Nat Asch, over a stretch of years, held a variety of positions at WNEW and WNEW-FM that put him in the NY Giants broadcast booth, a GM’s corner office, the clutches of Klavan and Finch, and in an impressive assortment of Manhattan saloons where he did meet and greet the great. He posted a comment on “WBW VIS-A-VIS RNR,” which we intercepted and moved over here into this larger space. Nat wrote . . . .
William B. Williams, also known as Velvel B. Velvel, Guillermo B. Guillermo and half a dozen other non de plumes that he employed to identify himself during his extraordinarily successful daily turns on WNEW, was a master of what is known these days as the Great American Songbook. I need hardly remind one and all that he named Frank Sinatra “the chairman of the board.” (When Sinatra was informed that Willie had cancer, he invited Willie to his home in Palm Springs where Willie subsequently spent three weeks convalescing.) Willie was also a great friend and especially was that so when he introduced me (as well as WNEW’s audience) to Buddy Hackett. More about Buddy at another time.
Willie B, as he was most familiarly known, had a clearly defined sense both of humor and subtlety which was accompanied by a laugh that eventuated into a highly infectious cackle. You simply had to laugh when Willie cackled.
He had little patience with those artists who “covered” other artist’s musical “hits” and had a way of both playing their music and expressing his distaste for their propensity for what he felt was copying. These days it’s called “covering.” By you it’s ‘covering’ and by me it’s ‘covering.’ But by Willie it was plagiarism, larceny! There was, for example, (and he always took advantage of the opportunity to display his language facility by never saying “for example.” He always used the Spanish “por ejemplo.”) the time that a good friend of the station, Buddy Greco, had the hit, “Around the World.”
Within weeks, the singer Kaye Stevens produced her version of “Around the World” which, it turned out, was exactly the same as Greco’s; tempo, arrangement, exactly the same. (Greco, by the way, never forgave her.) Willie demonstrated his dissatisfaction with Steven’s record by saying at its conclusion, “nice try,” in an easily identified tone indicating displeasure.
I loved Willie B. He, Hackett and I spent a great deal of time together…mostly laughing because Buddy who, in my opinion owned the single most original comedy mind I had ever encountered, never stopped being hilarious and Willie B. loved to laugh.
They were the best days of my life.