He hired Oprah Winfrey, giving her a first job in broadcasting. He has taken the stage as master of ceremonies to introduce most leading recording artists at concerts—like James Brown, Z.Z. Hill, and countless others. But, on the second weekend in October, the spotlight will be on gospel radio legend Clarence ‘Gilly Baby’ Kilcrease.
A tributary program, ‘Pastor’s Night Out: Celebrating a Radio Legend,’ is set for Sunday, October 12, at 5 pm at Mount Zion Church, 2261 Murfreesboro Road, Nashville, Tenn. The program will feature local singing pastors from the area and special featured guests, Free Spirit and gospel comedienne Sistah Willie Ruth Johnson.
There will also be surprise appearances from many radio personalities from the ‘70s and ‘80s who went on to successful careers in and outside of the broadcasting industry. Media mogul Oprah Winfrey has also been invited.
Kilcrease’s career spanning nearly a half-century has taken him from on-air personality to general manager and program director. He has been a highly requested emcee for programs at local churches and other events for as long as he has been in broadcasting. Clarence has been a refuge of hope for many of those in need. For over 26 years, prior to the Christmas holidays, Clarence rounded up dedicated volunteers to raise funds and sponsored a gospel program to help the needy. Each year over 100 food baskets and toys were given to those in need. Whether it was a senior citizen needing food, a struggling single mother needing the electric bill paid, or a family needing money to bury a loved one, Kilcrease has spearheaded countless fundraisers and taken money from his own pocket to raise the needed funds. Now battling major challenges with diabetes, Kilcrease, still a beloved voice of hope on WENO 760AM radio during the afternoons from 2-5 pm, will retire at the end of this year.
“My health says it’s time,” he said.
“Over the years, if someone expressed an interest in radio they always had to meet him,” said WENO General Manager Orlando Boyd. “Clarence is a radio role model. The listeners, station and the industry have benefitted greatly from his talent and work ethic.”
Connie Dennell, 92Q Sunday morning gospel radio host, is one of the program organizers.
“We wanted to do something to encourage Clarence as he battles health challenges and the recent loss of his wife,” she said. “We thought this would be the ideal time to recognize his years of work throughout the community and his commitment to helping others.” She will serve as emcee along with, Lady Shaunte Garrett (WENO 760AM), and Damon King (102.1 The Light), and Sherre Miller Bishop.
Besides Oprah, Kilcrease was instrumental in furthering the careers of many notable local radio personalities including: Candy Man, T. Weakley, John Heidelberg (current owner of WVOL Radio Station), Damon King, Sherre Miller Bishop, Connie Denell, David ‘Brother Dave’ Lombard, Soul Finger, Steve ‘Seventh Son’ Crumbley, J. Albert Brown, Gwen Dingle, Ron Youngblood, and Ernie Allen.
The event is free. Donations will be encouraged to assist with Kilcrease’s medical expenses. A special account for Kilcrease has been set up at all Citizens’ Bank Locations for those wishing to donate.