In Memoriam Bill Bragg
 
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IN MEMORIAM

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.


Bill Bragg

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.

 

Here's how 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!
Thanks Steve!

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...

Another Sunday 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 story.

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!

 

Sincerely, Big 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.


Fred Foy

 


Frank Bresee

 


Larry Stevens

 


Bob Hastings

 


Feel free to e-mail Big John at: glowingdial@wowway.com 
and/or
e-mail Steve at: surbie59@gmail.com 


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