Charles William "Bouncin' Bill" Baker
Jun 21st 1928 - Aug 12th 2005
Charles "Bouncin' Bill" Baker was Indiana's first true rock & roll disc jockey as well as a hilarious entertainer who was often bigger than the music itself. His exuberant personality and unique voice landed him a career in entertainment that won him many accolades. Despite his career honors, however, Bill was proudest of his accomplishments as a father.
1928 was a year of firsts. In the entertainment world, the movie industry celebrated the first Academy Awards and the moviegoers were enchanted with the first Mickey Mouse cartoon. While in the medical world, penicillin had just been discovered and an iron lung respirator was used for the first time at Children's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. It was also a year of firsts for Rev. Charles Wolfe Baker and his wife, Minerva T. (Taughinbaugh), of Tarentum, Pennsylvania. On June 21, 1928, they delighted in the birth of their only child, son Charles William, who brought great joy and happiness to the Baker household.
Bill, as he was called, spent his growing up years in Duquesne, Pennsylvania, where his father was a Lutheran minister and his mother was a schoolteacher. Bill was the first in the family not to follow the age-old tradition of being either a "preacher or teacher." It was obvious from a young age that Bill was going to be a great entertainer of some sort. His mother had a radio show called "Women in Changing Times" and Bill often accompanied her to the station for her show. From this, Bill got hooked on radio and by the age of 15, he got his first job as a weekend announcer at a local radio station.
In addition to his passion for radio, Bill also played the drums in high school in a band called "Jive Five" and in college. It was while in high school that Bill met his future wife, Betty Ann Culp, through her brother who played trombone in the band. As a matter of fact, they grew up in the same neighborhood just a few blocks away from each other. On Sundays, Bill would play his drums while his father held the service, and when Betty passed by, he would drum even louder, definitely getting her attention. Although the two young people went their separate ways for college - Betty in Pennsylvania and Bill in Florida, they kept in close touch, in fact, Bill asked Betty to marry him in a letter. Bill's father married the happy couple on Easter Sunday in 1952.
After marrying, the couple started a radio show together called "The Bill and Betty Show." Although Bill enjoyed this work, it was apparent his talent was beginning to lead him beyond Gettysburg. After graduating from the University of Miami in 1954, he and Betty moved to Kokomo, Indiana, where he hit the airwaves as deejay at WIOU. Soon, a better offer came along and Bill (along with his family) moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, to be the staff announcer working overnights at WIBC. Although impressed by his on-air talent and success, WIBC initially hired Bill because he had "a voice that could sell cars." Within three years, however, he had the top-rated show in the city and was the most popular morning drive deejay in Indiana's vast market. In 1969, Bill left WIBC to start Broadcast Productions of America, an audio and video production company that supplied the same to Indiana broadcasters for over 35 years. His great talent and expertise earned him the Indiana Federation of Advertising Agencies' Professionalism Award in 1989.
Bill's greatest achievements and accomplishments came while working at WIBC. In 1962, the Movie Mirror Magazine named him "America's Greatest Disc Jockey" while a year later, he had the privilege of announcing Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars. Then in 1964, Bill had the honor of announcing The Beatles as the grandstand show at the Indiana State Fair. It was said there was 17,000 screaming fans at the show that were being hushed by a State Trooper so the show could start; he was ultimately booed off stage. However, when Bouncin' Bill came on stage, a pin drop could be heard in the stands. Aside from his emceeing, Bill was also the primary host of the Westlake Hops, which featured many of the area's top bands and drew thousands of teens every week. As a member of the first "unofficial" 500 Festival Committee, Bill started the first "Night Before the 500" broadcast, which helped boost the race's prestige in the 60s and 70s. Moreover, his greatest honors included being the recipient of the prestigious Sagamore of the Wabash from the Governor of Indiana and, in 2004, being admitted to the Indiana Broadcasters' Hall of Fame.
Although Bill made his career out of announcing, it was apparent that his most important job in life was taking care of his four children: Art, Brad, Brian and Betsi. They always enjoyed listening to their "popular" father on the radio in the morning while getting ready for school. Bill's oldest son Art liked shadowing his father at the radio station whenever possible and even got to be a part of a radio commercial when he was younger. When it came to vacations, Bill loved taking his family back to his favorite place on earth, his hometown of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This town is a national landmark full of great history, which coincidentally Bill's family played a part of; his great great grandfather was the sheriff in Gettysburg during the Civil War. Bill also enjoyed camping and while his children were growing up, they took many themed trips, like visiting famous forts or caves, in their motor home, journeying from coast to coast twice.
Outside of radio, Bill only had one other hobby, which was woodworking. However, he was always interested in eating, particularly the Indiana State Fair pork chops. In fact, when the Fair came around each August, Bill looked forward to "twelve great days of eating." Bill was active in his community as a member of the Carmel United Methodist Church, the Murat Shrine, the Scottish Rite and a 50-year member of the Fishers Lodge No. 533, F.&A.M.
And, if you're wondering, the name "Bouncin' Bill" came from a friend who, watching Bill bounce on his throne playing drums, said, "There are thousands of Bill Bakers, but there'll be only one "Bouncin' Bill Baker." And he was right - there was only one!
Charles William "Bouncin' Bill" Baker, age 77, former WIBC-AM morning drive disc jockey and voice talent, passed away on Friday, August 12, 2005. Bill is survived by the memory of his late wife, Betty, as well as their four children: Art (Edna), Brad (Lisa), Brian (Julie), and Betsi (Robert). Other survivors include seven grandchildren: Charles, Andrew, Matt, Mitchel, Laurell, Colin and Simon, and his loving companion in his twilight years, Ruth Esther Koby. And, of course, the many, many memories we all share.
Those memories may be shared with the family during visitation on Monday, August 15, from 2 to 8 p.m. in the Leppert Life Story Funeral Home, Smith Carmel Chapel, 900 N. Rangeline Road, Carmel, IN. Funeral service will be on Tuesday, August 16, at 10 a.m. at the funeral home. Please visit Bill's personal memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you may share a memory, order flowers or make a memorial contributions to either the American Heart Association or Leukemia/Lymphoma Society.