Bill Ward Memorial Page
Bill Ward Dies at 65
He Popularized KLAC Country
and Brought Triple AAA to LA
(August 2, 2004) I was not prepared for the phone call Saturday morning. It was Cameron Ward, Bill Ward’s son. His father had been found dead in the bedroom of his Sherman Oaks hillside home. I had just talked with Bill Thursday afternoon. Everything was fine. A day later he was dead of an apparent heart attack at the age of 65. (The coroner will announce the exact cause of death this week.)
I met Bill 10 years ago while writing my first book, Los Angeles Radio People, and we became fast friends. We were about the same age, struggled through a couple of marriages, managed stations in Los Angeles, and earlier in our career we both worked for Gordon McLendon.
What impressed me about Bill was his humility. He made major contributions to the history of LA radio, yet he never wore it. He was more apt to pass along his success to others. He always had a moment for a silly cowboy joke or to pose for a silly photo.
Bill put a face on the Country format, first at KBBQ and later to a broader audience at KLAC. If it wasn’t for Bill, there might never have been an AAA format in this market.
Born on January 29, 1939 in Italy, Texas and raised there as well, Bill’s childhood hero was Gene Autry. Forty-three years later Bill went to work for Gene as President of Golden West Broadcasters. Whotta’ arch to one's professional journey.
His first radio job at age 15 was in Waxahachie, a few miles from his hometown. He got an FCC 1st Class Radio License and did the all-night shift at WRR-Dallas while attending the University of Texas at Arlington in the late 1950s. Bill went to McLendon's WAKY-Louisville in 1959 to do the morning show and in 1962 moved to evenings at WPRO-Providence. His first programming job was at WPLO-Atlanta while doing mornings. Bill moved to KBOX-Dallas in late 1964 as morning man and became program director in 1966. KBOX switched format to Country music in January 1967. In March 1967, he joined KBLA as pd and changed the call letters to KBBQ and the format to Country music. He became station manager in 1970.
Bill was hired by Metromedia in the late summer of 1971 to program KLAC and within a year was promoted to general manager. In 1979 he was promoted to exec/vp of Metromedia and moved to New York. By the spring of 1980 he was elevated to president.
He left Metromedia in the spring of 1982 and moved back to Los Angeles as president of Golden West Broadcasters, where he became manager of KMPC, in addition to his duties as president of the company. In 1985, Bill bought KUTE for Golden West, and the station adopted a Soft AC format with the call letters KLIT. Bill orchestrated the format change of 101.9/fm to KSCA, Los Angeles' first AAA station.
The station was sold in early 1997 and Bill retired. In recent years he hosted a Web site dedicated to his dogs "All the poop that's fit to scoop" and he consulted radio stations in Berlin, Germany.
One of the eerie coincidences was Bill’s final edition of The Daily Dogs. His last column was sent out Thursday night and the headline was “An Old Friend Returns Home.” He was talking about the recent loss of his own dog and now so prophetic. And the music was Louis Armstrong’s, What a Wonderful World, one of Bill’s favorite songs.
“As is the case with any sudden death, Bill Ward's - with no warning came to me, as to many I'm sure as a major shock,” wrote Chuck Southcott. “Bill was my boss and a dear friend until his death. He hired me as a consultant to KMPC in 1988 on a 3-month contract which turned into an almost 4 year position as program director and mid-day disc jockey. We had much more than a working relationship. The mutual respect we enjoyed began when he ran KBBQ in Burbank and I was pd of KGIL. It continued when he took over KLAC and turned it into one of the greatest country stations in the US. I was always pleased to be called upon to co-host and/or guest on the Don Page ‘Inside Radio’ programs Bill sponsored there along with LA Times columnist Don Page. While working with Bill at KMPC, I don't believe a week went by that we didn't share at least one [usually gloriously fun] lunch together. Quite often we'd ‘play hooky’ and head to the beach for seafood at Gladstones. When the decision was made to go all-sports with KMPC, Bill handed me the station's Marconi Award, saying ‘here, this is yours, you won it.’ Ever since leaving KMPC, I consistently received, along with many others, his Christmas CD, consisting of his own very creative readings and favorite songs, plus delightful audio memories of old ‘Inside Radio’ programs and Jim Healy shows. Our lunches and birthday celebrations continued until the present. Quite often Lindsay Trumbull [Bill's lovely and delightful assistant] added a beautiful and classy presence to times I was fortunate to share with Bill Ward, a man I admired and will miss very much. Condolences to Bill's greatest love - his son Cameron,” wrote Southcott.
"To me Bill Ward was the unofficial emissary of Country Music radio in Los Angeles,” emailed Michael O’Shea, former national pd at Golden West Broadcasters and founder of All Comedy Radio. “Bill’s development and execution of the Country format for KLAC was representative of his terrific skills as a programmer and manager. Though Bill was at Golden West after my tenure at KMPC, it was always my belief that his connection with Country music allowed his relationship with Gene Autry to blossom."
In the 1970s, Metromedia housed two very different radio stations under the same roof, Country KLAC and Progressive AOR, “The Might Met,” KMET. “I first met Bill Ward on the stairs in the old Metromedia building on Wilshire Boulevard in 1974,” wrote former pd of KMET, Sam Bellamy. “I had just joined KMET as programming assistant and Bill was the general manager for KLAC. He introduced himself and told me a cowboy joke. I was a 70s rock and roller from Arizona, and Bill was from a map dot in Texas. We immediately bonded over our love of country/hillbilly humor. We took an instant liking to one another that day and remained friends up until our last conversation about three weeks ago. Even up to that last moment we spoke, Bill was still making me laugh - saying that he was trying to fix some ‘do-dah’ on his computer.”
Sam continued: “When I was promoted to program director of KMET, Bill became one of my biggest fans. He was subsequently upped to president of Metromedia’s radio division and became my most loyal supporter. Most of Metromedia’s upper management executives didn’t understand at all what that ‘hippie rock & roll station’ was doing, and would complain to Bill about what it might be doing to Metromedia’s image, but Bill would just smile and point at our numbers and say, ‘What’s not to like?’”
"Bill had an incredible ability to ‘roll with the punches’ both in his job as well as with the challenges life placed in his path. He was laid back in his management style, but was a very dynamic and enterprising radio executive. He was a bold thinker who had a drive to make things better - new and improved as he would say - even if it meant trying something ‘newfangled.’"
“One of my fondest memories of Bill was when he was gm at KLAC and I was program director of KMET,” remembered Sam. “Often times late on Friday afternoons, he’d suddenly appear at my office door and smile and say, ‘It’s 5:00 somewhere,’ and he would invite me down to his office to have cocktails with a few of his best friends at KLAC. Bill was big hearted, kind and generous to those he cared deeply about. He was always ready to lend an ear, or quick to lend money to those who were struggling. He was a dedicated father who was enormously proud of his kids and their accomplishments. And, boy did he love his dogs! Goodbye, my friend. Happy trails, Bill!”
Bob Koontz, DOS at the ABC/Disney LA cluster, worked with Bill at a couple of stations and was shocked at the news of Bill Ward’s passing. “I had the privilege of working with Bill for almost 13 years. Working for Bill at various formats over the years was a great learning experience,” emailed Koontz.
“I was at KMPC when Bill flipped it to an all-Sports station, although at the time it was deemed a failure, it really would have been successful if the Autrys had stuck with it. Bill often joked that the ratings of KMPC Sports were greater than all of today’s Sports stations combined and he was right,” remembered Koontz.
“It was Bill and Sue Hinsche who gave me my first management position in radio as national sales manager for KMPC and ‘K-LITE,’” continued Koontz. “As much fun as I had working at KMPC, the real fun and excitement came when the Autrys sold 710/KMPC to ABC and Bill took ‘K-LITE’ from and old tired AC station to KSCA [101.9fm], LA's first Triple A station. Bill knew going into the format that the Autrys would eventually sell the station, but he made very clear to all of us that we were going to do something new and exciting and he was right. FM 101.9 was the best station that this market has seen in a very long time. I will miss my lunches with Bill and that crazy Web site of his dogs but most of all I will miss my friend,” concluded Koontz.
“Bill Ward was a marvelous man and a terrific broadcaster,” offered Jhani Kaye, executive head of programming for KOST and KBIG. “I swear one of the best country stations I ever heard was KBBQ [K-Bar-B-Que in the Valley] in 1969. Top 40 formatics on a country station playing the hits. Great jingles, great announcers, wonderful production. Simply one of the best.”
“Bill was not only a consummate professional, but became a personal friend as well,” continued Jhani. “I'll never forget when he was general manager of Gene Autry's ‘K-LITE.’ He called me at KOST and asked if I would discuss joining ‘K-LITE.’ I was coming up to a contract negotiation with the folks at KOST and had always wanted to meet Bill. The thought of being wooed by the competition was intriguing, so I went to the KTLA lot for the meeting. Bill and I hit it off from the start. When he realized that I was already earning more money than Gene Autry would be willing to pay, he said, ‘I'm going to do you a big favor.’ With that he instructed me to return to KOST and tell the folks at Cox that he had offered me $200,000 more than what Cox was offering. I did so, Cox countered, and Bill effectively got me a huge raise. I'm still grateful for his wonderful gift.”
Jhani continued: “Over the years we kept in touch via another good friend, Don Elliot. In fact, it was just about two weeks ago that Bill, Don Elliot, Don Barrett, and myself met for lunch at Solley's Delicatessen in the valley. Bill loved technology and kept on shooting photos of us with his digital camera. We compared cell phones, talked radio, and discussed the business today. I still treasure the photo of all of us sitting at the delicatessen table holding our hands up to our ears in our best Gary Owens pose.
It was at this luncheon that he offered me the gift of a CD he had made. Bill loved making CDs for various occasions. Sometimes it was a Christmas Greeting CD [instead of a Christmas card]. In this particular instance, it was to memorialize and celebrate the acquisition of his latest pup, Satchmo. Track 1 was Bill telling the heartfelt story of how Satchmo picked him out from all the other puppies in the litter of dogs. Emotional, inspiring, wonderful: Bill's voice told us more between the lines he read than the actual story itself. Both, however, brought tears to my eyes more than once.”
“After listening to the CD I placed in on my desk at home; assuming that I'd probably file it away somewhere. But every time I looked at it, something inside me made me leave it right where it was. I'll move it tomorrow, I thought. This past Friday night I was getting ready to visit my mother in our hometown of Hemet. I glanced at the desk and saw the CD. ‘I really need to put this away,’ I thought. But then I got the urge to take it with me so I could share the first track of Bill's story with my mother and sister. Saturday morning came and I gathered them both in the living room to hear the CD. As Bill's story about Satchmo unfolded once again I caught myself becoming sentimental and excused myself from the room [but not out of ear-shot] while the track played. My mother and sister were moved by the story as well. For some reason, we didn't stop the CD. Bill had built it with other tracks featuring Louis Armstrong singing many of his hits. They played in the background and we went about our business. Then, my cell phone rang. It was Don Elliot asking me if I had heard the news. Bill had passed away in his sleep last night and Don had just heard about it himself. The news came as a shock. We had only had lunch a few days earlier, and Bill looked great. He was happy and enjoying life. Don and I shared our sadness and it was as if Bill was there with me as Don said goodbye and I pressed the ‘End’ button on the cell phone: my favorite song by Louis Armstrong came on the CD. It was What a Wonderful World. I was speechless. I knew it was a sign from Bill. It all made sense: The CD, why I couldn't throw it away, why I took it with me, why I was listening to it when Don called. Thanks, Bill. Once again, you played an important part in my life. We'll miss you,” wrote Jhani.
Scott St. James
Scott St. James worked at KMPC with Bill Ward during the Robert W. Morgan era. “I was SHOCKED when I heard about what happened to Bill! The first thought I had was that this was another example of the immortality that NONE of us have! Gotta live it to the limit, folks! And I believe [in his own way] Bill Ward DID live it to the limit. I liked Bill. I worked for him two different times when the station calling itself KMPC got ratings. Good ratings. I know he was very generous to this column. Pictures from his vast collection of photos were often shown here. What surprises those of us who had dinner with him just a few weeks ago is that he looked GOOD! There was no HINT of a possible problem. Man, oh man, oh man. R.I.P.,” concluded Scott.
Robert Fox was terribly saddened by the passing of Bill Ward. “We had lunch a couple of years ago. He was extremely intelligent and combined his intellect with common sense. He was quiet and unassuming but also a strong and excellent manager and leader. He understood all facets of broadcasting and he also understood people. His death is a real loss.”
Nicole Sandler knows best Bill Ward’s contribution to the first AAA-format station. “I am so saddened by the news of Bill Ward's death. In addition to being gm of KMPC, he was also the reason that KSCA ever came to be. Bill had heard about a Triple A station in Phoenix, sought out the people behind it, and convinced Jackie Autry to let him flip KLIT to FM101.9 back in 1994. He also took a big chance on me. I had spent the four years prior to KSCA's inception producing the Mark & Brian Show at KLOS. If it weren't for Bill Ward's insistence that I be part of the team, I never would have been given the opportunity to work at that amazing radio station, and to spend the last 10 years working in a format that I love. He was one of the good ones. I will miss him,” wrote Nicole.
“I am so very sad about hearing of Bill Ward's passing,” emailed Buck Buchanan. “He was one of the great influences in my life. I was doing news at KBLA radio when Cameron Communication made the decision of change formats from Top 40 to Country. Bill Ward was hired as program director of KBBQ – ‘K-Barbeque.’ He was a real nice guy and had great interest and love of and for people. Bill finally called me into his office. I thought that this was it; I was going to be replaced as a news guy as I was still really still wet behind the ears. That was not the case. Bill asked me if I knew of anybody in this market who would suit morning drive at KBBQ. I immediately said Harry Newman. Harry had been the morning guy at KBLA, but had been replaced by Emperor Hudson. I thought Harry was one of the best straight jocks I had ever heard. I knew that Harry was going to tell me he wasn't interested, as he had not been treated with much dignity while at KBLA. Bill said to get him a tape. I called Harry, who was working at a station in Pottstown, Pennsylvania and as I thought, Harry rejected the offer out of hand. After about 30 minutes on the phone with him, I convinced him to cut an audition tape for Bill. Harry sent me that tape. I listened to it in the production room. The tape was straight, but the personality and the voice were 100% suited for the new KBBQ.”
Buck continued: “I went into Bill's office and asked him if he had a couple of minutes. He came into the production room, listened to the tape of Harry and walked out. I thought that he just didn't like what he heard. The next morning, Bill called me into his office after I had done the last traffic report of the morning. ‘Bucky, Harry Newman is going to be our new morning man. Thank you.’”
That was how Buck’s relationship with Bill started. “He got to be a dear friend of both myself and my father, Edgar Buchanan. I lost touch with Bill, as radio people do, but in 1979 I arrived in the market from Honolulu. My father was in the process of dying in a hospital. I didn't know what I was going to do, but I got a call from Don Langford and was offered a job at KLAC and caught up to Bill Ward again. The last time I saw Bill was at one of the LARadio events. It was at Dimples in Burbank, featuring Michael Jackson, Saul Levine, and Commander Chuck Street. My goodness, it was as if no time had passed. Bill and I just went on as if the years were yesterdays. Radio has lost one of the premier gentlemen and country programmers in this professions history. May the Lord bless him real good,” said Buck.
“Very sad to hear of Bill Ward's passing. Bill was somewhat of a mentor of mine years back. In 1967 I was the morning man at KDES in Palm Springs and the station sent me to William B. Ogden's to get my First Class Ticket. While there, the program director at the time, Hap Trout, was promoted to sales manager and Bill, who was at our sister station
KBBQ, was to over see the programming in the Desert, starting with finding a new pd. I was called at Ogden's and asked to call Bill in Burbank. The general manager and Bill wanted me to interview for the job. So I drive up to KBBQ and we chatted for awhile and Bill said he was considering me and one other guy.”
Bo continued: “Well, the other guy got the job. Now it was time for me to return to the station. They were running promos announcing my return, etc. I went in on a Friday to prepare to go back on the air the following Monday. Bill, the manager and this new pd wanted to meet with me in the manager's office. The pd and Bill wanted me to return to afternoon drive so the pd could do mornings. I looked over at my gm and he's giving me
the, ‘No, don't do it sign.’ So, I said, ‘No, I'm the station's morning man, and that's where I wish to stay.’ I suggested that the pd can come in early, do his pd work and go on the air at 3 p.m. Round and round we went...getting nowhere. Bill suggests we adjourn to think about it and would I meet him for breakfast the next morning? We do and he's still
pushing for this shift change. Again, I stood my ground knowing that I had a contract and my gm on my side. So, we take a ride - all the way up to Idyllwild and back. By this time Bill is really getting hot and he's yelling at me all the way up and back to the station. The bottom line was that I stayed on the morning shift and 2 weeks later, this new pd gets busted by the Palm Springs pd for selling pot to some kids in the news van in back of the Desert Sun [co-owned by KDES at the time]. I am then appointed program director.”
”In spite of our rough start, Bill became a great friend,” stated Bo. “He later hired me at KBBQ as a weekend and relief jock and took me with him and the rest of the KBBQ staff when he moved over to KLAC. I've never met anyone who knew more about programming country radio than Bill Ward. He was a talented and sweet man, who made a huge impact on everyone around him...certainly on me.”
“I woke up this morning and something was missing,” wrote Bill’s dear friend, Don Elliot. “It was here only yesterday, and I took for granted that it would always be, the treasured association of a close friend and colleague, Bill Ward. His damn, straight-shootin' from the hip, Texas-look-ya-square-in-the-eye-and-tell-ya-how-it-is way of relating makes me wonder why the rest of the world doesn't ‘get it’ that way, too! Friends are a true gift from God, but they sure are only a short lease!”
Don continued: “Bill always encouraged, fostered, directed and rewarded talent for a job well-done. He didn't ask you to please him - you wanted to and just DID. He inspired that kind of respect and dedication. He had a way of critiquing you without making you feel like you had just done your last show!”
(Pat Healey w/daughter Campbell, Don Elliot, Larry Scott, Alan Nelson [Art's son], Eddie Knight, Mrs. Art Nelson, Steve Sharp, Cathy Hahn, Rudy Uribe, Mike Horn, Sam Benson, Gene Price, Dean Sander, Carson Schreiber, John North, Bill Ward, and Jim Noble, engineering
“Over this past year, he did his best to get old friends reunited, most recently with a KLAC Country reunion. On numerous occasions throughout the year, he would find reasons, including Christmas, of course, to compile, produce and send to most people he was in touch with, audio CDs of his thoughts and songs that were relevant to the person or group. The most notable of these were his compilations of the best of KMPC, and the best of many of the Jim Healy sports broadcasts. We also assembled a tribute to Dick Haynes [‘At-the-reins’] on the occasion of his Dick's star being placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as well as his acceptance into the Country Music Hall of Fame.”
Elliot considered Ward his professional mentor. “The old KROQ-AM 1500 was Country K-BBQ where we originally met. He was the first to my knowledge to set a ‘production standard’ by doing more than just encouraging or demanding it. He appreciated it and realized the value of it so much that he created the there-to-fore unheard of position of ‘off-the-air full time production director,’ thereby legitimizing the profession of production. He continued this philosophy into the subsequent properties he managed, most notably, KLAC Country and KMPC. K-BBQ's competition still had jocks reading and dubbing their own assigned pieces of production and there were no real standards - no standard of directing, no tech standards of levels, e.g., music, effects., etc. He saw it as all part of the whole sound. Production was everything on the air except for the live jock.
He would insist that his Country format was a ‘feeling’ format, not a ‘formula’ format, and strived to always appeal to the emotions of the listener.”
Bill was the epitome of a Texas Gentleman. “Whatever the occasion, subject, or event, he always was sure to respect each person there and include them in invitations, introductions and the like,” remembered Don. “He listened and then he acted. He was fair. He didn't pre-judge. When he was wrong, he'd admit it and move on. The first time he had to fire somebody, he was in his office in tears afterwards and felt so bad that he ended up rehiring him! His favorite expression he'd always tell me in a given situation or in a problem I was working on was, ‘Remember Don, the opposite is also true.’ I have only learned recently to really appreciate the value of this sage advice!”
Bill loved taking his friends to lunch. Left to right: Don Elliot, John North, Carson Schreiber, and Bill.
“His faith led him inwardly in most of his outward actions, yet he never hammered anyone or lectured them about their religious beliefs. He actually never called God, ‘God, but rather, he had a nickname for Him – Albert.’ He seemed to have better communication with Him that way, figuring that if he couldn't see Him, at least he could make Him more personal by giving Him a name. And so it is that when I think of this being an end of a spectacular life and career for Bill, the opposite IS also true, that it is just a beginning for him now.... with Albert.’ Thanks, Bill, ya did it right and ya taught us right!” concluded Don.
Bill Ward Loved By His Colleagues and Friends
(August 3, 2004) The outpouring of love and affection for Bill Ward who passed away last weekend continues. Yesterday at KLAC, Jim Duncan closed his show shortly before noon with an old KLAC “Country” jingle and one of Bill’s favorite groups, Asleep at the Wheel. “Just showing some love to one of the greats,” emailed Jim.
The memorial service for Bill will probably take place in a month or so. Attempts are being made to secure one of Bill's favorite bands to perform at the memorial celebration.
“We are reminded all so often that this journey we travel is temporary,” wrote Lawrence Tanter. “My deepest respect and condolences to Bill Ward's family. He was a straight shooter and a sincere broadcaster. I met Bill when Golden West purchased KUTE in 1986. Not only did I program ‘The Quiet Storm' under Bill, but later, he gave me the reins at KLIT. Our lunches together [He, Chuck Southcott and his assistant Lindsey] were legendary. Bill Ward - rest in peace, and thank-you for your contribution to our industry.
“It with great sadness to learn of Bill Ward’s passing,” wrote Craig Powers, pd at KMZQ-Las Vegas. “Bill and I became friends in the mid 90s. Charlie Tuna and Carson Schreiber knew Bill well and introduced me to him somewhere around ‘93 or ‘94. Bill and I were making plans to change [then KMPC/fm] to a Country station, known as ‘California's Coyote Country.’ The plan never came to fruition and Bill was going to be an innovator once again by going ‘Triple A’ in Los Angeles. Bill, Carson, Charlie and I have been friends ever since. In fact shortly after those meetings with Bill, Carson hired me to do West Coast promotion for MCG/Curb and I hired Charlie Tuna to do mornings at KIK/fm! Carson, Charlie, Don Elliot and I all got together with Bill on a regular basis, for lunches, dinners and story telling. Bill was always so friendly, warm and nice to me. Plus, it was a great pleasure to hear all of his Gene Autry stories! Bill was a class act all the way, lived and breathed radio and loved the people in the business. Bill was never too busy to answer an IM, email or take a phone call! One of the true legends in our business that will be missed greatly! Happy Trails Bill! I know you're riding proud with the King of Cowboys in Heaven!” concluded Powers.
“I cherished Bill’s friendship and guidance,” wrote Fred Vali. His assistance in getting Dick Haynes inducted into the DJ Hall of Fame was immeasurable. Without his archives and encouragement, it could not have taken place. He and I started a regular email exchange over the past three or so years. We had a great deal of common interests and beliefs.”
Vali continued: “I looked forward to his annual Christmas CD compilation. Oh, how he loved the 'cowboy' heroes of our childhood. And how he loved radio. I never heard him utter one negative word about others. I had sent him several emails in the past week - the last one was most likely on Thursday. Cameron's call came as a complete shock.”
“I phoned Ed Salamon immediately. I got off an email to him and to Bill Hennes at AllAboutCountry.com. Within one week we have lost two legendary broadcasters: Bill and Mike Lynch, but somehow Bill's passing hits me much harder. Not just because I knew him longer and was closer to him, but it was Bill's spirit, values, and his enormous passion and enthusiasm for country radio and music, that I will miss the most. CRB's motto is ‘learning through sharing.’ Somehow we've lost track of that in recent years. Competition, greed, and egos have gotten in the way. Bill never forgot.”
Vali concluded: “The worst part about growing old is not the aches and pains, the diminished eyesight, or the other things that begin to set in; it is the tragedy of losing those we knew and loved, those who influenced our lives, those who mentored and nurtured us. Thank God for the memories and for God's gift of their lives. Bill lives on in so many, many ways.”
“This is a shock to me and I am sure to many of Bill's friends,” wrote former KBBQ colleague Carson Schreiber. “I am at a loss of words, so please forgive me if I ramble. The loss of a close friend for 37 years will do that.”
“I first met Bill in March of 1967. Bill arrived at KBLA in Burbank from KBOX- Dallas. KBLA was a Top 40 Rock station and Bill was brought in to switch the call letters to KBBQ and the format of the station to Country Music. At this time, I was a young 19 year old engineer at KBLA. I met with Bill and he decided to keep me on staff for the new format.”
Carson continued: “Bill worked with me and taught me Country music. Bill worked with me and helped me become a DJ, first doing the weekends and then fulltime on KBBQ. Bill's guidance and inspiration was a foundation for my life. He hired a great staff for KBBQ and developed a fabulous family culture. The mutual respect for Bill and the staff is something that I cannot put into words. I learned so much from our music director, Larry Scott; from our production director, Don Elliot; from our great air talent, Harry Newman, Bob Jackson, Corky Mayberry, Jim Carson, Jim O'Brien, Hugh Jarrett, Don Hinson, etc. The news department, Dick Spangler, John Swaney, Charles Arlington, Phil Jennrich, Don Langford, Stan Brown, Buck Buchanan, etc.”
“Bill left KBBQ in late Summer of 1971 for cross-town Country music station KLAC. Once again Bill put together a fabulous staff. Bill was a master at creating a family culture. Bill brought me over to KLAC in September of 1971. At KLAC, I was so fortunate to work with so many great people that Bill had assembled to be the KLAC family. Dick Haynes [a member of the Country DJ Hall of Fame], Larry Scott [a member of the Country DJ Hall of Fame], Jay Lawrence, Jim Healy, Dean Sander, Sam Benson, Hal Smith, Harry Newman, Bob Jackson, John North, Don Langford, Cathy Hahn, Rudy Uribe, Hugh Cherry, Art Nelson, Sammy Jackson, Corky Mayberry, Ed Knight, Ed Calucci, Bruce Johnson, Jim Noble, Stuart Levy, J. Ray Padden, Larry Alper, Bill Pearl, Gene Price, Mike Horn, Steve Thrap, Jose Molina, Bill Patterson, Chuck Sullivan, John McAdams, and so many more.”
“Bill's programming and managing of KLAC led the station to numerous awards and personal achievements for many of the staff members. Bill was my mentor in life. Bill's spirit will live on as the collective spirit of his staff's fond memory,” stated Carson.
“I met Bill just once,” emailed Joe Goria. “The night after KSCA/fm 101.9 signed off to become Spanish-language La Nueva, and ex-fm101.9 staffers and fans [like yours truly!!] came together as one to bid the station farewell in a special concert at The Troubadour on Santa Monica Blvd. I thought of him as a very kind person with a great smile too!! I will cherish the stuff he gave me from fm101.9 [and all the CDs too!] A great man. We shared the same birthday [January 25]. I will miss him and R.I.P. Bill. Thanks for bringing KSCA to the airwaves and our hearts from July 1994 to February 1997.
“I worked for Bill off and on for over almost 20 years,” emailed Don Langford. “I was one of the two employees that were kept when the KBLA became KBBQ in 1967. The other employee was Carson Schreiber. I followed Bill to KLAC were I went on to be his program director for over 7 years.”
Langford continued: “It’s hard to put into word what Bill meant to me. Friend, mentor, leader are words that come to mind, but those words only leaving you wanting better word to describe Bill. The one thing about Bill was that he loved to laugh. I remember many times at KBLA when Bill would do a relief shift, Carson and I would stand on the other side of the studio window and try and break him up. He would try so hard, but it was so easy. When he would start to laugh, he would laugh so hard He could not push the button to start the next record. It was so much fun to hear him laugh and laugh, we never got tired of the trick.”
“I know that he is really is in Hillbilly Heaven, listening to all those old stories told again by Rex, Gene and Roy. Good Bye Bill, I love you,” concluded Don.
“What a good guy,” remembered Jeff Gonzer. “I met Bill for the first time during my first tour of duty at KMET in 1972. As you know, Bill was the program director of the new country KLAC. As a progressive rock station, KMET played everything from Jimi Hendrix to Doc Watson in those days. I had a Doc Watson song on the air one morning, when Bill came into the studio, introduced himself and couldn't believe that we knew, or played anything that country. We talked music and became friends. The last time I worked for him was AAA KSCA. He was still very excited to part of something new and progressive. We met for the last time during the Christmas holidays when Bill visited the Westwood One offices in Valencia. He was always a joy see and talk to. We will all miss him very much.”
“Talk about eerie coincidences,” wrote family friend Tom Ruggles. “We were friends of Bill's outside of the radio biz world. Donna [Bill’s second wife] called us Saturday morning to give us the news of his passing. We had a small town outdoors concert to go to with friends that night and my wife made a special drink called a Blue Moon in celebration of the 2nd full moon of the month. At the appropriate time we and the friends toasted Bill and his life [did you ever see the similarity between Bill and the man in the moon?] Anyway, when we got home we went to bed. I am in the habit of always reading a little before I go to sleep, but the current book I was reading was a little dry so I went to our 'library' to find something a little more uplifting. I picked up a book I hadn't looked at in years, Cosmic Questions, by Richard Morris. When I got in bed and opened the book up to the inside title page I discovered an inscription to Bill and Donna, from Dan, I think, who had given the book to them after some deep seated discussions amongst the three of them some night long ago. I had borrowed this book from them some ten years ago. Like I said - eerie. A very sad time.”
“I was devastated when I got the phone call from Tippie on Saturday, as I know you and all of Bill's many friends were,” wrote Jerry Lee. “I hadn't seen him for a two or three months but I was thinking about him just a few days ago. In the last few years we had gotten into a habit of taking the other one to lunch on his birthday; mine is coming up in a couple of weeks and I was looking forward to seeing him.”
Jerry and Bill both go back to KBEC in Waxahachie, Texas, in 1955. “We were both still in our teens. I had just graduated from high school and Bill was a junior and was 16. He did the 4 p.m. to sign-off shift on the 500-watt daytimer [KBEC, ‘Keep Building Ellis County’] and I did the morning show [‘The Coffee Cup’] with station owner Richard Tuck.”
Lee continued: “Most of his Los Angeles friends remember Bill as a station manager and group operator but he was a heck of an on-air talent. We had lots of fun at KBEC. One day we decided to do a ‘man on the street’ interview to, as I recall, promote a buried-treasure contest the station was having. The problem, however, was that the station was a mile or so out of town on the highway to Ennis. Bill rigged up a long link of microphone cables and walked out to the highway and started waving down cars as he talked on the air. He would interview listeners and give out the latest clue to the treasure's location. We had a pretty good traffic jam. The big prize, by the way, was $300.”
”Bill and I used to drive up to Dallas on weekends to visit KLIF and KBOX to meet the legendary jocks like Bruce Hayes, Art Nelson, and even Gordon McLendon himself. We soon went our separate ways on the Top 40 circuit but always kept in touch, sending letters on reel-to-reel tape. He worked in Dallas, Atlanta, Louisville and Providence before coming out west to KBBQ in Burbank and later, KLAC. I worked in Austin, Albuquerque, L.A. [KGIL’, Cleveland, St. Louis and Houston. We both became program directors and then general managers with Bill ending up running the Metromedia Group and then Gene Autry's Golden West stations. By then I was managing Group W's KJQY in San Diego and we started getting together and renewing our old friendship.”
Jerry and Bill had a lot in common, both coming from small towns in Texas and growing up in the '50s. “Over the years our tastes in music gravitated back to our roots and to western swing and cowboy songs. [I'll never forget when Bill introduced me to Gene Autry, my boyhood hero, at an Angel's game back in the mid '80s, something that was very special to me.] Bill liked swing and the big bands, Satchmo, Ella Fitzgerald and he adored Johnny Mercer. Christmas music was very special to him and he enjoyed making Christmas-card CDs every year for his friends, mixing in his own stories and giving us a holiday ‘Bill Ward Show.’”
“Jerry concluded: “And, of course, Bill loved his briards. His Daily Dogs Web site was a treasure to many and I'm sure will be missed. He had to have his Freida put to sleep recently and I know it was very hard on him. We liked getting together for lunch and discussing politics, music, life in general and, of course, the state of radio today. He was a very special man. That big smile of his was always there in Bill's voice. It came across on the radio that he was genuinely happy to be talking to you, just like he was in person. Bill was one of my very best friends. I will miss him forever.”
The California Canteen in North Hollywood was one of Bill's favorite spots to gather with friends and swap radio stories. Photo: Carson Schreiber, Don Elliot, Bill, and Sam Benson
"I'm so saddened by the loss of one the great influences on L.A. Radio and my life," enthused current KLAC middayer, Jim Duncan. "It was Bill Ward who gave me my first 'real' L.A. radio job. When I first came to Los Angeles from San Diego to be the Country Editor for R&R, I didn't want to stop doing what I loved the best: being on-the-air. So I got a weekend gig at the old Country KFOX in Long Beach. I was on the air at KFOX the weekend of the first Toyota Grand Prix  and from our eight floor studio I had the best seat in the house. As you know, back in those days, KLAC was 'The Racing Station' and they covered the event from start to finish."
Duncan continued: "It was after the race, when all the noise had died down, I got a call on the request line from someone claiming to be BILL WARD. The first words out of his mouth were: 'How would you like to work for the REAL Country station in Los Angeles?' I said to him: 'Come on, really, who is this?' He said: 'I'm Bill Ward, the manager of KLAC, and I want you on KLAC. So, if you are interested, come by our studios, across from the La Brea tar pits, tomorrow and let's talk.' And, as the say: 'The rest is history.' Almost 30 years later, I am still working for KLAC."
"Bill was a smart gentle man with a heart of gold, who loved Western Swing music more than any other. In recent years, it was our mutual dream to put a 'REAL' Country station back in L.A. As Bill rides into the sunset of his incredible life, I want to wishes him God speed, Happy Trails and from the bottom of my heart: Thanks for the best request I ever received in all the days of my radio career."
"I was hired on at KLIT when Golden West took on the AC format in 1989.. and although I didn't cross paths much with 'Mr. Ward,' as I called him at first, I eventually got to see the sweet man that so many LARP'ers have been paying tribute to these last few days," emailed KOLA's Cindy Davis.
Cindy continued: "He was so thoughtful towards me during the final weeks before the format switched to triple A in June/July of 1994 wanting me to interview with the new pd, hoping there would be a place for me. I came in for the interview only because Bill wanted me to! I think he felt worse about me losing my job than I did! As it happens, I was the only employee kept on till the very last day. My favorite memory of Bill is when after an earthquake one evening while I was on the air. A short while later I looked up to see Bill - and his dog! - there to check on me, making sure I wasn't afraid! Even though there were a few other people in the building [at that time Johnny Magnus was probably across the hall on KMPC], he still left his home to come check on me. I'll never forget that!"
Additional Tributes (August 5-10)
"May I add my comments to the chorus of praise about the late great Bill Ward?" asked Christine Lehman of Los Angeles.
As I mentioned in an earlier email which you posted on your site, Bill had been providing invaluable assistance with a documentary project that a friend and I were working on.
Though I never did get to meet him in person due to scheduling conflicts and his health problems, we did exchange several emails and messages. He was always very funny and full of great ideas - 90% of which we never actually got around to using, but they were a lot of fun to hear about anyway!
I'm very sorry that he's gone, but am so grateful I had the opportunity to know him, at least from a distance. Thanks for everything, Bill, and may 'Albert' bless you!"
"Bill Ward was a friend of mine; I worked with him at KSCA in Los Angeles," wrote Dennis Constantine of KINK-Portland. "Bill was a mentor to all who worked with him. He was a visionary, in radio and in life. He was a true joy to be with. The stories he would tell; the accumulated knowledge he carried within. Bill Ward was not afraid to do something differently - he was always challenging us to break the rules. Mike Morrison, the station's pd and I would suggest adding production elements or rotations or promos to the station to give it a bigger sound, and Bill, in his infinite wisdom, would give us a list of very inspired reasons why we shouldn't. One of his favorite expressions was, 'the opposite is also true.'KSCA was his inspiration. From the opening chords of All I Want to Do [Is Have Some Fun] to the closing notes of The End, and the beautiful, dulcet tones of his voice introducing L.A. to his station and then giving the final message at its sign-off, Bill Ward will be remembered as a radio pioneer. He was always firm in his beliefs and strong in his convictions. Bill Ward, may your memory be eternal."
"I was so happy to see this memorial," wrote Kathy Alcantar of Burbank. "I know how much Bill will be missed by so many friends, I am one of them who recently met him about 4 1/2 mos. and just in that time it seemed as if it were a lifetime. He shared so many wonderful stories. So many wonderful people he met. We had so much in common though I am 25 yrs younger. But since I was raised with country music, and my father bought me a fiddle. I have never stopped listening. It is hard to believe he is gone, but I can truly say he will be missed. And never forgotten."
"I met Bill Ward in 1987, when he became engaged to my friend Donna Yerman. I'm an actress and Bill invested $500 in a play I had written and was producing - and he later admitted he did it to please Donna and never expected to get his money back. Luckily I was able to pay him back his investment with interest. He would later ask me and my partner, Newell Alexander, to create a radio drama to perform at the newly opened Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage."
Rosemary continued: "Bill proposed to find a sponsor and broadcast the production live on KMPC as a special event. We worked out a deal and in December 1989, KMPC Radio Theatre broadcast 'Christmas
In El Paso.' Bill Ward, Chuck Southcott and Robert Lyles helped us manage the production. Bill loved the show and Joanne Hale, Executive Director of the Autry Museum at that time, decided radio drama "in the spirit of the medium during the '40s" served the museum's mission, so Bill found a sponsor and we broadcast 9 shows over the next 2 years on KMPC. At that point KMPC went to an all sports format and Wells Fargo came on board as sponsor and we continued to produce the show as Wells Fargo Radio Theatre, first on KLIT/fm, then fm101.9 and finally, with Bill's help, moved to public radio's KPPC where Larry Mantle oversaw our broadcast.
Bill told me many times that working on those western-themed radio dramas was one of the highlights of his radio career. He especially liked working with composer, George S. Clinton and the various musicians who performed in 'The Western Heritage Band.' He never failed to revel in the live music. He was absolutely fabulous to work with.
Generous, kind, supportive, funny and our best audience, Bill Ward, above all things, was a great
listener. I used to ask him to bring his 'good ears' to rehearsal and help us pull the shows together. He
became a close personal friend over the 15 years we worked together. I know he loved his son, Cameron, his daughter Carmen and grandson, his assistant Lindsay [he said, 'She's like a daughter to me'], his dogs, music and musicians [the music he enjoyed ranged from Asleep At The Wheel, to Ella Fitzgerald and Johnny Mercer], radio and all the radio people he worked with over his long and distinguished career. He was so agreeable.
Newell and I invited him to a lot of theatrical events over the years and he generally responded, 'Hell, I'll go.' Newell was working the day one of our films, Sordid Lives, opened in Los Angeles so I invited Bill to go with me. He looked over at me when my first scene flashed up on the screen and said, 'This is the first time I ever sat next to the actor on the screen.' He glowed with a child's delight. I'm still in shock over his death. I still expect his vintage Mercedes convertible to pull up in front of my house with his two huge dogs in the back and see Billy John saunter up my sidewalk holding a CD of music he has programmed for me in his hand. I will always miss him but his memory will live in my soul forever."
Joseph Hesse"Bill was my real friend," wrote Joseph Hesse. "I only had a couple of friends in my whole life, but Bill was real no matter what you did or who you were. Bill seemed to give you a chance. And with that chance came a chuckle and a warm smile. I can remember Bill's laugh. It did one thing to me then and probably always will, it made me smile. Good bye my friend. You are in every prayer I speak. God bless you and God speed. May God bring peace to your family. May they see the truth, 'The truth will set them free.' And those who dare to hide it. Our friendship and its memories will stay with me IN MY HEART forever. They are in my mind and there they will stay. I miss you buddy."
"It was very saddening to find that Bill had died when I arrived back from a brief holiday last week," wrote Ulrike Kern from Berlin, Germany. "The reality of this news really only started to sink in when I saw your Web site and I still find it hard to believe. I've very fond memories of Bill from the time he worked in Berlin and the time after, including our trip to Tippi's in Texas whom I'd like to contact and send my condolences. Bill was much fun to work with when he came to the already failing Metromedia owned news radio station in Berlin in 1998/99 and very enjoyable and funny company on the 'Berlin restaurant trail' and trips around town. I remember him bringing a copy of your LA Radio People book with him to Berlin and would really have wished him many more years after his retirement."
"As you know, I replaced Bill as general manager of KLAC in 1980," emailed Don (Donny James) Kelly)." However, Bil and I had been friends for many years before that. During our Metromedia days in the 70s, when I was gm of WIP-Philadelphia and Bill was running KLAC, we were constantly on the phone comparing notes about our respective stations. Bill knew I loved Country music and when he was promoted to President of Metromedia Radio, it was a no-brainer for him to ask me to take over the reins of KLAC. Billy John, as he was known to many of us, was one of the most thoughtful and caring persons I have ever known. May he rest in peace."
P.S. The attached photo of Billy John and Donny James was taken in August 1980 following the ceremony for Dick Haynes' star on the Walk of Fame.
“You Could Not Ask for a More Loyal Friend than Bill Ward”
|(September 27, 2004) Last Sunday, the family and friends of Bill Ward gathered at the Western Heritage Museum (formerly Gene Autry Museum) for a celebration of his life. Bill died in his sleep on July 30 at the age of 65. Larry Scott, a dj at KLAC, acted as the host. “When I think of Bill Ward the words, ‘He was a good man’ come to mind,” said Larry of his 37-year relationship with Bill. “You could not ask for a more loyal friend than Bill. Perhaps the most important ingredient in Bill’s makeup, he was a real human being. Bill promoted the cliché, deeds speak louder than words. I’m not sure I ever heard Bill say, ‘I love you,’ but you sure could tell it through his deeds.”|
Carl Brazell, former president of Metromedia Radio, said that he considered Bill one of his closest friends. “His passing is a great loss to me personally,” said Carl. “Billy John became vice president/general manager of KLAC. The station switched from a struggling MOR station to a struggling Country station and Bill was brought in to fix it. He grew KLAC to become one of the great Country stations in America. Bill Ward was the leader. He was the beacon. He was the one who pointed the way to greatness for KLAC.”
(Pictured: Dr. Demento,
Cynthia Fox, Sam Bellamy; Cameron and Carmen Ward;
and Carl Brazell and Dwight Case)
Dwight Case, a former president of RKO General, spoke about a loose group of guys who got together fairly regularly. “We would ramble about either the people we were working for, ex-wives we couldn’t talk about any place else, and money we owed people and why we owed them.”
Dwight said that Bill was “a very strong-at-heart business guy.” He met Bill in a trailer where KLAC was broadcasting car races in Ontario. “I would bring my son from the San Joaquin Valley and then I learned that Bill was in the radio business.” Dwight made reference to “Albert,” what Bill called God. “I can just see Bill cross the gates and say, ‘Albert, you look just like I thought you would.’ Anyone who has a first-name relationship with that man is okay with me,” said Dwight.
(Pictured: Chuck Southcott, Mike Horn; Hal Smith; Jhani Kaye; and Mimi Chen)
Jim Healy was arguably the best-known and most popular L.A. sports broadcaster in the second half of the 20th century. Jim aired a half-hour sports program punctuated with drop-ins. His son is Patrick Healy, reporter at KNBC/Channel 4. “Bill Ward was always larger than life to me. My dad’s boss, Bill gave me my first job in radio and I was staggered to realize that there was only a 15-year difference between us.”
Healy continued: “Bill had this incredible vision. He cut through all the muck and saw what was important. He could see where the road was going. The LA Times emphasized his vision and his trailblazing instincts. He saw that Country music was crossover and that it was going to be made into something enormous in an urban setting like Los Angeles. He went beyond that. He saw this intersection with Country and auto racing.”
(Pictured: Gene Price, John North; Mr./Mrs. Bob Koontz; and Larry Scott, Carson Schreiber)
Patrick told how he got hired as a young man at KLAC. “Bill had a vision for me. He needed a couple of shows about auto racing. He went to my father, who was the news director, and asked, ‘Who do you know who is sharp in auto racing and has all the facts and figures and would put together a couple of shows each week. Dear old dad, may he rest in peace, said, ‘Gee, Bill, I can’t think of anybody.’ Bill said “how about that kid that shows up for dinner every night.”
(Pictured: Sam Benson; Dean Sander; Mr./Mrs. Don Elliot; and John Felz)
Jhani Kaye was the final speaker. When Bill was looking for a program director for “K-LITE [101.9fn],” he approached Jhani, who was pd at KOST. When it was clear that it wasn’t going to work out, Bill told Jhani to go back to his boss at KOST and tell them that I offered you $200,000 more to come to work at Golden West Broadcasters. “And he said that he would back me up if anyone should ask,” remembered Jhani. “That got me the greatest raise in my career. To this day I am still thankful. He effectively engineered a raise for me and that was the kind of man he was.”
Following the ‘celebration,’ guests gathered in the courtyard for a buffet and to listen to Dan Hicks play until the last guest left.
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Last modified: October 27, 2004