July 10, 2004 Bill Randle, one of the most influential, star-making disc jockeys of the 1950s and 1960s and a Cleveland radio voice since 1949, died Friday. He was 81. He was pivotal in bringing Elvis Presley to the ears of America and helped launch and expand the careers of dozens of other stars, including Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin, Rosemary Clooney, Johnnie Ray and Fats Domino. "He helped shape popular music in America," said Bob Conrad, president of WCLV and WRMR, where Randle was the host of "The Big Show" on Sunday afternoons. "He knew more people in the entertainment business than anyone I've ever known." At the height of his popularity on WERE in the mid-1950s, Randle commanded a 54 percent share of the listening audience. Top jocks of today, such as Howard Stern, are No. 1 with a 12 percent share.
Bill Randle Biography: William McKinley Randle Jr. was born in
Detroit on March 14, 1923. His father worked for Dodge Motors, but when
jobs dried up during the Depression, the family sold eggs and bagels door
to door. "Billy was an entrepreneur from the day he was born," said
his sister Ruth Edwards. "He opened his own record store when he was 14.
He loved jazz. He ran jazz clubs like the Club Sudan. He brought Stan Kenton
and Dizzy Gillespie home for big family dinners. He could accomplish more in a
day than anyone I know." Randle's deep voice brought him early radio
work with small parts on such Detroit-based shows as "The Green Hornet" and "Hermit's
Cave." Spinning records and promoting Jazz shows in Detroit led to other freelance
gigs in Chicago, Cleveland and Akron. He met Annalee Africa at a Sarah Vaughan
show he was promoting in Detroit. They were married in 1948.