He was born William McKinley Randle Jr. in Detroit, Michigan. In Detroit, he hosted a popular show on WJLB-AM radio (now WDTK) called The Interracial Goodwill Hour, featuring rhythm and blues music and hot jazz. As a pioneering disc jockey at radio station WERE in Cleveland, Ohio he helped change the face of American music. In the 1950s, Time Magazine called Bill Randle the top DJ in America. His popularity and huge listening audience allowed him to bolster the careers of a number of young musicians, including The Four Lads, Bobby Darin, and Fats Domino. Nicknamed "The Pied Piper of Cleveland", a 1955 musical documentary film was made about him titled The Pied Piper of Cleveland: A Day in the Life of a Famous Disc Jockey. The film includes a Cleveland concert at Brooklyn High School on October 20, 1955 featuring Pat Boone and Bill Haley & His Comets with Elvis Presley as the opening act. It is the first film footage of a Presley performance.
Curiously enough, Randle almost did not survive early radio. One Thanksgiving, he played an unusual version of "Silent Night" sung by gospel and blues artist Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Many persons called in to complain and the station manager, longtime radio and television fixture Sidney Andorn fired Randle. The next morning, WERE owner Ray T. Miller, the chairman of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, rehired Randle after he learned he had so many listeners to Randle's program, and fired Andorn instead.
While working in Cleveland, Randle would travel back to Detroit for some radio programs. In the late 1950s, Randle would fly back and forth from Cleveland to New York where he produced radio shows in both markets.
A wealthy Bill Randle left Cleveland radio in the 1960s to enhance his education. During the 1960s, Randle appeared on the local CBS affiliates in New York City interviewing celebrities. He obtained an undergraduate degree from Wayne State University and a law degree from Oklahoma City University. He went on to earn a doctorate in American studies, a master's degree in sociology from Western Reserve University, a master's degree in journalism from Kent State University and a master's degree in education from Cleveland State University. He also has an honorary doctorate from Bowling Green State University. Randle also studied history at Columbia University under Richard Hofstadter. While away from radio, Randle taught communications at Kent State University and the University of Cincinnati.
At age 64, he passed the Ohio State Bar exams and opened a law office in Lakewood, Ohio where he practiced bankruptcy and estate planning law for sixteen years. He also was knowledgeable in energy and zoning law.
In addition, Randle became an educator, and taught sociology and mass communication classes at several universities. In the 1990s, he also returned to radio anchoring the Big Show on Sunday afternoons and an early morning drive time show - on the now defunct WRMR 850 AM in Cleveland, Ohio - that featured a combination of Big Bands, early rock and roll and new artists such as Norah Jones, Michael Buble and the Backstreet Boys.
Dr. Randle died of cancer in Cleveland on July 9, 2004, while still doing his legendary "Big Shows" on Sundays over Cleveland radio station WRMR 1420-AM. In a sad irony, WRMR was sold off the day before and signed off two days later with Randle's final broadcast, which had been prerecorded. His wife of 51 years, Annalee, with whom he had a daughter, Patricia, predeceased him in 2000.
Bill Randle, when he worked at WERE radio 1300 AM in Cleveland in the 1950's, sat alongside other top-brass dee-jays of that era - which include Carl Reese, Phil McClain, and Howie Lund.