Bill Kimble was born December 23rd, 1930 and was raised in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, the town that was also the scene for his first venture into "show biz." While in high school, Bill wrote, produced and directed his class show which turned out to be so professional, it toured Pennsylvania.
His career in show business, however, was temporarily suspended when he entered the United States Air Force on June 9th, 1949. Stationed in England at Burtonwood Air Force Base, Bill was the radio operator on the DC3, fondly known as the "Goonie Bird."
After discharge from the service in December 1952, Bill's passion for entertainment continued to flourish as he studied speech and drama while overseas, joining the Manchester University Drama Clinic in theatrical work and entertaining at British hospitals.
Returning to his hometown in Sunbury in 1954, Kimble started a sales career in life insurance. A brief period with the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in the mid-fifties was his springboard into radio. While attempting to sell a policy to a radio engineer, he auditioned and became a weekend announcer at WKOK, Sunbury, Pennsylvania. Soon after, he secured a full time job at WHLM, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania as a news reporter, also handling interviews, regular newscasts and on the scene live remotes. In 1956, Bill returned to WKOK as assistant Program Director and began a morning wake-up record show.
In 1959, Bill moved to Binghamton, New York for a position at WNBF-AM-FM-TV, part of what was then the Triangle Stations group which also owned WFIL AM-FM-TV here in Philadelphia. From 1956 to 1964, Bill was the morning man at WNBF, Binghamton, New York getting his listeners off to a flying start every morning at 6 AM and ranking # 1 in morning drive for five years.
During his time in Binghamton, Bill implemented "Bill's Best Bet," a weekly pick-hit-of-the-week based on advanced charts and similar material. Many of his chosen records found their way to the top of the station's weekly Fabulous 59 best seller charts.
Bill also specialized in record hops for the teenagers. While Dick Clark was hosting ABC's American Bandstand in Philadelphia, Bill was hosting a Bandstand like show. "TV Party Night," a half hour teen-age dance program at ABC's affiliate station in Binghamton. On one occasion, he was called in to fill in for an ailing Dick Clark at the Philadelphia station.
Bill Kimble as Barnacle Bill
Bill became a familiar figure around upstate New York, noted especially for his beard and was nicknamed "The Weird Beard" by his cohorts. In addition to radio, Bill also began working in local television (WNBF TV) where he produced and appeared as "Barnacle Bill" in a kid's TV program "Popeye and Barnacle Bill" with his puppet sidekick "Iggy." During the same time, he also produced a poetry program on FM radio.
On November 30th, 1964, Bill joined WEBR-AM in Buffalo, New York at the 6 to 10 AM spot. As the morning man at WEBR, Bill was nicknamed the "Sunshine Kid." While in Buffalo, Kimble was in charge of on-air promotions, wrote and produced a variety of commercial and promotional campaigns and made sales presentations to potential clients.
During this time he instituted the longest-running on-air promotion in Buffalo radio, "The Sound of the City." From 1968 to 1970, Bill was acting Program Director in addition to being the morning man. In 1971 to 1973 he went to the mid-day on-air show.
Kimble moved to Rochester, New York in 1973 and continued his career in radio at WHAM. From 1973 to 1977, Bill used his creativity free-lancing in commercial TV and radio.
In 1978, Bill relocated to the Midwest and became Program Director of WJOL-AM and WLLI-FM in Joliet, Illinois (home of the Blues Brothers). As PD, Kimble implemented a full service MOR format for WJOL with a demographic reach of 35+ and an adult contemporary format for WLLI with a demographic reach of 18+, and developed station promotional and sales campaigns. During this time Bill was also on-air for the afternoon drive time.
Throughout his career in radio, Bill was active in community involvement. In Joliet, this involved participation in career education programs at the junior high, high school and college levels.
Bill returned to his home state in 1982 and accepted a position as Program Manager at WARM Radio in Scranton, Pennsylvania. This position included the administrative duties of operations manager and program director with development of on-air product with a prime demographic target of 35+ adult contemporary format.
Bill finally settled in the Philadelphia area as the evening voice of WPEN "Station of the Stars" where he worked from 1984 to 1998. Bill's mellow, easy-going style and stories kept his listeners company Monday through Friday 6PM to midnight. Bill invited his listeners to allow him to "Kimbleize" them with his deep resonant voice. His pipe was his trademark as well as his welcoming "Hello anybody" at the start of his show to his closing "Bye you, where ever you are."
In a 1985 interview with Ruth Weisberg, Bill claimed that radio is a very visual, highly personal medium. "I take a one on one approach when I am on the air. Radio is totally dependent upon your imagination. I try to create through words, imagery that will complement the music and the mood. I actually feel a close relationship with our WPEN listeners; I can feel their presence."
Bill spent several hours prior to his show, choosing his material for his 6PM to midnight program. He stated "I not only know the music, but what key it's in, the energy level, tempo and even the opening lyric line, so that the music and the stories in-between, all tie together to make it a fun, relaxing evening."
During his time in Philadelphia, Bill also did modeling work for print, voice over commercials as well as appearing in two locally filmed movies. He was an extra in "Mannequin" and had a speaking role as "Sonny Fagan" in "Blades."
Bill retired from "the business" and reluctantly said good-bye to radio in 1998. Before long he was on to a new career driving a school bus in which he thrived, fueled by his love for children. He referred to his passengers as his precious cargo. The children loved their bus driver "Mr. Bill."
In his private life, Bill enjoyed spending time with family and friends, camping, nature walks, flying his single engine Cherokee airplane and sketching in pen and ink. He was well known for his beautifully detailed drawings of trees often penned on napkins and placemats. Many a friend and waitress are proud owners of his artwork.
Bill had a deep faith and love for God and his family. As with many families, his children were scattered over the globe from California to England. He had one dream that before he died, he hoped that he could have all his children together again. That dream came true for Bill during the week of Thanksgiving 2011.
Bill passed away at home on March 6th, 2012 at the age of 81. He was loved and is survived by his wife Valerie, daughters Leslie, Cindy and Lenlie, son Bill Jr, Sister Peggy, 11 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
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