The man known as “The Dean of Talk Radio” was captured on this rare recording made all the way back in 1961. The late Jerry Williams, probably the earliest controvercial talk show host in American radio, spent several years at what would be Top 40 pioneer station 1510 WMEX Boston.
Williams’ career actually began way back in 1946, in Bristol, Virginia at WCYB. By the time Williams began doing his brand of talk radio at WRKO in the 80s, he was a household name in Boston and around most of New England, much of that due to an eight-year run nights on WBZ 1030 from 1968 to 1976.
Jerry Williams had an abrasive manner on the air. He would frequently hang up on callers he didn’t like. Despite some crusades that he launched, such as getting a bill to repeal the Massachusetts seat belt law, new in the early 1980s (he managed to get the mandatory law repealed, only to have the next governor get a new seat belt law signed into law, with the only difference being that the new law made not wearing one a secondary offense, meaning that police can’t pull someone over for not wearing a seatbelt, but they can ticket you if you get pulled over for something else and you’re not wearing one… that’s still on the books today), and some other things. Despite his anti-big government feelings, Williams was solidly known as a Liberal, politically. And to show how times have changed, Williams’ brand of liberalism almost sounds conservative by today’s standards. He was very middle of the road.
As for WMEX, the station went Top 40 in 1957, and later that year, the station manager hired Jerry Williams to do a talk show at 10 pm. It was weekdays only, and the notable thing here isn’t that a Rock station had a talk show, its that the station allowed Williams to put callers on the AIR, something which just was not done in 1957. Consider that there was no 2 second delay unit available to bleep out anything, so Williams’ engineer would have to be very quick on the button if it sounded like a caller was going to say something bad.
Jerry Williams passed away in 2003. His legacy is and will forever be the one who did it first. Were it not for Jerry Williams, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and all who came after might never have been.
WMEX flipped from Top 40 to MOR in 1975, then obtained the broadcast rights to Red Sox Baseball. In 1978, the station went talk fulltime, with the Red Sox contract on the books… and changed call letters to WITS. Since then, the station has been WMRE (Standards), WSSH-AM (AC), WKKU (Country), WWZN (Sports)… and as of 2012, WUFC -Spanish.
One could hardly blame the various managers and owners trying one format after another. Your webmaster grew up a few dozen miles west of the 1510 transmitter sites… and can attest to the fact that between WKBW/WWKB Buffalo at 1520, and WTOP/WTWP Washington at 1500, the 1510 signal was barely listenable after dark.
One could easily conclude that both Jerry Williams and WMEX were Boston classics that have, for the most part, faded from the memories of most. But their legacies will live on here at this website. Where Classic Radio LIVES.