War of Words with New York State Broadcasting Association Leaves Family of New Hall of Famer William B. Williams ‘Speechless’

Though he’s virtually unknown to today’s younger generation, during a four-decade span, nobody was smoother at spinning records on New York radio than the incomparable William B. Williams (right).

Williams was synonymous with hosting the Make Believe Ballroom on WNEW 1130, which he started in 1957. He is credited with giving Frank Sinatra his famous title “Chairman of the Board.”  

Williams was honored for his iconic role in radio with a spot in the National Association of Broadcasters and the National Radio Halls of Fame.

Fittingly, Williams was to be enshrined last month in the New York State Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame.

Williams, sadly, died before receiving any of the well-deserved accolades.

Instead, his son Jeffrey B. Williams and his mother were informed of their beloved’s latest lifetime achievement.

But this induction was bittersweet for the Williamses.

At issue, Jeff Williams contends there was poor communication between him (and his mother) and the organization.

The limited conversations he did have were with Bill O’Shaughnessy, a former NYSBA president.   

Not certain about the specific date for the weekend in Lake George, O’Shaughnessy (the president and CEO of two Westchester radio stations) told him that NYSBA out-going president (and Hall of Fame inductee) Joe Reilly would call with specifics.

Williams also inquired about transportation to and from the Adirondacks. Again, O’Shaughnessy said Reilly would discuss it with Williams.

“I never heard from Joe,” Williams tells FishbowlNY.

Sometime in April, he got a call from someone wanting to coordinate a time to conduct a video interview that would be used as part of his father’s induction ceremony.

O’Shaughnessy, Williams was told, wanted to visit separately on that same day in May.

Still having had no contact from Reilly, Williams once again asked if the organization would provide travel upstate.

“Don’t worry, we’ll find a way to get you up there,” O’Shaughnessy assured the junior Williams.

Once again, he promised a call from Reilly, along with another from himself.

Reilly (left), who spoke with FishbowlNY about this matter, initially was terse. He also started the interview with a prepared statement.

“Jeff was told that we never offer transportation to awards site to any family member or even a recipient,” Reilly read.

He went on to say it would be “physically impossible” to supply transportation to every honoree and their family.

However, the organization did provide travel for guest speakers Brian Williams (named 2011 Broadcaster of the Year) and Deborah Norville (Carol Reilly Award winner).

“Their appearances were conditioned on their returning home the very same night because they all had commitments,” Reilly says.   

So, Reilly and his staff did whatever it took to get the “big names” at the annual event—including transportation.

Although O’Shaughnessy had promised to do what he could to get Williams to the Lake George hotel, he wasn’t speaking for the NYSBA. Once the notification came out about his father, Williams was in touch with a spokeswoman, who confirmed that there would be no transportation.  (Williams recalls that his family was flown for the NAB and National Radio Hall of Fame ceremonies in Las Vegas and Chicago, respectively.)

Noticing Williams (no relation) and Norville on the list, Williams inquired how they would get there.

“Well, they’re not being inducted into the Hall of Fame,” the spokeswoman said. “I’ll talk to my boss and I’ll get back to you.”

The boss, of course, is Reilly, who never got back to Williams, nor did anyone else.

Meantime, Regis Philbin was a late addition to the Hall class.

“Did they tell him, ‘We don’t provide transportation?’ I doubt it,” Williams claims. 

Any doubts Williams had were answered by Philbin himself on his Live program the morning after the ceremony.