The above video from 2009 features Bill Shahan attempting to capture sound for a radio contest with co-workers at 96.1 The Wolf
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Veteran broadcasters in Charleston mourned the passing of a local radio icon this week. Bill Shahan, one of the best known radio personalities in the Kanawha Valley for more than two decades, died Thursday evening at the Hospice Unit of Thomas Memorial Hospital. Shahan battled esophageal cancer for nearly a year.
Those who knew Shahan remembered him fondly.
“Billy was a natural for this business,”said another longtime voice in Charleston Charlie Cooper. “There are some in this business who are fortunate enough to have that personal attitude, sunny disposition, never met a stranger quality, and that intensity that never fades. That’s how Billy was.”
Shahan, 55, started his radio career when he was hired as an intern at Charleston radio station V-100 in the early 80’s.
“I don’t even know how he got the job, but he was an intern and like all interns you give them the jobs nobody else wants to do,” said V-100 morning man Steve Bishop. “But the weird thing about Shahan was he wanted to do them. He thrived on things like that.”
Bishop recalled how the station’s news department used Shahan’s outgoing personality as a tool for their work.
“They’d send him out to get man on the street interviews which was perfect for him because he was such a people person,” Bishop recalled.
One of his first assignments was one of the region’s biggest stories when a Foodland grocery store exploded in Charleston. The event happened the week Shahan started his internship.
Shahan eventually advanced from intern to full time employee at V-100 and started his DJ career working overnights. During the mid-1980’s he was hired across town at the competing station Super 102. It was there the Shahan legend was born. He became the popular jock among teenagers taking their requests, playing their songs, and entertaining them with personal appearances or working as the DJ for their high school dance.
Around 2000, he returned to V-100, now under the management of West Virginia Radio Corporation,the parent company of Metronews. There he was able to continue to court the following he built in the 1980’s. Those loyal listeners who had grown up listening to Shahan and the popular music of their teen years, were now listening to new formats of music. Shahan was able to demonstrate his personality could transcend any genre of music. He worked for V-100 playing adult contemporary music, then WKAZ-FM where the format was oldies. Eventually he transitioned for a stint on the hip-hop station 98.7 The Beat, and eventually became the morning DJ on the company’s country station 96.1 The Wolf.
Shahan operated with high energy. Most who knew him describe the image of guy gripping a cup of coffee in one hand and something to say on the tip of his tongue, and he always had to say it mere inches from your face.
“He was a space invader,” laughed Bishop. “He had this way of grabbing you with one arm and hooking it around you so you couldn’t get away, he’d get right up in your face and say, ‘Hey Bish…’ and he’d start talking to you.”
“He was always up close in your face in the best possible way,” said Cooper. “When you talked to Billy he leaned in until you were practically nose to nose as if it was a great confidence he was sharing with you. That’s one of the things I loved about him.”
Beyond his work on the radio, Shahan may have been equally or better known as one of the most sought after DJ’s for weddings, dances, and private parties in the region. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of couples in Charleston and surrounding counties danced their first dance as a married couple to a song Shahan cued up.
“He was the man as far as that wedding stuff goes,” said Bishop. “Everybody loved him. The more people and the bigger the room, the more he thrived. He was in his element.”
Friends affectionately knew him as “Billy” or “Shay-Dog.” He recently became a grandfather and his grandson renamed him “G-Paw.”
He had recently been elected to the 2016 class of inductees into the West Virginia Broadcasting Hall of Fame. He’ll now be inducted posthumously next month during the induction ceremony at the Hall of Fame in Huntington.
Longtime West Virginia Radio Corporation Engineer Noel Richardson summed up Shahan’s passing as well as anyone could.
“We’ve lost a good one.”