"The Weird Beard" Bill Vermillion
1936-2008

 


William Vermillion Jr., 71, ruled local airwaves as 'Weird Beard'
Orlando Sentinel, The (FL) - May 27, 2008
Author:
Rich McKay, Sentinel Staff Writer

Before the homogenization of radio, it was the voice of "The Weird Beard" who ruled Orlando's airwaves with rapid-fire banter, free-style record selections and a zaniness that has all but been sterilized out of existence. The voice of Weird Beard, a '60s- and '70s-era disc jockey for WLOF AM -- fell silent a little after 1 p.m. Saturday when he succumbed to a long fight with intestinal cancer, his son said. Vermillion was 71. "The chemotherapy had just worn him out," his son, William Fred Vermillion, said Monday from his Orlando home where a number of longtime friends and well-wishers gathered. There was no formal announcement and no funeral or service is planned, the younger Vermillion said, following his fathers wishes. But news of the elder Vermillion's passing spread across Internet websites devoted to radio days of yesteryear. Steve Rutledge, whose late father John once owned the Orlando station, said that Vermillion should be remembered not only for his on-air presence, which was a must-listen for young people wanting the Beatles and later Jimi Hendrix, but for his uncanny ability to pick tomorrows top songs before anyone else. "He was known as 'B-side Bill' because he'd listen to the flip side of a record, not just the A-side that the record producers were promoting," said Rutledge, now of Memphis, Tenn. "He was truly a legend, nationally known, everybody and his brother knew Weird Beard," he said. Former colleague Lee Arnold, now of Milwaukee, said Vermillion is credited for putting Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" on the top-40 lists of the country back in 1967. After leaving the station before it was sold and automated in 1982, Vermillion became a recording engineer for BeeJay Recording Studio where he helped make albums for bands such as Molly Hatchet, Blackfoot and Judas Priest. In addition to his son, the elder Vermillion is survived by his wife Bonnie Vermillion of Winter Park; his brother Robert J. Vermillion of Great Falls, Mont.; daughter-in-law Brenda Vermillion; grandson Christopher Vermillion; and granddaughter Anastajia Williams.

 Tribute From Pat Thompson (Pat O'Day)
via Dick Camnitz (Dick Shane)

           Bill "Weird Beard" Vermillion       
Throughout his tenure; decade long,
What other person, place or song
Was more respected and revered
Than Channel 95's Weird Beard?

If not for brilliance, wit or guile
Then for his warm, cherubic smile
And love for all was Weird Beard known
In person and on microphone

And when that last hit list is out
Bill Vermillion's name no doubt
Will stand beside his likeness bold
Above the label "Solid Gold."


Johnny Gee, Rock Robinson and Bill

Bill Vermillion

"The Weird Beard "

"Happiness Is 
Bill Vermillion" 

Weird Beard 
Showtime 1

Weird Beard 
Showtime 2

"It's Bill Vermillion doin' his thing"

Bill Vermillion Shout

sound files courtesy of Dennis Snyder
"The Weird Beard"  "The Weird Beard" 

Bill Vermillion

Bill Vermillion
WKIS Happy Days Weekend -1983 courtesy of Dick Camnitz

Courtesy of Bob Padilla


See what others have to say about Bill

BLOG! by JM Dobies           Lee Arnold's Blog        
Orlando Sentinel.com    worj.com Message Board

Zaida Zoller of Alive and Rockin' Productions
By now, you may have heard the sad news of the passing of Bill Vermillion. He was an Orlando legend and one heck of a great guy.  If you came to the 2006 Reunion Concert put on by Alive & Rockin Productions, you had the rare and wonderful blessing of seeing Bill on stage greeting all his long time fans. As a young girl, I fondly recall incessantly calling WLOF radio and talking with "the Weird Beard" (pretty much bugging the hell out of him) and he was always so nice. Many years later when I went to work for Bee Jay Recording Studio, I was very excited to learn that Bill was the chief engineer. My first day on the job I went into the control room and said "I don't know if you'll remember me" and before I could get the words out Bill shouted my name "Zaida Zoller" just the way he did when I was a kid on the radio. It was so cool.  Memories I will never forget.  And I'm sure many of you have other fond memories of Bill. He will be sorely missed. Remembering Bill fondly, Zaida


Lon Wagner Remembers Bill Vermillion
Bill Vermillion "The Weird Beard" is a legend in radio - Orlando and well beyond. He was the chief of the radio gods back in the 1960s WLOF days. In addition to being a wonderfully entertaining DJ, he set the pace with his skills in programming and music at the station. Bill was most gracious to me as a visitor there. He was my "industry expert consultant" for a senior paper, and a few years later gave me some excellent, sage advice on "how to learn audio recording". A little after that, Bill went full on into music recording at Bee Jay Recording Studios, first at the little place on Silver Star Road, then building and engineering at the nice new location over by Lee Road. Sometime around the mid 1970s, I had the pleasure of working alongside him when he came out to Magnetix in Winter Garden to do some mastering work for a special client. Bill's immense knowledge and accomplishments are eclipsed only by his wonderful warm soul and slightly mischievous smile.

-- Lon Wagner


Heart and soul of rock 'n' roll
BILL VERMILLION REIGNED OVER ORLANDO RADIO

Bill Bauman    My Word Orlando Sentinel 5-29-08

When I was 16, growing up in Orlando, my best friend's older brother was a weekend jock at WLOF AM. He was one of the 12 or so guys who disc-jockeyed under the name of "Peter Jay." The station manager said, "No one will ever remember the name of a weekend disc jockey, so they will all be named Peter Jay." It seemed to work, as did almost everything at WLOF. As rock 'n' roll exploded in America, WLOF was on point in Orlando. Years later, when I became the news director of WLOF, we had 40 percent of the radio listening audience in all the time slots, every day. It didn't seem like a big deal. It was expected, and delivered, year after year. And this was an AM radio station. The station manager married cutting-edge rock 'n' roll with aggressive local news coverage. No one thought it would work. But if we slipped below a "40 share," we had emergency staff meetings. I felt like I was walking through a part of history. WLOF had been Orlando's No. 1 radio station for a generation -- my generation. Even now, I can't describe what a thrill it was to be the news director there. In the 1960s, when I was a kid, Bill Vermillion ruled the airwaves of WLOF from 6 to 10 p.m., and he was the cult hero who brought us everything new in rock 'n' roll. The "Weird Beard" was the first guy in Orlando to play "A Hard Day's Night" on the  radio. He was the first to play the Rolling Stones in Orlando, the first guy to play the Dave Clark Five, the Who, the Young Rascals, Paul Revere and the Raiders. He was not only the king of radio in Orlando. He was the king of rock 'n' roll. Bill Vermillion, who died Saturday at the age of 71, brought the beginnings of rock 'n' roll into the cars and homes of Central Florida. He spotted the hits, heard them in his ear, long before the nationally syndicated guys knew what was hot. As a teenager, I was lucky enough to meet him. My best friend's older brother, one of the Peter Jays, often took us to WLOF to hang out. Bill did his show every night from a quiet sanctuary that was his studio. Honestly, it looked and felt like church. He let us put his records away after he played them. He let us answer the phones. (Girls loved to call the radio station!) He  was encouraging, and he was kind. I was stunned to discover that this huge radio god was a regular guy. I didn't know it at the time, but in hindsight, he was one of my role models. He helped me fall in love with a medium that dominated the culture of my youth. I often wonder: Is it even possible for someone like Bill Vermillion to exist in today's media world?


Radio -TV programming
PERSONALITY PROFILE - BILLBOARD
January 13, 1968

Long Playlist WLOF's Big Gun
ORLANDO, Fla. - A long playlist is the major weapon used by WLOF here In itís continuing battle to remain on top of the audience ratings.
Music director Bill Vermillion plays from 10 to 15 new records a week. The station has a playlist of 65 records. "But the way the format works, we give more emphasis to strong new records each week. We back off on a record going up the charts strong. Though we do play the top 10 on the list more, we do play all of the records on our list." He said he felt the station could get more audience by emphasizing the top and bottom records on the list.
It works. The station is No. I in pulse, he said. The only station that comes close is an easy listening format operation that tops WLOF in the morning drive slot.
Vermillion, who handles a 2-6 p.m. air slot on the station, has developed quite a reputation in the past several months for helping to break records. As a result, although the market is about 73d in size, according to Standard Rate and Data, Vermillion gets excellent record service from the companies.
"We do things that most people don't," Vermillion said. "For example, we believe in being a leader . . . in putting a record onto the national charts rather than playing it after it gets there. We pick a record because it's good, not because it's a hit somewhere else."
One of the records that the station was playing last week was "Sunshine of Your Love" by the Cream. "We played all of the Cream. They're a hot group here. We seem to run ahead of the country, as a rule. Jimi Hendrix Experience's 'Foxy Lady'. is on the chart now." He felt this record would eventually make other playlists across the nation.
Vermillion has been with WLOF more than five and a half years. Prior to that, he was with KXLY in Spokane, Wash., for a year. He'd gone to KXLY from KTFI in Twin Falls, Idaho, where he'd spent three years. Prior to that, he'd been a radio-TV student at the University of Idaho.
Actually, WLOF cannot influence a lot. of sales of any given record - the market is not large enough to matter much in the total accounting of a given hit record. Yet, its power at influencing other radio stations - and thus the national picture is immense. One record, in particular, had about run its course without becoming a happening. It was "Dirty Water" by the Standells. The record was three months old when WLOF went on it. By May of 1966, the record was in the top 10 of the national trade charts.
One reason why the radio industry, as well as the record industry, stays aware of what is going on at WLOF is that Vermillion prints a weekly play-list. The list of top 40 tunes, plus the extras, is sent to 110 people. A different list is sent to 150 radio stations.
"To see the list, you might say that you don't recognize half of the songs. But "Itchycco Park" by the Small Faces was No.1 on our list last October and the first week of November. Only one or two stations were on the record when we were. I felt if it was that big in England, why not here?
"The whole philosophy of the station is not to break records . . . but to play the
best music we can. As a consequence, we break a lot of records."


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