George Wilson Crowell
Born June 18, 1929, Katonah, NY

No man has ever programmed more No. 1 Top 40 radio stations.  And one of these
– WOKY in Milwaukee – literally became an icon in radio history.

Once George Wilson became the executive vice president and national program
director of Bartell Broadcasting, the five Bartell Top 40 stations (KCBQ, San Diego;
WOKY, Milwaukee; KSLQ, St. Louis; WDRQ, Detroit; and WMYQ, Miami)
dominated the 12-49 year-old ratings in each market.  KSLQ, WDRQ, and WMYQ
led the transition of Top 40 radio listeners from the AM dial to the FM dial, once a
haven for only classical music and jazz.

George Wilson explained to an audience at a radio meeting once that if you wanted
to be a good radio man, it helped to be a poor baseball player.  He graduated New
York Military Academy at Cornwall, NY, in 1946, then became a baseball player. 
After five or six years as an outfielder with the Philadelphia Phillies farm system
and a year or so of various sales jobs, he landed a job at WHAN in Charleston, SC,
doing sports and also working as a disc jockey.  Then he joined WMRB in
Greenville, SC, as a disc jockey.  This soon led to a job as a personality at KOIL in
Omaha.  Here, he rose to become program director.

This was just the beginning of the professional George Wilson, soon to become
renown as a man with a gift for picking a hit record, according to Bill Gavin, editor
and publisher of the Gavin Report.  And also for discovering and fostering great
radio talent.  Just two of these were Buzz Bennett, a program director who
developed many scientific techniques for programming, and Jack McCoy, one of
the first programmers to use the computer in music research.  Rochelle Staab
remembers McCoy visiting Beltsville to study diaries and formatting music play
clocks to maximize ARB quarter-hour listening.  McCoy also created “The Last
Contest,” a radio promotion that literally blew competitor radio stations out of the
book come ARB ratings time.  Mardi Nehrbass became his secretary and girl
Friday in Milwaukee and remained with him for many years.

Many other radio personalities and program directors also owe their careers to
George Wilson.  It was also Wilson’s interview in Billboard magazine that led to the
1977 book “This Business of Radio Programming” by Claude and Barbara Hall,
considered to be the best book on radio ever written.

In Philadelphia, he operated a small music publishing and record production firm. 
One of the tunes became a chart-topping record for a later music group.
Not everything has been perfect.  Although Wilson's consuming career separated
him from his family more often than desired, today George enjoys close contact
with his children – Leigh Crowell Pettus, Susan Lynn Crowell Polston; Debbie
Leigh Crowell Carroll (mother: Billie Cotton Crowell); Terry Crowell Moorhead,
George Crowell, stepson Andy Williamson (mother: Esther); Erin Crowell, Vince
Crowell, and Lauren Crowell (mother: Paula); and his grand children.  The
godfather of Terry and George is Jack Gale, Wilson’s early mentor in radio.  The
godfather of Vince, Erin, and Lauren is singer Bobby Vinton.

On the other hand, along the way Wilson discovered an angel – Jackie.  One of his
problems was drinking, typical for many radio men.  “She took me from the rehab
hospital,” Wilson said, “and I haven’t had a drink or gambled in 16 years through
her help.  She has been a phenomenal part of my life.”

In Los Angeles, KIQQ-FM radio was associated with payola.  “About a year after I
left KIQQ-FM, Treasury officials came to my home in Palm Springs.  They wanted
me to testify in a payola hearing.  I did and admitted to accepting payola.  After tax
problems were taken care of, so were any charges.”

His job was to put the radio station into profitability and this he did and the owners
benefited by making a fortune.  “KIQQ-FM in Los Angeles might have been my best
effort,” Wilson said.  “We – Outlet -- bought it from Drake-Chenault for about $8
million.  We paid it off in three and a half or four years.  When I thought we had
maxed out what we could do with Top 40 on the station, I helped set up a satellite
service and Tom Mosher, new general manger, made it work very well for a number
of years.  Outlet then sold it for more than $50 million.  A pretty fair return on
investment.”  His wife Paula was the program director and “she did an excellent

His only failure, something over which he still shakes his head, was WITH in
Baltimore, but here he pioneered by hiring a black radio personality on a Top 40
radio station.  “I had a great staff there.”  And Bartell lost an FM station in Florida
because of a shaky promotion; Wilson considered himself partially responsible
because he failed to keep a closer eye on what was going on there.

However, Bartell was literally a radio goldmine during Wilson’s tenure.  “WOKY was
important for many reasons,” Wilson said.  “Everyone thinks the vaulted so-called
Q format came from KCBQ in San Diego, one of Bartell’s radio stations.  But that
format and all of the ‘Q’ stations with the letter Q in their call letters originated from
WOKY.”  He said the format could be traced to Jack McCoy and Rochelle Staab,
who joined WOKY.  Rochelle went on to become one of the first female national
program directors in radio.
Recently, Wilson found and programed “,” a music service on the
Internet and iTunes that featured a blend of mostly honky tonk country tunes and
little “surprises.”  He died April 13, 2013, in a hospital in Albuquerque, NM, from
complications from cancer.


Chuck Blore
“If there was a Hall-of-Fame for radio programmers, George would be at the top. 
He helped to change the course, and the sound, of contemporary radio.  The
name, George Wilson, is synonymous with quality programming, high standards
and proud professionalism.  And, he's a nice guy.”
Bob Barry
“George was the best boss I ever radio or out. I had complete confidence
in his leadership.  He would come up with crazy ideas and I would think ‘he's out of
his mind’.  Then you would get a positive reaction from the listeners and
understand the concept.  Under George, I never worked...I got paid for having fun! 
Today's radio personalities will never know what ‘real radio’ was like.  Too bad.”
Kent Burkhart
“Sure do know George Wilson.  George is a leader.  He is loved by his employees. 
George took music chances...that is on new music and he and Rochelle Staab did
a pretty darned good job of finding hits.  When running his station or a group he
was REALLY running them.  No joke.  He brought enthusiasm to the station or
group.  He is a very positive person who hits homers and wins Super Bowls!”
George Wilson
“I’ve never thought of myself as a good program director, but I’ve always felt that I
did well at motivating people.  They made me look like a good program director.” –
“This Business of Radio Programming”
Bob Levinson, best-selling author
“…one of the best of the best….”
George Wilson
“Whatever I know about radio I learned from a man named Don Burden.  He’s just
the greatest.” – “This Business of Radio Programming”
Lee Baby Simms
"George Wilson!  I know George Wilson.  He is my friend.  I have known him for
fifty years.  Once or twice in one`s life, if one is lucky enough, someone enters it. 
And everything changes for the better.  George Wilson is such a person to me.”
George Wilson
“It’s an unfair situation for a program director, who’s responsible for building ratings
and, if he’s a good program director, he’s also worried about the profit-and-loss
picture of a radio station – the bottom line.  He gets the ratings and then, because
of the ratings, the sales manager is able to sell time on the radio station.  Because
of the sales, the general manager and the sales manager earn a commission,
which gives them added income.  I’ve always felt it rather unfair that a program
director couldn’t be involved in some kind of incentive program so that he could
participate in the extra earnings that come as a result of his good ratings.  In my
opinion, most program directors are very underpaid.” – “This Business of Radio
Bill Gavin
“Constantly picks hit records and makes his audience feel like a part of the radio


Honored as one of the nation’s five leading radio presidents by the National
Association of Broadcasters, annual convention, Chicago, 1970s
Extensive interview in Billboard magazine, 1970s
Chairman, International Radio Programming Forum, San Francisco 1977
Broadcasting Magazine profile (full page) Dec. 9, 1974
Emcee, dinner honoring Bill and Janet Gavin of the Gavin Report, Sept. 20, 1073
Featured in “This Business of Radio Programming,” 1977, by Claude and Barbara
Hall, published by Billboard


DJ WMRB, Greenville, SC, 1954-56
DJ then PD KOIL, Omaha, 1956-59
PD KTLN, Denver, 1959-60
PD WTMA, Charleston, SC1960-61
PD WZOO, Spartanburg, SC 1961-62
GM WMBR, Jacksonville, FL 1962-63
GM WSHO, New Orleans 1963-64
PD WIST, Charlotte, NC 1964-65
PD WITH AM/FM, Baltimore 1965-66
PD WHAT Philadelphia 1966-68
PD WOKY, Milwaukee 1968-72
Executive vice president and national programming director of Bartell Media
Executive vice president administration, Bartell Media 1974
Various consulting situations until 1980
GM KIQQ, Los Angeles, December 1979
GM KIVI, Albuquerque, 1992-98

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