Bill Wright, Sr.
February 16, 2005
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Few broadcasters have had careers as long, diverse and successful as our own Broadcast Pioneers member, Bill Wright, Sr.
Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, Bill first became interested in radio at the age of 14 when he performed as a singer on WAPI, Birmingham. Little did he know then, that his radio interest would only intensify and become a driving force throughout the rest of his life.
Bill’s illustrious career began in 1950 as WSGN in Birmingham, where he stayed for six years before moving to Philadelphia and into the legendary powerhouse station, WIBG (WIBBAGE – Radio 99). There, he spent the next 11 years of his life doing morning drive. Bill’s show was so popular, that more than half of all people listening to Philadelphia radio, were listening to Bill Wright, Sr.
This unbelievable feat distinguished Bill’s show as the highest rated daily radio program in the history of Philadelphia radio. One would be remiss in thinking that this broadcaster’s talents were strictly related to his on-air presence. In fact, Bill has worn several different hats throughout his career.
Back of a WIBG Record List
From 1969 to 1972, Bill opened and operated a school of broadcasting in Providence, Rhode Island, and then held a similar position from 1972 through 1975 here in Philadelphia.
He also worked as the Director of Public Relations and Development for the Philadelphia Drama Guild in the mid 70’s and then owned and operated a production company called Wrightway.
Bill’s interests expanded well beyond his radio/public relations’ work. He has also dabbled in the world of musical recording, releasing his own versions of “Scarlet Ribbons,” “Deck of Cards” and “This Boy That I Call Son.” He has performed his songs on American Bandstand with Dick Clark.
Bill’s addition to the 950 family tree in 1986 as a part-time air personality, helped to make the “Station of the Stars” shine a bit brighter. Bill said of WPEN:
I’ve never worked at a station where we have as many musical elements as we have here. To be able to play Glenn Miller, Bing Crosby, Anne Murray and the Four Freshmen within a 15 minute person makes for tremendous variety. The audience, of course, are people who Joe (Niagara) and I broadcast to 30 to 35 years ago. We’ve grown up together. They are very, warm, responsive people.
WPEN listener letters and phone calls voicing gratitude, comments and memories about “the Road to Victory” and “Chronicles of the Homefront” have proved to be an inspiration for Bill, who narrated both of those series. Bill Wright, Sr. said:
One man wrote about his uncle who was a cook on a submarine in Japanese waters, whose captain was responsible for sinking 12 Japanese ships, and even docked one night in a harbor, dispensed the crew, and blew up a railway station. Sounded more like John Wayne than John Wayne did! These memories are conjured up when we talk about the movies with Hedy Lamar and others at the Aldine Theatre, and the fact that a one-pound jar of peanut butter was $0.24 at the Acme.
The vignettes, written and produced by Assistant Program Manager and Production Manager of WPEN at that time, Charlie Mills, have been so successful that Charlie, Bill and then WPEN Vice-President and General Manager, Dean Tyler (a member of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia) were honored by the National Veterans of Foreign Wars, and presented with a beautiful award to thank them for WPEN’s continued commitment and dedication to honoring the 50th anniversary of D-Day.
Bill has shared the stage with Elvis Presley, the Beatles and literally hundreds of recording and show biz greats. Bill Wright, Sr. is truly a Broadcast Pioneer.
On Friday, November 18, 2005, Broadcast Pioneers member Bill Wright, Sr. was inducted into our "Hall of Fame." Beginning on July 1, 2008, Bill started serving on our Board of Directors. On Friday, November 20, 2009, we celebrated Wright being the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia's Person of the Year.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Photo originally donated by Broadcast Pioneers historian Gerry Wilkinson
WIBG List scan originally donated by Broadcast Pioneers member Michael Muderick
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