Legendary voice: Local resident “Dollar” Bill Lawson named to Country Radio Hall of Fame
Published 11:46 am Tuesday, March 28, 2023
By SCOTT MIMS | Special to the Reporter
On July 10, 2023, a name familiar to many Alabamians will be added to the Country Radio Hall of Fame—that of “Dollar” Bill Lawson.
Lawson, longtime co-host of the Dollar Bill and Madison morning show on Birmingham’s 102.5 The Bull, and before that co-host alongside the late Patti Wheeler on WZZK (he moved with Wheeler to The Bull in 2002), has reached a 50-year milestone in his radio career.
“Dollar” Bill has spent nearly 45 of those years in Birmingham, becoming one of the most recognizable and beloved radio personalities in the process.
The Hall of Fame announcement was made official Monday, March 13 at the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville. Lawson will participate in a special induction ceremony on July 10.
“I’m still trying to process that to be honest with you,” Lawson said on March 22, looking back on his career. “I loved what I did. I never even thought it would be possible, if I did, to be a member of the Country Radio Hall of Fame, even though I love country music so much.”
Lawson said he always considered the honor to be “for the big dogs.”
“Then to have it happen has floored me,” he said. “It has absolutely knocked me to my knees and humbled and surprised me.”
Speaking of surprises, Lawson’s father initially expected Bill to follow in his footsteps to become a dentist. But during his senior year in college, he decided he wanted to be a radio announcer—needless to say, his dad did not receive the news very well.
“The curtain came down behind his eyes and he blinked a couple of times and he asked for how long,” Lawson said.
Near the end of his dad’s life, Lawson asked him if he had been disappointed with his career path. The conversation ended with his father pointing out that growing up, Bill was known as “Dr. Lawson’s boy” but now he himself was “Dollar Bill’s daddy.
Dollar Bill’s career took him around the state, starting at Tuscaloosa and later at Selma, Muscle Shoals and Florence. While in Florence he worked for legendary producer Sam Phillips at WXOR-WQLT. Phillips was known for launching the career of Elvis Presley and producing records by many of the great artists of blues, country and rock and roll.
“I always wanted to come back home and work in Birmingham because that’s where I’m from,” Lawson said. “It’s been a completely amazing life and a great career.”
The nickname “Dollar” Bill started 30 years ago when his then-boss said that all DJs must have a nickname, because nicknames would make them more memorable on the air. At the time, Lawson was giving away $50 worth of Food World groceries as part of a weekly contest, so his boss came up with “Grocery Bag Bill.” After sleeping on it, the two eventually came up with “Dollar” Bill and the name stuck.
Twenty-five years ago, Lawson met his wife, Mary, a banker from Montevallo. In the time since, Lawson said Montevallo has become like his “second hometown” and he regularly participates in parades and emcees events there, becoming known as “The Voice of Montevallo.” The University of Montevallo has named him an Honorary Alumni.
In 2019, Lawson was inducted into the Alabama Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame and received the Country Radio Broadcasters Tom Rivers Humanitarian Award. Over the years, he has donated his time and energy to many Birmingham area children’s charities including the Children’s Miracle Network, Easter Seals, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Lawson’s caring spirit can also be seen in his relationship with his listeners.
“My focus was always on trying to do a good job,” he said. “I looked at it like family and friends, and I really felt like I was forging true friendships, relationships with the listeners, and it was reciprocated.”
Lawson said that in the world of country music, disc jockeys also form special relationships with each other—something that does not happen in every corner of the industry.
“It’s just been the most blessed career I could have had. It’s just been amazing,” he said.