Nashville radio legend dies after long illness

Clarence Kilcrease

Clarence ‘Gilly Baby’ Kilcrease, 84, a radio legend here in Nashville has passed. He had been ill and was staying with a son in Atlanta, Georgia. He died in his sleep Wednesday evening, April 1, 2020.

Many Middle Tennesseans grew up listening to Kilcrease, who was a guiding force in helping launch the careers of many in broadcasting—the most famous being Oprah Winfrey. As a youngster in broadcasting, Clarence worked his way up the ranks at a time in radio when Blacks were few and far between as on-air personalities hired by the city’s White-owned stations. His remarkable career in radio broadcasting includes 45-plus years on-air and decades in management. His list of friends includes everyone from the homeless to many recording artists, even James Brown. Kilcrease helped launched the careers of many notable African American Nashville personalities, including: (the late) Candy Man, T. Weakley (retired from 92Q), John Heidelberg (current owner of WVOL Radio), Damon King (formerly WNSG), Connie Denell (92Q), David Lane, Soul Finger (WVOL), J. Albert Brown, Gwen Dingle (92Q), Ron Youngblood, Ernie Allen(92Q), and the most famous one, Oprah Winfrey (WVOL).

Clarence has served as vice president and general manager of WVOL and later 92Q and WVOL, program director/general manager and on-air personality for WNSG-1240 radio. His final stint was with WENO 760AM.

Kilcrease retired from broadcasting in 2015, but even after amputations, he mastered a newly fitted prosthetic and went back to work five days a week, until his health failed.

In May of 2018, Kilcrease was inducted into the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame as part of the ‘Preservationists of Tennessee’s Radio Legacy’ as one of six career inductees.

Clarence has been the recipient of many awards for his commitment to the Middle Tennessee Area for such endeavors as spearheading numerous fundraisers to assist families whose homes were destroyed by fire; assisting in raising funds for families who did not have insurance or funds to bury loved ones; and raising funds to feed and house the needy. For over 20 years, Clarence would round up dedicated volunteers for an annual fundraiser and gospel program so that he could help the needy. He distributed over 100 food baskets and toys during the Christmas holidays.

His wife, Patricia, passed in June of 2014. Kilcrease is survived by his three adult children: Dwaynia Grant, Clarence Kilcrease Jr. and Jonathan Humphrey; and a host of other relatives and friends.

Leave a Reply