 when the “Jack” format took over, making the jocks obsolete.
Brown was the final jock on the air prior to the transition on June 3. Instead of a typical “Good day, Good bye” sign-off, Brown combined wit and foreshadowing with: “Do you ever feel the urge to scream Rescue Me?! I’m beginning to get that feeling; here’s Fontella Bass.” (The “Jack” era ended two years later with a new version of CBS-FM).
“He was a consummate pro,” former CBS-FM program director Joe McCoy recalls.
But before McCoy would take over the station in 1981, he was still a jock.
“He was actually the guy that hired me at CBS-FM as a disc jockey back in 1975,” McCoy remembers.
In those early days of CBS-FM, Brown had the dual role of air personality and program director.
However, much for his tenure at CBS-FM, Brown was the midday DJ, which included a lunch time “Brown Bag,” usually featuring listener-themed requests.
“He was always a great jock, one of those guys like myself and Max Kinkel who came up through the [Bill] Drake system,” McCoy says. “He really knew how to be a good format jock. He really knew what …to say in the least amount of words possible.”
McCoy says, despite a measured wit, Brown knew how to have a good time on the air.
“I think when Ron Lundy joined the radio station, he and Ron really got into it, and had a lot of fun together,” McCoy says.
Brown first showcased his rock roots for New York listeners at the Drake-owned WOR-FM in 1967.
The radio veteran also worked in several California stations, before leaving for the Navy. Brown returned stateside in 1964, but his radio dreams were not washed away at sea. KGB in San Diego came calling, putting Brown on the market’s top-rated station for the next three years.
An obituary in the Daily Record.com states Brown, a native of Lawrenceville, Georgia, called Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey home for more than 30 years.
Brown is survived by his wife of 35 years, Debbie, a one-time CBS-FM music director; a son, Bill Brown; daughter-in-law; and two grandchildren.
Incidentally, the junior Brown is an accomplisher composer/scorer, among his credits is CSI: New York.
“You never had to worry about Bill Brown as a jock” McCoy says. “He was always there—no matter what, and did a great job. I just couldn’t ask for anything more!
“Probably the only time I had to worry about him was when it was a snowstorm,” McCoy joked.