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From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Obituary: Phillip 'Buzz' Aston / Musician, part of 'Buzz and Bill' radio team
Friday, December 07, 2001
By Adrian McCoy, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Phillip "Buzz" Aston was one of TV and radio's pioneers, a gifted and popular musician and singer who was among the first to use a new medium to entertain large audiences.

Mr. Aston, of McMurray, died Wednesday (Dec 5, 2001). He was 89 and had suffered from emphysema for several years.

Often compared to Bing Crosby for his vocal style, he was half of the TV and radio team of "Buzz and Bill." His partner, Bill Hinds, died in February.

Mr. Aston was born and raised in Crafton. By the time he was in high school, he was already part of an orchestra that performed around town.

A singer known for his style with ballads, he also played piano and trumpet and, later in life, the organ. He was a self-taught musician who did not read music, playing by ear.

Mr. Aston started his career in an era of live orchestras and live broadcasts. "There were a lot of places to play," he told the Post-Gazette in a 1995 interview. "This was a live town."

He had a chance to go on the road with Benny Goodman's orchestra, recalled his daughter, Carol King of Reading, who still has the recording of his audition. "He turned it down to stay in Pittsburgh."

He performed on WWSW-AM before moving to KDKA-AM, where he emceed the variety show "Memory Time" in the 1930s. Hinds was a young announcer at KDKA and they teamed to host "The Buzz and Bill Show."

Mr. Aston served in the Army in World War II. In 1950, "Buzz and Bill"' started a seven-year run on WDTV television, which later became KDKA-TV. The 30-minute show aired live at 6 p.m. Guests included Bob Hope and Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

"Bill was a little more outgoing," said Jean Connelly, who worked at WDTV at the time. "Buzz was more the laid-back, Bing Crosby type ... sort of droll. But the two of them set each other off."

The two were among the first to use TV as a means of raising money for charities. They hosted one of the nation's first telethons at the Nixon Theatre in 1953. Nat King Cole and the Mills Brothers were among the celebrities who showed up.

In the 1960s, Mr. Aston moved to what was then WIIC-TV, now WPXI. He hosted an afternoon show called "Luncheon at the Ones."

After leaving broadcasting, he worked in sales, but continued to perform, occasionally reuniting with Hinds for appearances.

He was active in the Peters Township Chamber of Commerce, the Lions Club and the Pittsburgh Theater Organ Society.

Mr. Aston was back on the air in November 2000, in an hour-long anniversary special produced by KDKA-AM.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by a sister, Ethel Marian Thomas of Albuquerque, N.M., and three grandchildren.

Copyright © 1997-2001 PG Publishing. All rights reserved.


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