Bill O’Shaughnessy: An Appreciation

Over the weekend, the quintessential local broadcaster William O’Shaughnessy passed away at 84.

I have known Bill O’Shaughnessy since I first founded Inside Radio.

He was a great and active supporter who has always subscribed and he has always been a great fan.

He’d call and shout “Hey Del Colliano” or “Professor” and engage me in one of three intellectual pursuits – local radio, the First Amendment and Bill O’Shaughnessy.  I wish you could have heard those calls over the decades.

When Cheryl and I got married 24 years ago, Bill attended our wedding in Philadelphia but he was also responsible for recommending the 12-piece society orchestra with three vocalists from New York who knocked them dead at the celebration.

But I paid the exorbitant fee – twice!  Once for my wedding and again when my daughter married, she begged daddy for the same orchestra Bill recommended which I then hired to fly in to Phoenix and bingo, the same magic.

We argued about politics but it never got nasty – oh, maybe I accused a smart guy of being beholden to dumb politicians, but how could I mean that – he knew.

And as hard as he tried, he could never make me like the NAB – I like and liked a lot of the dedicated people who work there, just not their misguided mission to suck up to the greedy bastards who ruined the radio business.

I can see Bill in heaven right now, saying “but wait, professor” – he never gave up trying to talk “sense” into me.

The first time I received a package from his two small local Westchester stations I was impressed with his money until I opened it to read a self-published “ratings” booklet with the names of local, national and prominent politicians waxing eloquent about his stations – pure genius.  No numbers.

I read on and saw my name in there with a quote from me – I made his self-published ratings book.

Actually, Bill was ahead of his time here as well because he was an ‘influencer’ before social media made it popular.

On the First Amendment, he was rock solid – if he was wrong, he erred on the side of everyone who disagreed which made him right in my book.

On local radio, he never put syndicated political talk on his station the way most owners do, he never admitted that AM was declining, he was a “towny” and proud of it in the elite surroundings of Westchester, NY. 

And he didn’t sell the stations.

Bill, you (I know you’re listening) were right about local radio – you made it work, lived it, breathed it, celebrated it while your competitors were selling out to the highest bidder.

I could go on, but there’s one thing I saved for last.

Bill – the master publicist – would snail mail the appreciations he wrote or delivered at the funerals of prominent people.

It doesn’t take a writer or a professor to appreciate his masterful use of words including descriptive adjectives, colorful words and action verbs.

He made the dead come alive again in all their glory if only for a few short minutes.

I know no equal to Bill’s ability to celebrate a life in words so it would be heresy to even try absent his many skills. 

So, I suggest everyone cancel all plans to leave the earth, brother Bill has left us for another local market higher up and there will be no one to stage a fitting farewell.

Instead stay here and fight for First Amendment rights and the viability of local radio both causes in which he devoted his life, passion and God-given gifts to keep his ‘tribe’ focused on what’s really important.

Jerry Del Colliano is a professor at NYU Steinhardt Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions Music Business Program.  His background includes Clinical Professor of Music Industry at the University of Southern California, TV, radio, program management, publishing and digital media.

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