Playing Good Music. He Did It His Way For 55 Years
"Value Your Ideals High, And Carry Your Banners High.
Compromise Them Never."
Bill Marlowe Was Music's Best Friend
by Frank E. Dee
Bill Marlowe was born in the North End Of the Italian section of Boston. He was a proud Italian, but had to change his name due to the era of time, in the early 40’s. He said: "If you were an Italian, radio management would not hire you."
Bill Marlowe was one of the rarest impeccable Radio Musical hosts, who has ever sat behind a microphone, at any given radio station in the United States. He indeed was the "Voice" of radio. He touched so many people over his 55 years in radio with compassion, love and care. I named him: "The Baron Of The Airwaves." And rightfully so. He was incredible! He was one of a kind who was loved by thousands, and thousands of friends. Yes, he truly was "King Of The Radio Airwaves" in the New England States. Bill worked for numerous radio stations throughout the New England areas, including New York stations; WNEW, WCBS-FM, and WHN-FM, and in Florida at WMBM at Miami Beach. In the Boston area he worked at WORL-AM, WBZ-AM & FM, WRKO-AM, WILD-AM, WNTN-FM, WHET-AM, WLYN-AM and up to his untimely death he was at WRCA-AM, Stereo. His radio career began at the age of 9 years old, when he made his radio debut reading a ‘Hamlet Soliloquy,’ on WEEI FM. He started his full time radio show at WCCM-AM in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in the 1940’s. From that time on, he became a legend, who would not compromise in playing Rock ‘N’ Roll to what he called was "trash."
Bill was the only radio personality in history who stood-up to radio management in keeping good MUSIC of the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s alive on all his radio shows whatever station he may have been at. He refused to listen to management who tried to change his format to ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll, or go with the flow of the other radio stations that would air ‘Rock.’ And Yours Truly can relate to that! Marlowe, would tell management where to go. But compromise. Never! He said numerous times over his shows live: "I’d rather commit suicide than play Rock ‘N’ Roll. But it’s expensive to be an aesthetic [person]. If I had played Rock ‘N’ Roll, I’d own 10 stations and be a multimillionaire, but can you be a whore? I can’t." Bill was dedicated to his radio audience, and he provided the music they loved most. He said so many a time. "I love my country, but we have lost perspective musically. We live in a permissive society, and it’s a shame. I play good music, and the other stuff to me is pure crap." Even though the news media had a field day in what he said. He still stood his ground, and within time. The same news mediawho knocked him, praised him for sticking to what he believed in. ... And that was featuring always the great bands, vocalists, lush plush songs and just plain good music.
Bill was the light of the way with playing good music, Jazz, Big Bands, and featuring such giants as Al Martino, Tony Bennett, Mario Lanza, Sinatra, and the ‘Kitten’ as he called her… "Dakota Staton", and he would introduce to his audience Diana Washington as: "Diana like in ‘Dynamite’ Washington." Marlowe had the charm, the charisma and the voice to match his over 6 foot tall body.
Bill would not accept any restaurant sponsors that he thought were not up to good standard. Before he would record commercials for restaurants. He would first go to the restaurant and dine, and if the restaurant’s food didn’t meet up to his standard of serving good food, he would not take them on as a sponsor. No matter how much money they would offer Bill to sponsor their restaurant.
What Did Al Martino & Radio Musicologist
Bill Marlowe Have In Common?
Bill was a connoisseur of good foods, and a critic, (if you will) of good wines. If the food was not up to par, or needed a little extra ingredients. He would take the dish into the kitchen and show the chef what needed to be added . Every Boston Restaurant proprietor knew him well. If you walked into a restaurant where Bill would be dinning, you knew that Bill’s personality cast a bright light, that lit-up the room with his magical comical humor. Often times he would go into the kitchen no matter where he was dinning and tell the chef how to cook certain dishes the way he liked. And When Marlowe promoted a restaurant commercial of one of Boston’s famous eateries over his radio show. He had the magical gift in making ones mouth water for the food he was promoting.
Often times Bill would invite me to join him in numerous Italian Restaurants that were his sponsors. And when I would visit Boston yearly. Bill, and I always hooked up. He would say: "Lets go eat some good food. He loved to eat. As we would be dining. I can remember him always telling me. "Frankie, don’t let the good music die, keep it alive, and do something with it on this new thing called the ‘INTERNET.’ Keep on keeping on promoting the Al Martino’s, and the Tony Bennetts, who have contributed so much to our society and to good music." I kept my word, and will always continue on and on as time permits me to do so.
He loved playing Al Martino’s songs on his show, and he would kid around and say: "Is this guy Italian or what? Yeah, just like me! But he's not from the North End. Folks! He doesn't have to be!" Bill was proud to be an Italian, and he didn’t care who knew it, or didn’t know it, and he made sure he would mention it over his shows.
Bill Marlowe became my radio mentor, my teacher. We both had our own separate radio shows, and we kept to the same format, and we never compromised. He never played down to the audience. He always continued to play the music he liked up until his passing on a Saturday July 21, 1996, and at that time the entire radio industry took a moment of silence to pay tribute to Bill Marlowe. Entertainment stars of all walks came to his funeral, or sent their condolences to a man who stood up alone to play the good sounds of music. Bill Marlowe was called the "Radio Personification Of The Rat Pack" by all the news media. He truly was one of a kind, and a tough act to follow.
Every Summer I would go back To Boston to visit family, and friends, and "Billy" as we called him, would always invite me on his show as a guest. He then would make reservations to dine out in an Italian Restaurant, and a special area was secured for his invited guests such as Ron Della Chiesa, of WGBH FM, and the manager of the "North Shore Music Tent. Ron, Bil,l and Yours Truly were real close friends, and Bill also was Ron's mentor as well. Bill Marlowe was indeed a lovable humorous guy, with a heart as big as his 6 foot body.
Back in the early 1950's when nationwide disc jockeys were implicated in the popular radio payola scandal. Bill was one of the rare radio hosts who was far above being a suspect. He was quoted in an 1974 interview in the Boston Papers: "They knew no one was paying me to play Sarah Vaughn, Sinatra, Al Martino, Lanza, Dakota Staton, Bennett, Jerry Vale and my buddy Errol Gardner." Bill Marlowe was one who never would allow anyone to bribe him into promoting their recordings. He always said: "Don't take me for granted, and I certainly will not take you for granted."
When Bill passed on, his good friend talk show host; Jerry Williams, did a special urology show of Bill's life. I have that copy of that tape, and it is the most remarkable dedication I have ever heard, that will bring tears to your eyes. To Jerry Williams I say thank you sir. No one could have expressed such warmth, and feelings as Jerry did on his show.
After Bill had passed away, Ron Della Chiesa took over his format playing the same good sounds that Bill always featured.
I was deeply honored that Bill's fiancee, Helen, called me to tell me that Bill Marlowe wanted me to have some of his taped shows. I often time will pull out a memory tape of Bill's show, and listen to the beautiful artists who sang these great songs, that would make one's gose bumps stand up like little tin soldiers.
On Bill's 50th year in radio I was his surprised guest, without him knowing I was going to be on his show. I presented him over the air a beautiful portrait of himself which was drawn by an artist friend, and a letter that was sent to me by Frank Sinatra, to be read in the presents of Bill, over the air. As I read Mr. Sinatra's letter, Bill had tears in his eyes. It was one of the most touching shows I have ever done, for a friend who I loved so dearly, and who truly deserved the accolades for all his years being dedicated to good music.
If Bill was here with us today. He would have worn out Al Martino's "STYLE" CD! He would have continued on and on with the same format of providing the best in music. On a special tribute from the staff of WRCA they dedicated "I DID IT MY WAY". And Bill Marlowe certainly did.
Pictured from the left is Frank E. Dee, with Bill Marlowe center, shown with Bill's good friend, jazz great; Illnois Jacquet, who wrote the popular song; "The Robin's Nest. The photo was taken August 23, 1976 at a special Jazz Show, which Bill Marlowe was the Master of Ceremonies at one of the east coast's elegant night clubs, the "Monticello." At the time. Marlowe and Dee, were DJ's at the now defunct Whet Radio Station in Waltham, Mass