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Appeared on radio showBill Owen (Feb 1. 1931 - )

Eyes: blue
Hair: black
Weight: 180 lbs.
Length: 6 feet


(1) Rosemary Bobo (
October 1, 1955 -
      Children: Carolyn (singer-musician-songwriter/artist/horse-trainer),
 (Sep 9. 1956 - Jul 18. 2014)
                      Richard (banking executive)
                      Lisa (horse-trainer, owner of a horse stable and
                      riding academy)

Bill Owen was born on February 1. 1931 as William H. Owen in Grand Forks.  His father Owen T. Owen (born in Milbank, South Dakota on September 15, 1890) was an outstanding track star at the University of North Dakota where he graduated from law school. He held many public offices including state tax commissioner and chairman of the state's Workman's Compensation bureau. Bill's mother Else Rohde Owen (born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on September 12, 1893) was the daughter of the founder of Congress Candy Company, a major manufacturer and distributor of candy. She was prominent in social activities and education.

In Grand Forks he
attended Wilder Elementary School. He and his brothers used to sell the Herald on Grand Forks city streets. "I have a cute story about that," Owen said. "When I was a newsboy, I was set up across from the Dacotah hotel selling newspapers, filling in that day for my brother. That was a thrill for me; in those days, we used to scream out the headline, and say "in the Grand Forks Herald, read all about it." That day, I was yelling it out when a dentist from across the street came over and said "I'll take them all." I had about 10 copies, and I asked if he was getting them for someone else. He said, 'No. I want to shut you up, you're driving me crazy.' "

In 1942 as seventh grader the family moved to Bismarck, North Dakota. In 1948 as senior at the Bismarck high school he was the winner of the local Elks Foundation Scholarship contest.

Bill participated in football, baseball, basketball, and track as a young man and became an avid fisherman, water and snow skier, and licensed pilot and one day achieved his dream of parachuting from an airplane. He has said his toughest accomplishment was learning to ride a unicycle.

He was a good enough athlete that he played on the junior varsity football team at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles. He said he still has “a sore finger” from tackling future New York Giants Football Hall of Fame inductee Frank Gifford.  Bill said he played freshman basketball for the Trojans, wearing Bill Sharman’s former jersey.  “I wore his former jersey, but I never filled his shoes”.

He was editor of his high school newspaper (the Bismarck, North Dakota "Hi-Herald") and after three years of pre-med studies at the University of Southern California, he switched his major to telecommunications. This upset his mother very much. He made his decision after watching the live radio shows performed in Hollywood while he was in college.  “I could see that I couldn’t be one of the actors, but I could become the announcer,” Bill said. “My heroes were the announcers.”. He started his announcing career at USC working on campus stations KTRU and KUSC-FM. He graduated cum laude from the University of California in 1953.

Bill's two brothers, Owen T. Owen Jr. ("Tudor") and Jack served in the United States Navy and United States Army respectively so when Bill joined the United States Air Force he completed the circle of all three branches of the military. Bill was assigned to the American Forces Network in Germany where he did play-by-play announcing of football, basketball, and baseball.

While in service he met Rosemary Bobo of Gray Court, South Carolina, a high school home economics teacher, and they were married on October 1, 1955.

In the mid-1950s, he began working at station KFYR in Bismarck, as an announcer, sports director, and cowboy entertainer "Marshall Bill."  Initially, Bill was reluctant to play the part of Marshall Bill; he wanted to focus on doing sports. One year Bill was asked to lead the annual rodeo parade, by far the biggest event in Bill Owen as "Marshall Bill"Bismarck-Mandan, Bill practiced riding for several weeks so he would look his best, waving to the crowd and throwing candy kisses to the youngsters along the parade route.
It has been written that a tense situation for the Secret Service occurred in Bismarck in 1960 when a man approached presidential candidate John F. Kennedy with a pistol in each hand. This happened when Kennedy stopped in the Capitol City during his campaign tour to do an interview at television station KFYR. Host Bill Owen wore a sheriff's uniform complete with cap pistols. Just as Kennedy was entering the studio, Owen walked towards the door, "twirling his six-shooters." 6

Bill joined WLW radio and TV in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1957 as a staff announcer. In 1958-1960 he hosted a classical and semi-classical music radio program called Music for You (700 WLW-AM) which surprisingly beat rock stations in the ratings. “Rock was not my forte,” he said.  Bill had an eclectic taste in music, later emceeing rock, pop, and big band formats.

By 1960, he was experiencing a meteoric rise to fame in the radio and television industry in New York City. Owen arrived in the Big Apple as staff announcer for the radio-television station WABC. One Sunday morning in the fall of 1960, Bill Owen and six other air personalities toured part of New York City as a photographer snapped their pictures at Penn Station, by the skyscrapers and on the subway. “The joke at the time was that WABC was one notch higher than the police calls in the ratings,” Bill said in an interview “There were shows with Broadway tunes and talk shows. There was no cohesiveness to the format. 5
Hal Neal, then the general manager at the station and later the president of ABC Radio, had decided that Top 40 rock & roll would generate higher ratings even though WMCA and WINS were using that format. "What happened was that WABC revolutionized American radio."

I have always been conversational,” Bill added in regards to his announcing style. “I can be the stentorian announcer, but that’s not my most natural style.

"The Swingin' 7 from 77! All aboard for the big bright sound of Radio WABC! Listen to the Big 7 from Channel 77 make big things happen with just Your Kind of Music! First Person Features and First Person News. The Sound of New York... Radio WABC." (L-R) Farrell Smith, Scott Muni, Bill Owen, Jack Carney, Herb Oscar Anderson, Charlie Greer and Chuck Dunaway.
Above: "The Swingin' 7 from 77! All aboard for the big bright sound of Radio WABC! Listen to the Big 7 from Channel 77 make big things happen with just Your Kind of Music! First Person Features and First Person News. The Sound of New York... Radio WABC." (L-R) Farrell Smith, Scott Muni, Bill Owen, Jack Carney, Herb Oscar Anderson, Charlie Greer and Chuck Dunaway.

Very shortly, he had his own daily, two-hour music show to go along with his announcing duties. The new sports anchor at the station was an arrogant and verbose attorney, Howard Cosell, who had been hosting a show on ABC, Speaking of Sports. Cosell took a liking to the announcer, largely because of Owen's extensive knowledge of sports. Whenever Cosell was away, he got Owen to fill in for him on his radio show, and when New York obtained a new major league baseball franchise, the Mets in 1962, he often subbed for Cosell on the Mets post-game shows. Owen later commented on his association with his mentor stating that, "Howard had a gentle side and could give good advice."

In the early 60s, ABC began a sports anthology series Wide World of Sports, that became very popular. For the series, Owen was sent on assignment to cover boxing and ice skating events.

At the 1961 convention of the National Association of Broadcasters Newton Minow, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, gave a blistering talk, referring to television as a "vast wasteland," especially in terms of programs for young people. He challenged the broadcasters to improve their programming. The first network to accept Minow's challenge was ABC. In the fall of 1962, it created a show "geared towards children and teenagers" called Discovery and hired two Hollywood actors, Frank Buxton and Virginia Gilmore, as co-hosts, and Owen as the announcer. Originally, the format centered on the studio with Buxton and Gilmore exploring the topics of history, culture, science, and the arts.

In 1965, a firm in Cincinnati, Ohio, hired Owen to be the voice of Ellery Queen (on over 500 radio episodes). These short, syndicated radio presentations were called Ellery Queen's Minute Mysteries. The mystery was presented on the air in 60 seconds, and listeners were encouraged to call in with the solution to the cases in order to win prizes. The shows ran in syndication until the early 1980s.

In 1966, the book Radio's Golden Age was released and Owen and Buxton were the authors. Buxton left Discovery and Bill was promoted from studio announcer on Discovery to the co-host with actress Virginia Gibson, who had been nominated for a Broadway Tony Award. When the fifth season began on Sept. 25, 1966, the show was filmed in color and the format changed, allowing Owen and Gilmore to travel to different locations for filming.
The show went on to capture some Emmy awards.  “Since it was on Sunday mornings at 11:30 eastern time it was mostly a vocabulary for a 15-year-old’s intellect, but we had a lot of adults that watched it,” Bill said of Discovery, which ran until 1971.

Bill Owen as host of "Discovery" on the cover of "TV Prevue" (Chicago: Inland Seaport) 1968.Bill Owen (1969)
Above left: Bill Owen as host of Discovery on the cover of TV Prevue (Chicago: Inland Seaport) 1968
Above right: Bill Owen (1969).

In 1971, Owen and announcer Allan Jefferys released their novel, DJ, about a disc jockey. The next year, Owen and Buxton greatly expanded their previous book so that it became "the first encyclopedia of old-time radio programs." The title was changed to The Big Broadcast 1920-1950.

On radio, in the 1970s he resumed his work as a staff announcer and was the regular substitute for Howard Cosell on Speaking Of Sports.

In 1975, Owen embarked on a new medium of communications - newspapers. Along with comic strip artist Don Sherwood, Owen created a popular syndicated panel called Return With Us To. . . In many ways it resembled Robert Ripley's Believe It Or Not, but instead of oddities, its focus was to recreate the "warm nostalgia for radio programs, pop culture, and historical personages" of the past. Sherwood did the drawings, and Owen provided the script (Picture below).

In 1975, Owen embarked on a new medium of communications - newspapers. Along with comic strip artist Don Sherwood, Owen created a popular syndicated panel called "Return With Us To. . ." In many ways it resembled Robert Ripley's "Believe It Or Not", but instead of oddities, its focus was to recreate the "warm nostalgia for radio programs, pop culture, and historical personages" of the past. Sherwood did the drawings, and Owen provided the script.

On July 5, 1982, ABC-TV debuted a news show with Steve Bell and Kathleen Sullivan as the anchors. Owen was the announcer, but early on, he became the most popular part of the 60-minute program. He said that one day due to a technical problem a producer asked him to enlarge his time check leading into a commercial, so he asked a trivia question regarding Thomas Jefferson.  A short time later the trivia questions became a regular part of the station breaks.  On August 6, 1984, the Associated Press ran an article stating that little is known about "the man who brightens "ABC's World News this Morning" with facts, philosophy, obscurities, puzzles, and quotations [and] gets more mail than anybody on the show, including the anchors." Owen garnered tidbits from magazines and newspapers and read them on the air. The viewers loved it. The show's producer, Rick Kaplan, stated, "I think the audience just tolerates the anchors until Bill comes on." Jim Lowe, best known for recording a No. 1 hit in 1956, The Green Door was acknowledged as the King of Trivia. When Lowe was unable to stump Owen on any questions, he passed the crown to the new champion of little-known facts. So a man born and raised in North Dakota who had succeeded on a national scale on radio, television, the movies, newspapers, and book authorship, appeared to be most proud of the unofficial coronation as the King of Trivia.

In 1990, after 30 years, Bill accepted an early retirement package from ABC and became a staff announcer at WOR, Channel 9, in New York City for three years.

He continued to be very active. In 1990, the movie The Handmaid's Tale was released starring Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway, and Robert Duvall. The role of the American television announcer is listed as Bill Owen. That same year, Owen became the principal voice of superstation WWOR, a FOX affiliate serving New York City. He remained there until 1994 but continued to remain active doing radio and television commercials.

In recent years, Owen authored the books The Over 60 Trivia Book; All Those Things My Teacher Never Told Me; and Runners-up, Bridesmaids, & Second Bananas. Owen has always had an affinity for collecting obscure tidbits of information that many call trivia.

From there, he had two stints at Juke Box Radio - playing music by Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Perry Como, among others – and in between worked at WVNJ radio.

He did voiceovers for Bloomberg Radio, which he has worked for off and on for 10 years, and for cable channels in Rockland and Westchester counties in New York state.

Bill and his wife, Rosemary, have lived in Valley Cottage, N.Y. since 1962. They are avid contract bridge players and ballroom dancers. Around 2007 they moved to North Carolina.

Bill and wife Rosemary ballroom dancing (Wikipedia).Bill at the Friends of Old Time Radio convention (2010).
Above left: Bill and wife Rosemary ballroom dancing (Wikipedia).
Above right: Bill at the Friends of Old Time Radio convention (2010).

He recently shot a pilot for a television show on the old movies that may be picked up by a cable channel. 5
He continues to do radio and TV commercials, the best-known being a series for the National Motor Museum Mint. He also appears before senior clubs with a nostalgia program about old-time radio and other memories of the 1930s and 40s.

In 2013 he released a new book,
Dropping Names which takes the reader on a wonderful 60-year plus trip through the world of broadcasting, introducing us to the famous and not-so-famous that he met and worked with along the way.

"There are two kinds of people in this world - takers and givers. The takers eat better, but the givers sleep better."

Bill continues to publish books Say That Again!: The Homophonic Trivia Quiz (April 2022) and The Only Top 10 Lists Worth Arguing About (June 2022) to name the latest.


All dates for movies are for the official US release.
All dates for TV programs are original first airdates.
All dates for (radio) plays are for the time span the actor was involved.

Facts in red still need confirmation.

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Other references
(1) Wikipedia

(2) IMDb
(3) Class of 48 - Profile
(4) Did You Know That: Bill Owen was known as the 'King of Trivia'
     by Aug 11, 2013
(5) Profile of Bill Owen by Scott Benjamin at
(6) Did You Know That: A look at the remarkable life of 'Marshal Bill' Owen

Additional video & audio sources
(1) Ellery Queen's Minute Mysteries at
(2) The Handmaid's Tale Clip from 1990 movie
(3) The Brighter Day re-enacting of episode from the soap at The Friends
     of Old Time Radio Convention 1999 with Bill Owen as announcer

This actor profile is a part of Ellery Queen a website on deduction. The actor above voiced Ellery Queen in Ellery Queen's Minute Mysteries. Click Uncle Sam if you think you can help out...!
Many of the profiles on this site have been compiled after very careful research of various sources. Please quote and cite ethically!

Page first published on Jun 1. 2018
Last updated Jul 25. 2020

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