We have a heavy heart as we announce that our Chairman of the Board, Bill "Wee Willie" Webber, passed away on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 3 am from a heart attack. He was the longest serving Chairman (five years) in the history of Broadcast Pioneers.
Bill was hospitalized a few days ago for tests and preparation for open heart surgery this coming week. Bill was 80, just a couple weeks short of his 81st birthday.
All services will be private for the family only. At the family's request, there will no public services for friends and colleagues. The Broadcast Pioneers will hold a Tribute to Bill Webber in the future at one of our luncheons. Details will be posted as soon as they are available.
In lieu of flowers, the family has suggested that donations be made to the Broadcast Pioneers Scholarship Fund, PO Box 2886, Bala Cynwyd, PA. 19004.
Shortly after Bill's death, Gerry Wilkinson, President of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia, an organization of 371 area broadcasters said:
Today, Philadelphia lost an icon, a legend in this world of communications that we call broadcasting. Bill Webber was a tower of a man. Not because of his physical height but because of his vast accomplishments in broadcasting. His 62-year career was truly amazing.
Today is a day for mourning but it's also a time to recall all the good times. Bill entertained countless generations of children on his kids programs on three different Delaware Valley channels, WFIL-TV, channel 6; WPHL-TV, channel 17 and WKBS-TV, channel 48. I know because I watched him on "Breakfast Time" when I was 8 years old.
He brought joy into the lives of radio listeners during his broadcasts on WIP Radio, WPEN Radio and today on WHAT Radio and WVLT Radio. Always an entertainer, the Bill Webber you heard on the air, was the real Bill Webber. He was exactly the same on air and off.
Bill used to tell the students at Broadcast Pioneers' Career Nights and Symposiums that the broadcaster loves his craft so much that he'll continue to ply his trade to his last breath. This was Bill's legacy. He loved broadcasting and the people of the Delaware Valley so much that he moved here and never left.
He did broadcast after broadcast. Bill enjoyed it as much as his listeners, viewers and untold number of fans. This is what made Bill real. He loved what he did, he did it well and Philadelphians loved him. He will one missed by everyone who ever heard a Bill Webber broadcast.
(Left to right) Johnny Carson and Bill Webber
Thursday, May 21, 1964
He was born on June 11, 1929 in Cuba and married his wife, Constance in 1958. They met while Bill was doing a morning show on WFIL-TV and Constance was visiting the station.
Bill's Bio from our Website!
(Left to right) Bill Webber and Elmo Wiffleweather
Breakfast Time on WFIL-TV
Bill Webber had a varied career. However, most of us will remember him for either being a television host of children's programming (on Channels 6, 17 and 48) or being a music disc jockey on WIP, WPEN and until the time of his death, WHAT Radio. But he was so much more. He filled in for Charlie O'Donnell as the announcer on "American Bandstand." He hosted a game show, "Tug-o-War" on Channel 3, co-hosted "A Walk Up Broad Street" on Channel 12 and did the Hess Fashion Shows. We have a clip of Bill doing his Channel 17 kids' show. You'll need the Real Player in order to view it.
Watch Wee Willie Webber on Channel 17!
Bill Webber and wife Constance
with son Bill, Jr. and daughter Wendy
No known video of the early days of Bill's show called "Breakfast Time" exists today. However, we do have a brief audio clip of signing off one of the shows. The quality is not the best, but it's all that we have.
Listen to Bill on Breakfast Time!
Bill was selected as our Person of the Year in 2006. On Friday evening, November 17, 2006, we held our annual banquet where we honored our Person of the Year. While the video is not of the best quality, we offer you a video clip from what Bill said that evening.
Watch Bill Webber as Person of the Year!
Listen to complete audio of what Bill said that evening!
One of Bill Webber's claims to fame was that he was the very last disc jockey on KYW Radio. In fact, it was he that introduced the beginning of KYW Newsradio. The date is September 21, 1965.
Click here for all the audio of the changeover!
Dick Clark and Bill Webber
on "American Bandstand"
While doing the kids show on WPHL-TV, Bill also did booth announcing from time to time. We have in our archives, a clip of Bill doing a Channel 17 station identification during July of 1970.
Listen to the ID!
On June 16, 2000, Fran Odyniec of our organization sat down and chatted with Bill Webber about his career. It was part of our webcast series entitled, "Pioneers in Broadcasting."
Listen with Real Audio!
Listen with the Windows Media Player!
A few years ago, Broadcast Pioneers member Ed Cunningham produced a television program called "Philly's Favorite TV Kids Hosts." Many of our members were interviewed for the show and our president (also our historian) Gerry Wilkinson was the historic consultant. WHYY-TV has on their website an excerpt of that show featuring Bill Webber.
Watch Bill Webber!
We are now starting to get reaction from our membership. We thought we would share some of their comments with you.
Member Allan Hotlen, former WIP Program Director said:
Most of those legendary WIP air personalities are gone: Tom Brown, Joe McCauley, Dick Clayton, Ken Garland, Nat Wright, Jim Tate and now Bill.
Somehow, Bill seemed like a guy who'd live forever. So much positive energy. He was so easy to work with. Such a PRO. He loved being on the air as much as anyone I've ever worked with.
Former Broadcast Pioneers President Pat Delsi said:
He was a gentle giant. We lost a great talent who was born to entertain and provide enjoyment for people on television and radio. I first met Bill a half century ago and we became more active during the last decade and a half with our association of the Broadcast Pioneers. He was always willing to help out and do whatever was needed to be done. He will be missed not only as a broadcaster but as a friend.
From Charlie Gracie:
For those of us living in the greater Philadelphia Metro-Region, this is a "loss in the family." Bill always reminded us as to what radio should be. It was like sharing time with personal friend. Anyone who listened-in, knew Bill loved what he did by his exuberance and enthusiasm. He could make the dullest commercial sound like a trip 'round the world and the deal of a lifetime. Bill knew he was blessed to work an in industry he loved for so many years and he made us, his listeners, feel so good as we basked in that radiance.
Barry Reisman of WNWR Radio and a member of our Board of Directors said:
What a sad day! Bill was a genuinely warm person who always had time to engage in conversation with everyone. I used to watch Wee Willie as a kid, and listened to him on WIP, WPEN, and most recently, WHAT and WVLT. He never lost his enthusiasm for being on the air, and he was one of the greatest on-air salesman I have ever heard. Anyone who advertised with him always got more than their money's worth, and anyone who listened to him heard what real personality radio should sound like.
On a personal note, one of my great joys of being a member of Broadcast Pioneers was to have had the privilege of knowing Bill personally. We would frequently talk about our mutual love of traveling and broadcasting, and we would often compare notes about various cruise ships and destinations. He will be greatly missed!
Former colleague from WIP Radio, Bob Russo said:
I worked with Bill at WIP from 1967-1970 & again in 1979-1982. He was always prepared & anxious to be on the air. He never seemed to have a down day. A true pro.
Member Pat Ciarrocchi, news anchor of CBS 3 said:
God bless you, "Wee Willie." The Good Lord must have needed a show host! From all the children you helped through Easter Seals, they send love as you travel home.
Member Michael Stein told us:
Bill was so perfect in the various broadcast roles that he took on. He was talented in so many areas, had a wonderful voice, a quick wit, a great sense of humor, and knew how to talk to kids as well as adults. I'm so lucky that I grew up in the Philadelphia area.
46 year-old Jeff Miller, an Urologist in Florida, who grew up in Philly, said:
I grew up with Wee Willie Webber on Channel 17. I remember in January of 1972 he showed us (kid viewers) how to change the "1" in 1971 to a "2" in case we made a mistake.
Les Waas, who is a member of our board and a former president of this organization said:
Two generations of Delaware Valley residents will forever remember the man they new as “Wee Willie” Webber. He seemed always to be everywhere: from radio and television to a speaker at major events. By my recollection, Bill Webber has never been “off” or “between lobs”— always “on”— radio stations including WIP, WRCV, WPEN, WHAT, WVLT, and KYW, plus TV channels 3, 6, 17, 48, and even a virtually unknown WEEU.
Bill Webber could go no place without kids clamoring for an autographed photo. Once, when he and I were in Tamaqua, PA, on business, we had a late lunch at a large restaurant. I remarked that it must be refreshing for him to be in a place where nobody would recognize him, such as here in upstate PA. The only other patrons were at a far corner table; a mother and her young son. Bill said that the boy would soon be visiting us. Sure enough, after getting an okay from his mother, over he came, slowly, then politely asked Bill for his a autograph. So much for Bill being unknown someplace.
Bill thrived on variety and was top-notch in every effort that he put forth. He was loaded with enthusiasm while projecting remarkable sincerity. As an announcer, he was a phenomenal salesperson. He was also a talented actor, able to portray a plethora of unusual voices.
Bill Webber was a “giant” in many ways, 6’5” tall, with a giant voice that could be heard almost in the next county--and a true giant in broadcasting.
Member John Hall of central Pennsylvania said:
I am very sad. It was my pleasure to meet Bill in December and get a chance to say hi at several of the Broadcast Pioneers luncheons to follow. I looked for him at the luncheon last week, and of course, he was not there. Now I know why.
Member Kevin DeLany said:
I grew up with Bill on radio and TV, as did anyone of several generations in Philadelphia. Later, I was proud to have worked briefly with Bill at The Station of the Stars, WPEN. He was a very dedicated and talented broadcaster, and we were all fortunate to have had him in our lives. He will be missed.
Robin Adelman whose father Leon Love is a member wrote:
He had a unique way about him on the radio, and he spoke of the old days and advertising in a nostalgic and meaningful way that made you believe and trust him. Also, when Ira saw him at a luncheon or function, he was always so friendly and warm. Anyhow, we were much saddened and shocked, and felt the need to write on behalf of our entire family.
Frank DeAngelo e-mailed:
As Psychic Valerie Morrison’s manager I get to go to the Broadcast Pioneers Luncheons from time to time to accompany her. What an honor to be in the midst of all my childhood heroes such as Pixanne, Captain and Mrs. Noah, Gene Crane and so many more. At one luncheon I found myself seated at the same table with yet another one of my heroes, Bill Webber.
Bill was in the middle of a lengthy conversation with everyone at his table, each a celebrity in there own right. Knowing that I was an outsider to this illustrious group, I merely sat and politely listened. After awhile, when Bill happened to glance at me for a moment, the child in me could no longer resist and I burst out with “Mr. Webber, when I was growing up I watched your show faithfully and you taught me to drink my milk.” With that Bill started speaking to me like I was his long lost friend. It is not often that one discovers that their praised childhood mentor, in reality, is even a greater person than that they had ever imagined, but that is Bill Webber; a gentleman, a truly genuine person and still, and now forever, my childhood hero.
Broadcast Pioneers member Tom Moran said:
Bill Webber, a true broadcast pioneer 'signed-off' on Sunday morning. Bill was also a 'cockeyed optimist.' He was the 'real deal,' Loved being 'on-the-air,' Hey,
he did the radio thing for what...60 years? Sure, he 'pioneered the tv', too, but Bill WAS radio. His listeners loved him and he returned their affection
by being himself.
It seemed to all who listened faithfully to Bill over the years, that he never left home without the ever-present 'brown bag' carrying lunch plus a 2-Litre bottle of Diet Pepsi - to make HIM feel good. "Wee" was always positive...never a discouraging word about any one or any thing. I was a co-worker (you should pardon the expression) and proud to be called his friend.
Member Jerry DelColliano said in his blog in part:
I worked with “Wee Willie” in Philadelphia at WIP and, as you would expect with his career longevity, he was the real deal – nice, engaged, loved his fans and loved his trade. Until his death, Bill Webber was working in Philly radio on smaller stations and the local PBS outlet in recent years but nonetheless at 80 he kept going.
If you want to be entertained by a person who is living in a local market where the personality is likely raising their family and dealing with everyday life the way you do, then there can never be a digital version of a radio personality.
My friend Dick Carr, the WIP General Manager who employed “Wee Willie” Webber when I was there as a young upstart as well as an entire lineup of legitimate radio personalities could teach radio CEOs a thing or two today.
Dick Carr (mentioned above) said:
I hired Webber to replace Ken Garland middays after McCauley died. It was a good move because of Webber's dedication and exposure (WFIL-TV) I remember how much fun we all had when Dick Clayton who followed Webber would kid Wee Willie. I particularly remember the day after Webber had done something the previous day on TV for Rittenhouse Square and children's programming.
So Clayton comes on the air the next day and bids Webber goodbye as he leaves the studio and then mythically describes Webber's exit. Here's Clayton in that foghorn voice of his.
"Ah yes, and there goes Wee Willie leaving the studio...bye bye Willie. Wave to Willie...look, he's waving back at us. And there are the squirrels and other little creatures following him through Rittenhouse Square...and look at the trees bowing as Willie walks by....and the little birds flying round him....bye bye Willie...see you again tomorrow at 10 on WIP.
Member Pearl Polto e-mailed:
It is a sad day when our childhood tv icon passes on. I watched him in my younger years, and then entertained people on the same station he was at. WHAT. What an honor . A sad day for all.
Rick Brancadora, General Manager of WIBG at the shore said:
Wee Willie Webber was a gentle giant. During my early years in Delaware Valley broadcasting at WTTM, Trenton, Wee Willie was one of the most lovable radio characters. His great smile, the antics and his heartfelt love for the industry he cared for, are tributes to yet another radio great. We at WIBBAGE FM are so thankful for the many years Willie shared his talents with the region. Willie, thanks for the great early memories. You are indeed one of a kind.\
James McCollum, a visitor to our website e-mailed:
Besides the Breakfast Time era, my favorite Wee days were his tenure at WIP alongside Dick Clayton, so Dick Carr's story had me LOL, for real! Dick Clayton would usually refer as being such a good friend with Webber that they were on a first name basis, and then would address Webber as Wee. Another double entendre for Clayton and the promise of solid broadcasting from Wee. There may not have been tons of LOL moments or groaning puns from Wee, but the listener never dashed to turn the dial. You knew you were in good hands for the next few hours.
Broadcast Pioneers member Lynne Barrett said:
I was working with him in the early days with great pleasure. Shared many happy times like when he got married and when his son was born. Those were the days ! ! Thanks for the Happy Memories ! ! All My best wishes to his family and friends, We'll all miss you Bill.
Laura Maurer, a visitor to our website e-mailed:
From 2008-2009, I was attempting to learn the craft of radio sales at WHAT. When we were told that Bill "Wee Willie" Webber would be joining the station, we were THRILLED! On his first day at the studio, I heard that voice booming down the hall and was immediately transported back to my early childhood. Wee Willie on the radio? Yes! Wee Willie on TV? Yes, all the time!! He sounded exactly like he did 45 years before!
Every day he came into the studio with joy in his heart and it always came through the speakers. He was lovely. He was kind. He was gifted and unselfishly shared himself with everyone who crossed his path. Thank you for celebrating his life and his work for the rest of us.
Susan A. Brenner, VP of Rosenbluth Travel said:
I worked with Bill for twelve years at Haddon Travel. I can relate to so many of the stories on your website. He always came into my office for a meeting and brought his brown bag with a tuna hoagie and his diet soda, and yes, he was the most positive, upbeat and kind man I have known.
Dr. Diego Castellanos, host of Puerto Rican Panorama on WPVI and a member of our Board of Directors said:
He was punctual, dependable, and a valuable asset to the group. Bill liked to say that broadcasting was not the type of job in which people look forward to retirement. He always said he never wanted to retire, instead he looked forward to each day behind the mike or in front of the camera.
He would call me "compadre" or "paisano" because we "were both Latinos,"
which was true. I was born in Puerto Rico and he was born in Cuba! The first time I asked him how come he was born in Havana, he gave me a wise
guy answer, "I wanted to be born close to my mother; and she happened to be
there at the time."