by Michael R. Lee, Ph.D.
One of the heroes of our craft and one of the great gentlemen in all of radio is gone. He didn’t quit to become a television producer. He didn’t leave for computers or video games or programming. He didn’t have glamour shots or hype or much of an ego.
What he did have is a massive talent and the heart to match. His wit and savvy, his uncanny ears and superb musicianship made him a Production Director to be envied by all but himself.
Here was a man who played guitar, mouth harp, and keyboards. Here was a man who ennobled radio production with every inventive sweeper and every satirical promo he did. This man survived ownership changes, half-a-dozen General Managers, and about ten Program Directors while working at the same station in market number three for thirteen years. He was the rock of WCKG.
When he wasn’t enhancing some piece of production with his axe or his keyboard, he was often performing live with Chicago bands. When he wasn’t working late into the night, he was supporting friends and battling his demons.
Here was a guy who never, ever let his creative chops slide. He could be totally irreverent and equally sincere in the same afternoon. He didn’t take his cue from anyone. And why should he? This fellow was his own drummer. When others froze with theory and declared something impossible, he would just smile and get things done.
If you never had the chance to know this man, I feel sorry for you. He was everything that a legendary Production Director and totally class human being could be. His word was his bond; his pride was his work.
Radio is not long on sentimentality. Yesterday’s triumphs are shortly forgotten. Good people disappear from our industry, and there is no time or energy to find others.
One thing is for sure: We are all diminished by his absence. Bill Towery graced the stage of radio production like few people who ever lived. I am privileged to have been his friend, and I pray that he is where the buffalo roam.