Well hello there, how ya doin’ campers? I’m Bruce Williams.
For nearly 40 years, Mr. Williams was a voice on the airwaves. He connected strangers - before talk radio pandered to them, before cable news divided them and before the internet poisoned them.
Mr. Williams, 86, died Feb. 9 following a stroke two months before. He lived in New Port Richey. The Radio Hall of Famer delivered his last broadcast on March 29, 2013.
Manitowoc, Wisconsin, hello there.
Hello Bruce, this is Mike.
Hey Mike, what’s on your mind?
Well, pleasure to speak with you and something I always told myself I should do, and I guess this might be my last chance, and I wanted to make sure I could get in. … I’ve been listening to you as long as I can remember.
Mr. Williams first hit the airwaves in 1975 in New Jersey through WCTC 1450 Talk Radio, with a show called At Your Service. The Air Force veteran and entrepreneur later moved to WMCA in New York City, then to NBC’s TalkNet before finishing his career as a podcaster.
His smooth, deep voice was all Jersey (“cawled,” “tawlked,” “baws”), and boy, could he tawlk.
For three hours, five nights a week, he opened up the phone lines to callers, read letters from listeners and talked about “anything but wine and sex.” One theme was consistent – financial realities and personal responsibility.
One more letter and then I’ve got a couple things to say:
“My husband and I just inherited 20 grand. We’d like to place it in some type of high-yield account to save up toward a possible wedding for our daughter in several years. After what happened with the stock market last year, we do not want to risk losing any of it.”
Ha. What do I recommend? Tell her to elope. Give her the 20 grand and let her go with that. You say on the one hand you want to make a high amount of money and you don’t want to risk losing any of it. Maybe a good game of blackjack or something? Seriously, those are incompatible terms.
Mr. Williams never missed a show, pre-recording episodes before vacations. Guest hosts, he said, would just be auditioning for his job. For nearly 15 years, he hosted Bruce Williams cruises to the Caribbean and Alaska. He also was an author and syndicated columnist. The father of five and grandfather of seven got letters from listeners until the day he died.
Mr. Williams launched his podcast in 2012. He had a website and an active Twitter account but left it to younger coworkers to manage those things. He didn’t like using the computer, said his second wife, Susan Williams.
“He was a yellow pad person.”
Mr. Williams was old school in other ways, too. He fought against the divisiveness he thought modern media created. Each night, before heading up to his studio for a soundcheck, he and his wife watched the nightly news - both Fox and MSNBC - so he could get both sides of the story.
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Mr. Williams decided to end his podcast in 2013 because it wasn’t making money, though Jersey Boy Pork Roll had remained a loyal advertiser.
It was the kind of reasonable but tough choice he’d encouraged generations of listeners to make.
Well campers, that does it. It really does. I am not going to tell you I am not sorry, because I am. I made the decision, and I think it was a good one. We weren't doing it, and there was no reason to subsidize the program to keep it going. If it can’t carry itself, then it should die a merciful death, and that’s what’s happening. It is dying a merciful death. But, it’s been fun. Thirty-eight years of talk radio. And that is still a record, by the way, that has not been equaled. I am sure Rush will beat it one of these days in five or six years.
I wish there were some way I could keep more direct in touch. But you just send me your email address and if we have anything to tell you, we will send you an email. We won’t try to hustle you or anything. Well, maybe a little bit. What the hell. If I can find something worth hustling.
In the meantime my friends, I’m Bruce Williams.
Senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Want to know more about Mr. Williams? Head over to Instagram and @werememberthem and see how his wife will remember how he spent every holiday season for 70 years. Know someone who has recently died whom we should write about? Send suggestions to Kristen Hare at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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