Billy Lang, WIL Announcer, Came To Radio From The Stage
Billy Lang, senior announcer at WIL, began his professional career with Paul Whiteman in Denver, their home town. Lang was one of the original rhythm boys in Whiteman’s orchestra.
It was back in the pre-jazz age. The two young men stood at the crossroads. One of them, a fiddler in the local orchestra, later became “The King of Jazz.” The other went on the stage and then into radio as the “Radio Joy Boy.”
Billy Lang wanted to be an actor. His parents wanted him to study electrical engineering. They triumphed for a while, but Billy had his way later. He is glad now that he found out something about electricity because it has helped him in his studio work.
As early as 1918 the young man was giving a lot of his time to the Little Theatre movement in Denver and that year was awarded the trophy for the best work on the local stage.
After his appearance with Whiteman’s orchestra, he trouped around the country with the Bohemian Bandits, a musical organization, appearing in theatres and the Orpheum circuit.
In his theatrical trouping, Lang occasionally sang over the radio as a ballyhoo for the show. In this way he drifted from the stage to the field of radio and in 1929 came to St. Louis to join the staff of WIL, first as a singer an later as an announcer. In the three years he has been attached to the popular station, Billy has developed a radio personality known wherever WIL broadcasts are heard.
(Originally published in Radio & Entertainment 5/1/1932.)
Billy Lang, “six feet of personality,” came to radio from the stage. In fact one might say Billy grew up on the stage, starting at an early age, as call-boy in a Denver theater.
During his early and interesting stage and back stage career Billy “worked” such shows – with the original New York companies – as “Ben Hur,” “Within the Law,” “The Merry Widow,” “The Firefly,” “Peter Pan” with Maude Adams, “The Return of Peter Grimm,” and the original “Bird of Paradise.”
Billy recalls one of the outstanding shows of that time, the name of the production is forgotten, but the staging, costuming and effects never, because of the ingenious desert sand storm which was represented by the use of an airplane propeller and powdered cork.
Billy’s opportunity to become the “actor” came with Carter, “The Great” – master magician, who at that time was listed as one of the big time illusionists. Billy’s was an important part – he carried a spear – but it started him on a long and varied career behind the footlights and took him to nearly every state in the Union.
We learned that one of his first vocal ventures with a vocal trio, which was made up of Harry Barnes, who is known as one of the original Paul Whiteman Rhythm Boys, and Al Roberts, who is now master of ceremonies in a large Los Angeles theatre.
Billy worked with the now famous King of Jazz, who was at that time just “Paul,” a struggling fiddle player at the Broadway Theatre in Denver. Incidentally Billy received his vocal training from Professor Whiteman, Paul’s dad, in whose choir Billy sang.
The dynamic friendly voice of Billy Lang, the announcer, was acquired through training in the Little Theatre. Billy was an active member, at one time holding the position of assistant director and production manager; in 1920 he represented the group, having the distinction of producing the winning play of the Little Theatre Tournament and being chosen the best non-professional male actor in the entire contest. This brought Billy his opportunity in drama, he next played two successful seasons with a David Belasco show company on the west coast. This was followed by other successes, and from drama, Lang turned his attention to vaudeville and toured with a band. Radio attracted his attention and his clever songs and bright patter won for him the title of “Radio Joy Boy.” It was in the capacity of entertainer that Billy came to Radio Station WIL. His friendly voice soon won the radio fans and Billy was made Junior Announcer. Later he earned the title of Senior Announcer, which he still holds.
Not only does he announce but every afternoon this “Radio Joy Boy” sings the same dear old love songs that made Billy Lang the senior announcer at Station WIL. He is accompanied by Jimmie Masters.
(Originally published in Radio and Entertainment 2/6/1932).