Bill Merchant

RADIO PERSONALITY BILL MERCHANT , 62, DIES (Source- The Post Standard) (Syracuse, NY) - December 2, 1992  Radio personality Bill Merchant 's voice woke up thousands of Central New York residents over the years. It was a voice that was as recognizable as it was warm. He could twist his voice to bring life to the wacky characters he created, endearing characters such as Granny Groove. Bill Merchant 's voice is now silent. He died Monday at Veterans Administration Medical Center at the age of 62. "Bill was a guy you couldn't help but like from the beginning," WHEN-AM general manager Dick Carr said Tuesday. "I thought he was a very charming guy, and someone everyone on the staff liked. He was a pro." "He made people happy," WSYR morning disc jockey Bill Baker said Tuesday. "What more can you want? You say, ` Bill Merchant ,' and people smile. That's kind of neat." Mr. Merchant first came to Syracuse in 1970 from Grand Rapids, Mich., to work on radio station WFBL. It was at that station that he was teamed with Ted Downes, where the pair worked on strange characters and corny humor between the news, weather and music. The pair later worked on WSEN radio in Baldwinsville until Downes' death in 1984. "He and Ted Downes were as funny as anyone on radio," Bob Carolin said Tuesday. Carolin worked with Merchant when he came to WFBL and later tried to woo Merchant away from another station when Carolin was general manager at WRRB-FM. "He was a fun guy to work with," Carolin said. "And when he was in costume, he was Granny Groove. Merchant had a host of characters at his disposal, but the most memorable was Granny Groove, the definitive "dirty old lady." Not only did he use the character on radio, but he made appearances dressed as her. Barbara Gibbons, a reporter with WHEN radio, had fond memories of Mr. Merchant. "Everyone in radio knew Bill and Ted. They were a marvelous team. The best was Granny Groove. I would run into Bill in costume and it was the most amazing thing," she said. "He would give up his personality and he would be Granny. Granny would really live." Merchant would take vacation from the radio station each August to become the voice of the New York State Fair. For the past 20 years, his voice would go out over the fairgrounds on the public address system giving updates on the fair schedule. He also was the host at the fair's Miller Court, introducing most of the acts that performed there. He was born William J. Merchant in Grand Haven, Mich. He lived locally on Route 11A in Nedrow. Mr. Merchant was a former president of the North American Indian Club and an honorary member of the Six Nations Agricultural Society and the central New York Bowmen. A 32nd degree member of the Masonic Order, he was a member of Seneca River Lodge 160, F&AM, and Tigris Shrine Temple. He was an Army Air Corps veteran of World War II and a member of the Eastwood Post, American Legion. Mr. Merchant lived for many years with Charlotte Tarbell on the Onondaga Nation. Surviving are three daughters, Karyn Streeting of Spring Lake, Mich., Victoria Lewis of Syracuse and Suzanne Anderson of Rohnert Park, Calif.; two sons, William J. IX of Spring Lake and Thomas of Utica; six grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews. Services will be at 9 a.m. Thursday at Ballweg & Lunsford Funeral Home. Burial will be in Onondaga Nation Cemetery. Calling hours are 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. today at the funeral home, 4612 S. Salina St. Contributions may be made to the North American Indian Club. - A Syracuse Radio Retrospective
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