WCAU Publicity Photo
Broadcast Pioneers member Bill Bransome passed away on Friday, June 14, 2002 of cardiac arrest. He had a pacemaker but it failed and was replaced the day before his death.
Bill, 84, was born on April 28, 1918. He had been with WCAU Radio and then WRCV Radio which became KYW. He was one of the first voices ever heard on KYW NewsRadio when it started its all news format in September of 1965. Bransome retired from KYW on October 17, 1989 and had served as the President of AFTRA (The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), the local talent union for a quarter of a century. Previous to that, Bransome (one of the first AFTRA members in the city) served on the union's Board of Directors for twenty years. In 1986, the national union presented him with its George Heller Memorial Award for outstanding industry service.
Among his awards was "the 1970 Sportscaster of Year" presented by the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. In 1982, the University of Pennsylvania gave him their Jesse Abramson Award for Bill's outstanding coverage of the Penn Relays. On Friday, November 22, 2002, the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia inducted Bill Bransome into our "Hall of Fame."
Bill Bransome was quite often referred to as the "Dean" of radio newscasters. Bill once said: I want to know the "why" of a story. If there's a rate increase, how much? How is it going to affect the people?" For a decade and a half, Bill anchored a daily half hour report on KYW Newsradio called "Reporters' Roundup." It was more in-depth than the average KYW newscast. About this, Bransome said: I don't wing it. I don't ask reporters questions I know they wouldn't be able to answer. We don't go too far afield and don't get off the subject. Bill saw himself as "a moderator who kept the flow going."
He started in broadcasting as a disc jockey and became a full-time newsman when Westinghouse reclaimed WRCV from NBC in 1965. At that time, they changed the call back to KYW and within months instituted an all-news format. About this Bill said: I had a contract with NBC, which owned WRCV, and I came with the station. Westinghouse honored my contract. This was an area, all-news, that was foreign to me, and I approached it with some trepidation, because I was working with people who had been actively involved in news for most of their careers.
William R. Bransome was born in New York City and grew up in Bradley Beach, NJ where he was graduated from Asbury Park High School. Serving in the European Theater, Bill was an infantryman (US Army 45th Infantry Division) during the Second World War and had won a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. In 1950, he was graduated from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. In that city, he received his first broadcasting job at WCHV Radio. Then he returned to his native area of northern New Jersey. He lived in Allenhurst and got a weekend gig at a nearby Asbury Park radio station, WJIX. There, he earned sixty cents an hour. He worked during the week at the betting window at Monmouth Park and sold encyclopedias on the side to provide for his wife and two children, a son and daughter. From time to time, he also picked up free-lance work in New York City at the Voice of America.
In 1952, he was granted an audition for WCAU radio, where he worked playing music until 1960. Broadcast Pioneers member Ed Harvey said that Bill had worked on several shows that he was involved with. Bill (in 1981) recalled that in the late fifties at WCAU radio, he and Ed pioneered talk radio. Bransome was well known for his celebrity phone interviews. Bill recalled: I remember Vic Damone talking to me on the air from a New York pay station when the operator interrupted us and asked, "Will you please signal when you're through?"
Bill once recalled: One of my first duties at WCAU-AM in 1952 was to introduce the News with Alan Scott, Monday through Friday at 6PM, followed by Sports with Bill Campbell, THIS I BELIEVE with Ed Murrow, and CBS News with Lowell Thomas.
While he was at WCAU, he worked with By Saam, Bill Campbell and Claude Haring on broadcasts of Eagles, Penn Football, and Big 5 basketball. He was also on the CBS-TV post game shows of NFL football.
Bill was let go from station WCAU and he became disillusioned with broadcasting in 1960. For awhile, he went back to working at the racetrack, this time at Garden State Park in Cherry Hill, NJ. TV legend John Facenda, a member of the Broadcast Pioneers, made a phone call to WRCV General Manager Dick Paisley and told him that Bill was available. WRCV, which was starting a big band format at that time, talked him into joining their air staff. He also hosted Saturday night radio remotes from Pottstown's Sunnybrook Ballroom with name bands including Count Basie, Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson. He was with the station ever since.
Bransome also served as the staff announcer for the syndicated Mike Douglas television show, which originated in Philadelphia for 15 years from KYW-TV and was well known for his mentoring of an entire generation of broadcasters including Andrea Mitchell, Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent for NBC News.
Broadcast Pioneers member Dick Paisley, General Manager at KYW for many years told us: Bill was the best all round announcer I have ever known and I've been in the business for 50 years. Broadcast Pioneers member Joe Earley, who was Mr. Rivets on Channel 3 stated: I've never met a more kind person than Bill Bransome.
Bill's wife of 53 years, Patsy, was singing to Bill when he breathed his last. The couple had three sons and four daughters. Bill's body was donated to science research. There was a memorial service for Bill on Thursday, June 27, 2002 at the St. John Newmann Church in Bryn Mawr, PA. Over 250 friends, relatives and members of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia attended.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Written and researched by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
© 2006, All Rights Reserved
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