Bill Heywood

Bill Heywood passed away Jan. 4, 2012, in Scottsdale, Ariz., after a celebrated, lengthy career in Valley radio. Bill's illustrious broadcast career spanned 50 years. His smooth, iconic voice nurtured and entertained generations of Arizonans. Bill held the rare distinction of hosting a top-rated show for five decades in one market and was subsequently inducted into the Broadcaster Hall of Fame in 2004.


Even with all the fame, Bill remained kind and humble, dedicating a large portion of his time to charitable causes. He was born William Embry Aug. 12, 1936, in Newton, Kan., an only child. With a mother who travelled extensively, Bill began living permanently with his grandparents by the age of 10. Grandma Hahn, a staunch Catholic matriarch, ensured a well-behaved upbringing by enrolling Bill as an altar boy.


Bill played basketball from an early age and also gravitated to the music he found on the radio and at the nearby Ray's Jukebox Restaurant. Bill attended Newton High School where he formed a rhythm and blues singing group known as the "Polka Dots," where he was the lead singer. The group made it through some auditions and eventually on to the network show, "Ted Mack's Amateur Hour." As high school concluded, Bill made "All-American" in basketball which gained him acceptance to a number of universities. One of the many scholarships offered him was to play basketball at the University of The Pacific (Calif.), which he chose "because they had a fine art department."


Though Bill was on a basketball scholarship, his real hero was Don Sherwood, who broadcast out of San Francisco. It was at this time that Bill and his first wife Shirley had their daughter, Kelly. Bill returned to Kansas after graduation, where he started his first radio job at KSOK in Ark City, Kan. He moved to Phoenix, Ariz., in 1961, and was offered a job at KPHO, beginning his long, successful broadcast career in Arizona. (He changed his name to Heywood in 1968.)


In the 1970s and 1980s, he was the morning man for KOY Radio. During that 14-year run, he was named the Billboard Magazine International Disc Jockey of the Year. He also lent his vocal talents to KTAR-AM and a morning program on KFYI-AM. Bill loved being an entertainer. He loved his audience more than his bosses. He was irreverent in a time when one didn't have to be cruel or crude. He was that soothing voice often called "Sweet William in the morning," that told you each day "is gonna be a good day … or at least a hoot."


"Bill Heywood is to Valley radio what Johnny Carson is to national TV," was an often used phrase to describe Heywood to Valley newcomers. While Bill's career had always been radio-based, his diversity was as strong as his talent, leading him to jobs as a spokesman for Mel Clayton Ford for a record-setting 30 years, the host of PBS specials, the voiceover for national infomercials, and the emcee for numerous local charity and business events.


Bill and his wife, Susan, founded the successful Scratch 'n' Sniff Awards, a non-profit organization that granted donations to pet therapy programs and awareness of animal abandonment. While never hanging up the microphone, Bill added real estate to his repertoire in 2003, partnering with the Cambridge Team and specializing in the luxury market, most recently the Montelucia development in Paradise Valley. 


Bill never forgot his roots and remained a small-town boy at heart, always courteous and concerned for others. He and Susan enjoyed their succession of small dogs over the years, funny movies, jazz and blues music, dinners out or ordered in: Susan was the first to say that she rarely cooked. Bill Heywood will be remembered as a consummate entertainer and a gentle, caring husband, father and friend. He had a sparkling wit that was never mean, always meant to bring a smile. 



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