radio2Over the past forty years, I’ve spent many rewarding hours in front of the radio, listening to jazz.  My mother loved WPAT, a New Jersey easy listening station where the programmers had good taste and a real affection for Bobby Hackett.  Later, John S. Wilson played an hour of jazz once a week on WQXR.  Then, WRVR, with Ed Beach, Max Cole, and other luminaries; WBGO (thankfully still going strong with their jazz programming and “Jazz From the Archives,” often hosted by Dan Morgenstern).  There’s WKCR — with Phil Schaap, of course, but also Sid Gribetz, Ben Young, and others. Rich Conaty, of “The Big Broadcast” on WFUV and Jonathan Schwartz on WNYC still offer up the good noise.  Once in a while, I could even hear Humphrey Lyttelton on BBC shortwave.  And I am sure I have left someone out.

Thanks to Dave Weiner at Hofstra, who hosted his own “Swing Years,” I took my own leap into college radio, circa 1982.  I invented an hour-long show, “Rarities,” where I could play Thirties blue-label Deccas; consider the career of Lou McGarity, and amuse myself for a splendidly small audience.

Perhaps ten years ago, tuning around the bottom end of the FM dial, where the non-commercial radio stations huddle together for shelter, I heard an assortment of jazz records being played — no announcements, no explanation, and apparently no order.  I would turn to this station when I was ready to go to sleep, but (in that state of fuzzy half-awareness, so oddly precious) I noticed that some of their randomness seemed planned.  They would be offering the same groupings of music at the same time each night — for instance, an Arbors CD featuring Dan Barrett and Becky Kilgore.  Then the light bulb — admittedly one of low wattage — went on.  They had organized everything alphabetically by title: “I Thought About You,” “I Wished On The Moon,” “It’s Funny to Everyone But Me.”  Now, whenever I turn to the “Songs” listing on my iPod, I think of that anonymous radio station.

However, jazz on the radio is hardly proliferating now.  But some people have discovered that they can get around the costly necessities of a “real” radio station by means of the internet.  The OKOM people were perhaps the first to do this.

Now, I’ve learned that “PURE JAZZ RADIO” is coming on January 1, 2009.  Rich Keith, who also lives on this island, has let me know that his project will be to play jazz classics 24/7 with time for Frank Sinatra on Sundays.  Visit his site for more information. 

Some days I look at the pile of CDs next to the computer that have to be listened to so that I can review them, and those I’ve just bought, and think the heretical thought, “Is it possible you have too much music here?”  But even in those moments, a new jazz radio station devoted to jazz (!) is an enterprise worth investigating.  Good luck, Rich!

5 responses to “SOUNDS GOOD TO ME

  1. We may be far from the east coast but don’t forget about KUVO 89.3 in Denver~~!

  2. Actually, my favorite was, and still is (even in death) WNEW-AM 1130. In my opinion the best radio station in history.

    I learned more about how to conduct myself on the air, and about music, by listening to that station than I did in 4 years of college.

  3. A loyal blog-reader, David Rapp, asked me to post his thoughts on the subject, which I am happy to do:

    The most influential radio dj for me was Fred Robbins and his “1280 Club” on the NYC station WOV -in the mid1940s It also became known as “Robbins Nest”, after the jazz standard written in his honor. Opening theme: Goodman’s “Jam Session”. Closing theme: Ellington’s “Warm Valley”. A weekly feature was “Guest in the Nest”. I recall Louis Armstrong playing his favorite recordings, one of which was Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”. Fred had a pleasant singing voice, occasionally warbling a few choruses along with the recording. (One of his favorite vocalists was David Allen…a fine “singer’s singer.”) Fred also notoriously named Torme “The Velvet Fog.” He always included early and current New Orleans/dixieland records, and gave listener-members a free 78rpm record from the Commodore Music Shop on their birthday. Decades later, he was chosen to deliver the eulogy at Louis’s funeral.

    Others of that time worthy of mention: Dave Garroway out of Chicago, and Jeff Scott’s “The Hot Corner” from Philly.

    One of today’s very best: Lise Avery, whose show is called “Anything Goes”…Monday mornings on WFDU 89.1 out of Teaneck NJ…(plus syndication. Check her website for details, or email her at: Fine wide-ranging taste.

    And let’s not forget Danny Stiles, still going strong after 50 years, now on WNYC-AM Saturday nights at 8pm.

    Of course, Rich Conaty’s The Big Broadcast (WFDU 90.7 Sunday nights out of NYC) is a real treasure.

    I can take Jonathan Schwartz only in moderation, when his snobbishness doesn’t get in the way. His programs tend towards the dirge-like…a sucker for singers rendering normally rhythmic tunes v-e-r-y, v-e-r-y slowly.

  4. I was Googling references to Fred Robbins’1280 Club because our local “Sat. Morning Swing Session” had just played Bobby Hackett’s great solo on Condon’s version of Gershwin’s “My One and Only” which I had brought to the show when I was the “Guest in the Nest”(or “Collector’s Corner”) at age 15! The occasion became even more unforgettable because I didn’t know in advance that the musician-guest I’d be on with that night was Bobby Hackett!! I hope your “loyal blog reader” David Rapp gets to see this. Hey David do you remember Freddy’s sign-on: “Hi Doc it’s half past the clock, get your feet out of hock and let’s start to rock, we’re comin’ on like Kopper’s coke all steam and no smoke!”

  5. How wonderful, Don! If we’re good,, will you tell us more stories? I’d love to know what it was like to be on radio near Bobby Hackett, one of my greatest heroes. Consider this an invitation to tell us more! Cheers, Michael Steinman

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