William "Bill" Davis (1931-)

Year Born: 
1931

Pioneer

Davis, William 'Bill' (1931- )

William Davis was born in Belleville Ontario on August 13th 1931.  After graduating from Belleville High School, Bill went to Ryerson where he started in 1951 in the Radio/TV Arts course.  The following year found him working at CBC-TV as a stage hand, involved in several dry runs and learning scenery construction, and he was part of the crew for the CBC-TV opening night launch program.

 
In 1955 he was promoted to Studio Director, working first in Children’s programming and then for Sidney Newman  in Drama, before moving on to Variety, where he worked on the Denny Vaughan Show (with Norman Jewison) and the Jackie Rae Show. By 1957, Bill had been promoted to director, and his first production was a dry run of Here’s Duffy, which starred singer Jack Duffy, and which was picked up as a series.   Next, in 1958 and with Jim Guthro as producer, Bill directed the first live Canadian Timex Jazz Special, which featured Maynard Ferguson as the musical director for several groups of Canadian musicians.

Over the next several years Bill was busy producing and directing many CBC television series, including Music 60 Presents the Hit Parade, The Tommy Ambrose Show, and several Wayne and Shuster Hours, one of which won the Silver Rose at the Montreux Golden Rose Festival in Switzerland in 1965.  (He was later to win another Silver Rose for the ABC Julie Andrews Hour in 1973, for which he also received an Emmy).

Bill then moved to the U.S. to direct the Hullabaloo rock-‘n’-roll series for NBC: head writer on this series was Bill’s former CBC colleague John Aylesworth. In 1967, Bill, John, and Frank Peppiatt all returned to Canada in order to work on Spirit of ’67, a two-hour special hosted by Percy Saltzman and marking the 100th Anniversary of Confederation.

While continuing to freelance as a director in the U.S., often working on shows with Peppiatt and Aylesworth, including the Jonathan Winters Show, the Julie Andrews Show and the phenomenally-successful Hee Haw, Bill continued to work from time to time in Canada.  In 1973 he directed several episodes of the CTV one-hour space series Starlost, starring Keir Dullea; in 1974-1975, he was at CFCF-TV in Montreal to direct Excuse My French for CTV, and in 1975-76 he produced and directed Tommy Ambrose’s gospel-rock series, Celebration, for the CBC.

It was also in 1975 that Bill received a second Emmy, this time for his work on directing An Evening With John Denver.

Other performers whose shows Bill directed in the US included Frank Sinatra, Jonathan Winters, The Smothers Brothers, The Lennon Sisters with Jimmy Durante, Joey Bishop, Shari Lewis, Johnny Cash, Paul Anka, Flip Wilson, Lily Tomlin, Alan King, The Carpenters, Dorothy Hamill, Bobby Van, Glen Campbell, Marlo Thomas, Anne Murray and Gabe Kaplan.  He also directed episodes of Head of the Class, Welcome Back Kotter, TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes, Solid Gold and Nashville Palace.

Bill directed his last series with Shari Lewis in Vancouver in 1997 and then retired.

Written by Pip Wedge - July, 2007

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