This is a new
page I have just made up. There is not enough room at the top of our page
to put "memorials" for all the people we've lost, so I've decided to,
with the exception of
Bill Bragg, put them all here.
It was Wednesday,
July 3, 2019 at around 9:00 am when I read the Facebook post from my good friend
Jerry Haendiges informing me that our good friend Bill Bragg, founder of
Yesterday USA Radio had passed away. I was immediately devastated and brought to
tears, which I tried to control as I was in a public place. The first thing I
did was reply to Jerry's post with my immediate thoughts. I also copied my post
to The Glowing Dial's Facebook page as well as our Blog. I wanted to get home so
I could make the banner for the top of the page and also make up this page. I'll
be posting other memorials here soon like Frank Bresee, Fred Foy and Larry
Stevens amongst others.
everything started with our friendship with Bill Bragg...
Back in 1996, my
co-host Steve "Archive" Urbaniak had purchased a large 6 foot C-Band
satellite dish. Naturally, being a gadget nut, I had to drive over one hot
summer night after 9pm to see it. Well, I saw it and I had to have one. Not too
long after that, I did indeed get one. Fast forward to an evening when I was
surfing through the transponders (channels) to see what jewels I could find on
the many audio sub-carriers there were for each channel. After some searching, I
found a station that was playing old time radio! I was ecstatic! They were
playing "The Hall Of Fantasy" story entitled "The Night The Fog
Came". After the show was over, this fellow came on and said his name was
Bill Bragg and that he was broadcasting from Richardson, Texas and that the
station name was Yesterday USA Radio. I listened with anticipation! He said that
the station was listener supported and then mentioned a "Family
Reunion" that was happening soon, right there at his home in Richardson,
Texas. Of course, by "Family Reunion" he meant the YUSA family of
supporters that help him and the station keep on keepin' on. He then gave out a
phone number and invited listeners to call in. I did! I spoke to him for a while
and ended our conversation by telling him that I intended to send some support
to the station and that if I was able, I'd love to attend this "Family
Reunion" he spoke of.
I told Steve
about this and that started the tradition of him coming over to my place and
listening to Bill's Sunday Night Live Show. Sometimes we'd even call in if we
had something to add. Then one night Bill started talking about the volunteer
dj's and the 16 program tapes that are switched out every 2 weeks. Bill
mentioned that sometimes a "fill-in" tape had to be used if, for some
reason, a dj couldn't get their tape to Bill in time for broadcast. Steve and I
talked about this, then made a date to get out my DJ equipment and make up some
"fill-in" shows for Bill. I believe the first of those ended up being
our audition tape, but I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here. Anyway, Steve and
I made up about 13 shows ranging from 30 to 60 to 90 minutes in length and sent
them to Bill, who to our surprise, played them! It was great to hear ourselves
on satellite radio and the internet!
I must now jump
back in time even further and relate how I got into old time radio and how the
dream I had then finally came true when I met up with Bill Bragg. I was about 11
or 12 when, at school in what they called "The Learning Lab", I found
an album with a portion of "The Mercury Theatre On The Air" production
of "The War Of The Worlds". I was floored! I thought it was pure
genius to do it as realistic news bulletins. Truly an outside the box approach,
although I would not learn this term until later in my life. I convinced the
teacher to let me take the album home and commit it to tape. No other students
could do this. Thanks, Mrs. Gonser! Anyway, that started me wanting to collect
all the shows I could. I went to my local libraries and checked out tapes which
I took home and copied. My collection at first fit into a shoe box! Over the
years, it has grown a bit (a bit he says). I now have a closet lined with racks
of tapes and even more on hard drives. I call the collection The Glowing Dial
Archives. Steve even contributed to it by showing up at my place one day with
nearly 70 or 80 albums with old time radio shows on them!
Well, for several
years, some nights, I would sit in my room and pretend I had a radio station
where I played these great old shows, all the time wishing it would come true
one day. Well, after I met the wonderful Bill Bragg, it did come true. Now back
to where I left off...
Steve and I made
plans to go to the 1996 Yesterday USA Family Reunion in Richardson, Texas. It
was a long drive to be sure but I remember we got there Sunday evening when the
Live show was already in progress. Bill was expecting us, having already played
some of our fill-in shows. So as we knocked at the door, I heard him say,
"is that Big John and Steve"? He came to the door, all 6' 7" of
him and immediately gave us both what he called "bear hugs". There we
were, we finally had met in person. We went in and met some of the others that
were there, John Redman, Cliff Caplinger, Leonard Martinez, Mike Handy and
others. Thus started a wonderful friendship with Bill and the others. Even
though we were geographically separated by long distances, we were still
friends. I only wish I could have gotten to see them all more often, especially
Bill. But health problems and financial problems have plagued me for some time
and a trip like that just wasn't feasible. We had a great time that week at the
Reunion. We even participated in the YUSA Auction and helped out where we could.
We even purchased a few items. I remember the night we had to leave to head
home. We were saying our goodbyes to Bill and getting, you guessed it, more bear
hugs. Bill told us to have a safe trip home and that "good things are going
to happen for you guys".
He was right...
night at my place and Steve and I are listening to the Sunday Live Show. Bill
announces that there is an open spot on the schedule and that they are looking
for a volunteer DJ (or DJ's) to fill the spot with a show. Steve and I
immediately sent in our 90 minute fill-in show, which as I said earlier, became
our audition tape. Then there was a two week period where Bill played all the
tapes that were sent in by folks vying for the free spot. There must have been
10 shows in all. Steve and I listened to as many as we could. Then came the
night where, during the Sunday Live Show, all the supporters voted for the
winner. It was like listening to presidential returns. Then Bill announced they
had a winner ... and it was Steve and myself! We were overjoyed and immediately
called in to say thank you to all who voted for us. I have that Live Show on a
Betamax videotape (I hope). I lost a lot of tapes when my basement flooded in
2014. I hope this wasn't one of the casualties. I do not have a working Beta
machine now but if I can find the tape, I can get it transferred to a wav file
by a local video store. If that happens, I'll post it here along with this
Steve and I did
about 88 shows for Yesterday USA but had to stop due to an illness of mine which
was accompanied by a very painful divorce. I was forced to give up our spot on
YUSA. I still remember the somber phone call I made to Bill that day. He said
he'd "leave the door open" for us and that we were still the best of
friends. That meant the world to me and still does. Some years later, after I
had gotten back on my feet and had given The Glowing Dial a re-birth of sorts on
my web page as well as on Jerry Haendiges' Olde Tyme Radio Network and Corey
Harker's Stay Tuned America, Bill called me and asked if I wanted to come back.
Sadly I had to say I could not because it would mean being exclusive to YUSA and
I didn't want to just say goodbye to Jerry and Corey after all they had been
doing for me. Bill understood this and good friends we remained. Again, I only
wish I could have made it down to see him a few times in the intervening years,
but it was not to be.
Of course The
Glowing Dial is still going strong, despite a few long hiatuses due to my
ongoing health problems. Things like Congestive Heart Failure (with a heart
attack thrown in for bad measure), Pulmonary Hypertension, Diabetes, Restless
Limb Syndrome and Bi-Polar Disorder. A full basket if I say so myself. But Steve
and I keep saying on our shows to this day that we are eternally grateful to
Bill Bragg for giving us that chance to be heard on satellite radio across North
America and the internet around the world! Bill, you made my childhood dream of
playing old time radio on an actual radio station come true!
Steve and I will
miss you very much my friend. I hope you're in a better place right now. Thank
you for being a special part of our lives! 73's and we'll see you on the radio!
John Matthews and Steve "Archive" Urbaniak.
PS: I borrowed
some pictures of Bill from the internet as I had only a few.
Hope this is acceptable in this case.