Billy V as in Voice
Smitten with the magic of radio at a young age, Billy V. is today the biggest name in Hawaii broadcasting, and the sky is the limit
You hear his voice on the radio and see him on TV. He’s also on the mic at University of Hawaii games, and host of countless events big and small.
With a true passion for radio and Hawaii’s music industry, Billy V. (for Van Osdol) is living his dream as the morning radio personality for Hawaiian 105KINE. But his golden broadcast voice and charismatic personality have him all over the place.
He appears on Hawaii News Now Sunrise, where he gives reports on entertainment. He’s been the game-day activities coordinator for UH (football at Aloha Stadium, men’s and women’s volleyball and men’s basketball at Stan Sheriff Center) for the last 12 years, and the voice of the NFL Pro Bowl for the last seven years. He also can be heard on the in-flight audio program for Hawaiian Airlines, and has been host of the Na Hoku Hanohano Awards for the last 16 years, Lantern Floating for 12 years, and Miss Hawaii for five years, as well as numerous concerts, fundraisers, community events, private parties, weddings and parades.
“It’s kind of hectic, but I’m lucky I have a wife who likes sports and allows me to do all this stuff, and I’ve got a son who likes to go to things,” says Van Osdol, giving credit to wife Sawako and 10-year-old son Leion. “I like doing things that are fun. Radio is still fun. TV is definitely fun, and the UH crowds are fun. Everything that I’m doing, emceeing, it’s all fun.”
Born and raised in Long Beach, Calif., Van Osdol (who is Hawaiian, Filipino, French, English, Dutch, German and American Indian) moved to Kailua-Kona on the Big Island at age 7. It was there, as a sixth-grader at Kealakehe Elementary School, that he realized he wanted to work in radio.
“I just liked everything that seemed to be happening in the radio – I had a radio around me constantly,” he recalls. “I listened to Ron Jacobs. He used to have all the callers on all the time, and I wanted to hear what they had to say. Personality-wise, I liked listening to Kamasami Kong. He sounded like he was having a party in his studio every single night. He was larger than life.
“At that time you needed to have an FCC third-class license, so as a freshman (in high school) I got my license but no one wanted to hire me.”
During his sophomore year, he helped the senior class contact Honolulu radio personality Dave Lancaster to emcee their senior ball. Lancaster agreed, and that would be just the beginning of Van Osdol’s contact with him. “My senior year I ran the Honolulu Marathon – six grueling hours – and I visited Lancaster in the KKUA studios,” he explains. “I was already hooked into radio, but that did it. I watched him answer phones, play music, sing. It was wonderful.”
After graduating from Konawaena High School in 1983, Van Osdol finally got hired at KKON AM 790 on the Big Island, starting off on the weekends and making his way up to news director. But he wanted to go even higher, either working on the morning show or as a program director, and when that didn’t happen, he decided to move to Honolulu in 1986.
“I’m (in Honolulu) pounding pavement – KQMQ, KIKI, every single radio station, and nobody would hire me,” he recalls. “They said, ‘Why don’t you go down to that radio station 1420 AM, I heard they’re hiring.’ So, I walked in the door, filled out the application and just before I walked out I heard the radio announcer at the time, and I said, ‘Can I go in and say hi?’ I opened the door and he says Bill Van Osdol and I say Dave Lancaster. His recommendation got me my first radio job in Honolulu working news for Honolulu Skylark.”
One month later, Skylark moved to KORL, and Van Osdol followed, working as her news director. He would then move to Krater 96, and then on May 14, 1990, was part of the original crew to launch KCCN FM 100, working the afternoon show called Billy V. and the Pau Hana Posse.
“We went to No. 1 that year,” he recalls. “In 1997, they moved me to mornings. And then, in 2006, I was told they were going to move me to mornings on Hawaiian 105. I was sad because I helped to start KCCN, but it could not have come at a better time. I was ready to move to Hawaiian music. It’s by far the No. 1 choice of music for me. It’s the music that’s going on in my house all the time. It’s in my radio, in my phone.”
Some of his favorite local music right now is by Mailani, Willie K, Kuana Torres Kahele, Kamakakehau Fernandez, Natalie Ai Kamauu and Kealii Reichel. When it comes to what’s played on the radio, Van Osdol says it’s not up to him.
“I don’t get to choose the music that I play in the morning,” he explains. “We have a music director who does that. However, saying that, our music director and our general manager have been very supportive, especially in the last six months, in being able to reach out to the artist of now, as well as the artist of yesterday and the artist of tomorrow.
“My advice to musicians who want to get their music on the radio is to put out the best product possible. We get tons of music and only the best of that will make it. Requests can make a difference because if we get a lot of calls, it’ll force us to go back and re-listen to something.”
Confucius said, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” That saying holds true for Van Osdol, 45, who is quick to acknowledge those who have helped him get where he is today.
“Mike Kelly, the GM in 1990 who hired me at KCCN, and Patti Milburn, the GM now, who just got on board some six months ago, without those people and Skylark and Lancaster … At least once a year, I go and walk into their office and just say thank you for allowing me to do the job that I do.
“And Krash Kealoha gave me the best piece of advice when I was working for him at KORL. He called me into his office one day and he goes, ‘Close the door. Sit down. I want to talk to you. I want to tell you that I think you have the best voice in all of Hawaii.’ I said, ‘Really, Krash, you think so?’ He said, ‘Yes, I think you have a wonderful voice.’ And then he goes, ‘You should use it sometime.’ After a moment of sitting there, I laughed and said OK. I got it. From there on I stopped having Mr. Radio voice.”
Yes, that deep, smooth sound you hear on air is the same as his day-to-day talking voice, just three times louder. As for his name, he wasn’t always known as Billy V. That comes courtesy of another broadcast legend and Big Island native, Robert Kekaula.
“In the 1990s, Kekaula was doing the sports report for my afternoon radio show on KCCN FM 100,” explains Van Osdol. “My name is not the easiest name, so one day, he called me up to do the sports report and he called me Billy V. The next six people called me Billy V., and it just stuck ever since.”
On a good night, Van Osdol gets about five hours of sleep, getting into bed by 10 p.m. and up at 3 a.m. When he’s working UH games (from September through April) or events such as the recent Miss Hawaii pageant and Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, he’s most likely in bed much later. But he tries to take midday naps when he can, and stays hydrated with eight to nine bottles of Noni To Go a day, which he’s been doing for the past year.
When he does have free time, he enjoys spending it with family. You might see them standup paddle boarding, going to the movies or on a family trip. “We used to go to Hokkaido every spring break to go skiing and snowboarding for the last five or six years,” he says. “Now, our new place is Big White Ski Resort in Canada.”
Last year, Van Osdol joined the Konawaena Hall of Fame with his picture hanging next to astronaut Ellison Onizuka on campus. But he says it’s not the money or the fame that keeps him going, but rather the connection he has with his listeners and the ability to make a difference in people’s lives.
“Every time you go to a big event, you want to be a part of it somehow, and that has its perks,” he admits. “You occasionally get to meet famous people, but the true perks are when you get people who come up to you in the store and say thank you, you played something for a family member of mine, or when somebody comes up to you somewhere and says, thank you so much, I really had a lot of fun at that event. They might say Lantern Floating meant the most to me, or you did my Project Graduation (I’ve done that for the last 20 years).
“And when you’re there in the middle of Aloha Stadium and UH scores a touch-down and the crowd is going wild, or the crowds are in for the Pro Bowl and they’re cheering like crazy for some reason, those are the moments that give you chickenskin. Or when you’re at a wedding and the bride is crying and it’s all tugging at their hearts, you know that they’ll remember that day and that you were part of that – that’s the gold trophies.
“I just appreciate so much that so many people have given me these opportunities, but so much am I thankful for my family and appreciate them to allow me to do the things that I continue to do, to have fun. I am living my dream, but who knows what the future holds? I’ve been offered other broadcast opportunities, but I’m happy where I’m at.
“For me, the thing I want to concentrate on the most is making sure Hawaii’s music thrives and does well, and the more I can help our music industry the better.”