They Called Him The Tall One

Dick Williams and me

The last time I saw Dick Williams, he was watering flowers outside his home here in Port Stanley. Derek and I were out for a walk in late summer and stopped to chat a while. He had lost a lot of weight since the last time we had seen him.

He called me from Key West at the end of October to help him out of a little jam. I ended up recording promos for his weekend show on AM980 – a show that gave his radio career a well-deserved renaissance in London. Dick Williams’ Solid Gold Rock n’ Roll was the brainchild of Dick’s son, DJ, also a radio guy. WIth a name like DJ., how could he not be? The show is a fun throwback to a time when radio hosts practically burst with personality and energy. Dick still had it.

Dick died on Wednesday here in Port. He and Mary had returned at the start of the year as Dick’s health failed. He’d been through several serious ailments in recent years. He was 83. 980’s Devon Peacock wrote a nice piece about Dick’s life and career HERE. It includes a couple of hilarious radio stories Dick liked to tell.

Dick and I hit it off when DJ brought him through the radio stations while I was on air at 1039 (now Country 104). We stayed in touch and emailed or talked on the phone. He and Mary had us over to sip lemonade and swap radio stories. What a memory he had. No one told stories like Dick Williams, or laughed as hard over them. We had to remind ourselves that he and Mary had stuff to do, because it was tempting to just stay in his presence, and ask for more.

He loved radio. Never fell out of love with it, like some of us have. Well, we fell out of love with the business of it, not radio itself. Dick was absolutely in love with being a DJ. He was involved with an online radio station called Southernmost Radio. Many of us did imaging for the station, those little spoken parts about the station’s attributes. “You’re listening to Southernmost Radio – your home for classic hits of the 70s and 80s!” Radio was never out of his mind or his life. And it was never a “glory days” thing. He wanted to get on the air and do more radio, not rest on what he had previously done.

Dick wrote a book a few years ago called A DJ’s Spin. Before it was published, he let me read a few chapters. He called and asked me about self-publishing and whether I thought his plan was a good idea. He embedded live links in the book so the reader can click and HEAR the radio moment he was writing about. A good idea? It was brilliant and literally brought the book to life.

Over the years, I asked for his advice about different things. He was an icon without a huge ego. I loved the guy, and Derek and I both offer our sympathy to his family and close friends. Derek was living in London when Dick had his radio heydey. I missed it, so I’m grateful I got to know him and hear tales told by that legendary voice.

The last airing of Dick’s radio show will be this weekend on AM980, 11-2 both days.

9 thoughts on “They Called Him The Tall One”

  1. What a lovely tribute Lisa, and I’m certain he thought as much of you, as you do him. Dick was most definitely a presence in my earliest radio listening years. Upon news of his passing, several of my friends reached out to see if I’d heard the news. All of us have sweet memories of transistor radios being played under our pillows at night to avoid parents hearing we weren’t studying or going to sleep. He was a personality with a high profile, not just tall of stature, but a predominant figure in the broadcasting world.

    Companies who wished attention from their customers would seek and negotiate to have him do their spots on air. Then there was the mighty crowd drawing “remotes”, when Dick would encourage you to hurry on down to Wickhams Eastown or Westown, two of the most successful home entertainment stores of the day. Buy a tv and take home a Wickham Wabbit, I can hear him saying that in my memory.

    One of my friends who chatted with me yesterday, grew up in south London,and when he was in either Grade 8 or 9, he recalls seeing Dick drive through his neighbourhood in his stunning corvette. What kid at that age wouldn’t be impressed by a gorgeous sports car driven by a local radio celebrity?

    One of my most favourite pictures of Dick, is one posted a few years ago of Dick with Peter Garland, Barry Smith and two others from their radio time after a shared lunch and catch up visit. Days after that, I stood in the visitation line at Jim Kernaghan’s funeral, and spoke with Bill as we waited in line. I said to him it was so heartwarming to see the picture of the “radio summit” and he thought that was the perfect description of the event.

    The magic of radio for me, will always be the unique relationship listeners form with the on air personalities who fill their days with music and commentary. We know them, even though we don’t, as they accompany large portions of our days and evenings, forming our soundtrack and providing us with time stamps throughout our lives.

    I’m sure over the next few days as his family and friends prepare for his final goodbye, they will hear a flood of memories from his grateful audience. he was definitely a trailblazer, and North Star for many entering the vocation. We will all miss him, and remember ‘the tall one’ fondly .

    1. Thanks for sharing those wonderful memories, Sarah. For anyone wondering, we’ve been told that there won’t be a funeral, per Dick’s wishes.

  2. I’d never met the man, but heard such lovely things about his generosity with advice and stories. My heart is heavy for those that knew him both on and off the air.
    I see that tomorrow would have been his next birthday.

  3. Aw, Lisa – I’m so very sorry for your and Derek’s loss, and for that of all who knew, listened to and loved him. He sounds like one gem of a guy. May he rest in peace.

  4. So nice, Lisa. I had the pleasure of working with Dick, over my 40 years working in London Radio. He was a regular commercial voice for me when I worked for CKSL/CIQM. Our recording sessions would always include a story from Dick and a lot of laughter. I ran into him recently at Wimpy’s Diner. I was sitting in the next booth, with my back to him. I had no idea he was there. I heard a familiar voice all of a sudden, and turned around to find the Tall One sitting back to back with me. We talked for several minutes, then I excused myself to let him finish his breakfast, which I had interrupted. I remember being happy that I had run into him, but sad at the same time… I felt, as I walked away, that I would probably not see him again.

    I just voiced the radio promo for the last airing of his show on 980 CFPL. It was the first time that I’ve had a lump in my throat, through an entire commercial read. I was honored to be given the chance to record it for him. Everyone, tune in this Saturday and Sunday 11-2 for the airing of his last show.

    1. I get it. Dave, thanks for sharing this. As someone who also got to record commercials with you, I can imagine some of the antics and fun that you guys got up to. I also understand about recording the promo. I was tickled that he asked me to do those promos for him when he couldn’t back in October. Plus it gave me an opportunity to be on the great AM 980 once again. All thanks to Dick.

  5. Lisa sad to hear about the passing of Dick Williams. I never heard him on the air but your beautiful tribute and like me his love of radio makes me want to hear some airchecks and read his book.

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