In Memoriam: Bliss Michelson-Classical Radio Station Host and String Bass Player
Bliss performed several times with the Plainfield Symphony and was the beloved husband of our oboist Peggy Wiltrout.
The following is an edited obituary by Gary Miles from the Philadelphia Inquirer, published on March 23, 2021.
"Bliss Michelson, 71, of Trenton, a popular classical-music radio host and an accomplished double bass player, died Sunday, March 14, 2021 of COVID-19 in Hamilton, New Jersey. Mr. Michelson’s wife, oboist Peggy Wiltrout, also died of COVID-19, on Feb. 26 in New York City.
Known for his warm voice, conversational explanations of the pieces he aired, and ebullient personality, Mr. Michelson had been a part-time host at WRTI-FM (90.1) since 2014. He was also an interviewer for the station’s Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcasts and regularly performed on the bass.
Nicknamed the “Blissman,” Mr. Michelson was on the air at WRTI every Monday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and filled in frequently for other hosts. He spent 13 years in the double bass section of the San Antonio Symphony and more recently performed with, among others, the Buffalo Philharmonic, New Jersey Capital Philharmonic, Staten Island Philharmonic, and Newtown Chamber Orchestra.Respected for his general knowledge of orchestral music and conductors, Mr. Michelson was proficient as a radio host and interviewer. Sitting in his swivel chair at the studio’s microphone and control board, he put nervous on-air guests at ease with his friendly ways and explained sophisticated selections to his listeners in what he called his “average guy” voice.
Mr. Michelson was born June 13, 1949, in West Chicago, Ill. He started playing double bass in eighth grade, and got a bachelor’s degree in music and performance at the Chicago Musical College at Roosevelt University in 1971.
He kicked off his radio career at Trinity University’s KRTU-FM (91.7) in San Antonio in 1981 as a summer replacement announcer and went on to work at KPAC-FM (88.3), San Antonio’s all-classical station. He became an announcer and producer at Buffalo’s WNED-FM (94.5) in 1987, and appeared on camera for its PBS TV affiliate.
He was production manager at WWFM-FM (89.1) in West Windsor, N.J., from 1992 to 2011 before going to WRTI in 2014. He played with the San Antonio Symphony from 1974 to 1987.
Mr. Michelson married singer Linda Diane Moore in 1976. They divorced, and he married oboist Peggy Wiltrout in 2013. They played music together often around the region and were favorites at the MostArts Festival in Alfred, N.Y. He liked to tell the story of how they
met at the New Jersey Shore at a rehearsal with the Orchestra of St. Peter by the Sea.
He told a friend he saw her and thought, “That’s an interesting-looking lady.” After they married, she would see him off in the mornings when he left home for the radio station, and he would phone her to say he had arrived safely.
“Bliss was the kindest, sweetest, most generous colleague I have ever worked with,” said Debra Lew Harder, a classical host and producer of WRTI’s
Saturday Morning Classical Coffeehouse.
Off the clock, Mr. Michelson liked to tend sheep and other animals near Hightstown, N.J. He watched videos of historic trains, doted on his cat Janet, and liked Texas grapefruit and Tate’s cookies. He also did voice-over work.
Mr. Michelson is survived by a niece, a nephew, and other relatives. His former wife died in 2015."