William J. Browne (1896-1951)
Browne, William J. (1896-1951)
Billy Browne was one of Canada's first Disc Jockeys.
Billy was born in Sunderland, England. He worked for a short time in the coal mines and played scores of children's parts on stage. While still a young boy, he moved to Toronto to reside with his aunt, where he sold newspapers, sang in old movie theatres and did circus acts.
At age 15 Billy joined the active militia as a drummer and bugler. He later went overseas, serving five years with the first contingent in the First World War, where he was decorated after twice being wounded. He organized entertainment for the troops in his spare time.
Billy returned to Canada in 1920 and began singing on station CJCG in Winnipeg in 1922. After the station closed down in 1923, he moved to CKCK Regina. Billy vacationed in Vancouver in 1928 and never returned, often jesting that the holiday was still continuing. He managed CKMO Vancouver for six years.
Billy Browne introduced British artists such as Gracie Fields to the Vancouver airwaves. From these broadcasts he collected hundreds of records for his Remember When series, heard Sunday nights on CJOR. Although not the largest music collection on the continent as many believed, it was unique in many ways, and included virtually every big hit recording since the turn of the century.
He hosted Billy Browne's Brevities between 1934 and 1944. From 1945 to 1951, he broadcast Breakfast with Browne on CJOR and was the chief getter-upper of the CKWX Sunrisers, which featured membership cards and a claimed 100,000 loyal listeners.
The grand old man of Canadian radio died in Vancouver at midnight October 15, 1951 at the age of 55.
Written by Gord Lansdell - May, 2003