Burning Up the Air: Jerry Williams, Talk Radio, and the Life in Between (Hardcover)
At the peak of his influence on WRKO Radio in Boston in the mid-1980s, when he helped repeal a seatbelt law and ran a oneman wrecking crew against Michael Dukakis's presidential campaign, Jerry Williams was dubbed The Dean of Talk Radio. What few knew was that Jerry wasn't merely the Dean, he was also arguably the Inventor. It was in 1957 that the Brooklyn-born talk show host first put listeners on the air at the old WMEX in Boston-after primitive time-delay technology made it possible to bleep callers' naughty words. From then on, while guys named King and Limbaugh were cutting their teeth at the microphone, Williams set standards for the form. He stood up for civil rights when such talk could get you killed, questioned Vietnam long before Walter Cronkite, savaged Richard Nixon while forty-nine state were reelecting him, and put frank talk about sex on the air when Howard Stern was still a DJ. Today's kings of talk acknowledge their debt: Jerry Williams changed American broadcasting with the force of his personality . . . He showed me what one man and a microphone can do.-Phil Donahue Elman and Tolz, who produced Williams's shows at high points in his career, had total access to the Dean's files and memories. The result is an enlightening biography that gives readers an inside view of the glories of radio and the pitfalls of fame. As we dug through the clippings and the letters, the scrapbooks and the tapes, they write, we heard a message, and it was a surprise: it was not how significant his work was, not how important he was, not how much he accomplished . . . but, instead, how much more he could have done, how much greater he could have been, if only, if only, if only . . .