WATERTOWN — A week after William “Bill” Tinsley had settled into his duties as the new host of WTNY-AM’s “Watertown’s Morning News” program, he expressed some remorse.
“I grew up with WTNY,” he said last Monday. “One of my regrets is that my parents aren’t alive to see me sitting in that chair. They loved the station. It was always on at the house, I’ve always held the station in the highest regard.”
Mr. Tinsley’s father, William W. Tinsley II, died in 2003 at the age of 75. His mom, Anne S., died in 2015 at the age of 89. They both encouraged Bill’s career in broadcasting, beginning in their basement on Woodside Drive, town of Watertown.
In his early teens, Mr. Tinsley set up a “radio station” in the basement, which had a direct line to GE Cable in Watertown and which subscribers could listen to.
“That was a lot of fun,” Mr. Tinsley said. “It meant for an interesting childhood. It had quite a following. My parents put in what they called at the time a children’s telephone which I used for my request line.”
There was no shortage for those musical requests.
“That thing would ring in the middle of the night and kept everybody awake,” Mr. Tinsley said. “But we had a ball doing it, and it lasted right through the end of high school.”
Mr. Tinsley now lives on the same street as his parents did. As new host of WTNY’s “Watertown’s Morning News,” he leaves his home a couple hours after midnight for the 2 mile drive to the radio station. On Monday, he said he arrived to work that day at 2 a.m.
“It’s a bit of a challenge, but I’m a nighthawk,” Mr. Tinsley said. “I probably get two-and-a-half to three hours of sleep anyway, whether I have the job or not.”
But he added, with a laugh: “That’s probably responsible for all my mistakes.”
Mr. Tinsley has had a long career in local broadcasting, but in more recent years, he was known as the co-owner of The Apollo Restaurant in the Arsenal Plaza. Mr. Tinsley owned it with his wife, Michelle. They owned it for 11 years after they purchased it from a relative. They were unable to reach a lease renewal agreement with their landlord and the restaurant, which opened in 1988, was closed in December.
Mr. Tinsley, 61, then easily settled into retirement. He enjoyed the lack of ringing phones and dealing with staff issues. His mornings featured leisurely neighborhood strolls with Michelle and their dogs.
“We hear almost on a daily basis from people how much they miss the restaurant,” Mr. Tinsley said. “It’s very humbling. I was enjoying full-time retirement. I was loving it. There’s nothing like your own time.”
But he got attuned to a new possibility when he heard that Alan Walts, host of “Watertown’s Morning News,” was retiring.
“I’m thinking, ‘Gee — I’ve needed something to do,’” Mr. Tinsley said. “I don’t play tennis, I don’t golf, I don’t have a boat and I don’t have a sports car. And you can only do so many chores around the house before that gets especially boring. I thought maybe I’d give it a shot just for the fun of it.”
He’s no radio rookie. In 1978, he replaced morning host Fred Angel at WATN-AM. Mr. Angel had left the station for WNCQ.
Mr. Tinsley left WATN for WPBS-TV in 1986, where he worked for 26 years. “It flew right by,” he said.
He now finds himself behind a microphone as a morning radio host following a gap of 33 years. His morning duties are interspersed by folksy chats with station news director Brian Best. On Wednesday, before the 9:30 a.m. break, the pair’s topics ranged from the weather forecast for Halloween and deer collisions to the interview that day with city council candidate Cliff G. Olney III.
All the controls are now digital, which Mr. Tinsley said involved a bit of a learning curve.
“I’m surrounded by about six computers in the control room at WTNY and they’re all crucial,” he said. “It’s a lot of reaching around and sometimes they can be temperamental.”
But something he’s familiar with is giving him poise, along with a perch.
“It’s a stool I brought in from the restaurant,” Mr. Tinsley said. “It’s the only one I kept and I didn’t think I’d use if for anything. I just stored it. But I dusted it off, and there she is.”