News — good and otherwise — about good radio

WNYC/WQXR program host David Garland makes a good point, in reference to the announcement by WGBH (Boston) that it’s cutting back its nightly “Eric in the Evening”

David Garland, host of “Spinning on Air”, WNYC 93.9, Sunday evenings, 8 pm

jazz show, Steve Schwartz’s Friday night jazz show and  Bob Parlocha’s overnight jazz show. Writes Garland:  “I wish good radio was considered a good ‘story’ while it’s ongoing, not only when it’s cancelled.”

Journalists love conflict — it’s hard to make something that’s positive and ongoing dramatic. So it’s probably in the scheme of things that radio programs that continue to provide high quality pleasure to loyal listeners year after year don’t attract much frequent attention. But fair enough — and here’s some nice news: WBGO (Newark) is celebrating the 40th anniversary of program host Michael Bourne on the air, and the 30th anniversary of music director and Morning Jazz host Gary Walker’s launch of his radio career.

Michael Bourne

Bourne, who is host of Singers UnlimitedAfternoon Jazz  and The Blues Hour on WBGO Jazz 88.3, and will broadcast live from the Montreal Jazz Festival on Sunday July 1, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm and Monday, July 2 – Wednesday, July 4, 2:00 pm – 6:30 pm. He’s heard on the radio at 88.3FM and worldwide on the web at

Gary Walker

Walker, like Bourne and Garland and most of the other radio broadcasters I know, got his start at his college radio station and has not stopped.

(Tangent, disguised as full disclosure: I produce arts segments for NPR, and once had a weekly show on the radio station of my high school, New Trier East, where I broadcast “Little Suite” from Roscoe Mitchell’s album Sound. A listener within the station’s tiny range called to tell me about Eli’s Chosen Six, the avant-garde Dixieland band of Yalies including trombonist Roswell Rudd and bassist Buell Neidlinger — I borrowed that lp and played it on my show the next week. And I grew up listening to Chicago’s WVON (“Voice of the Negro,” though it was owned by the Chess brothers), as well as WLS and WCFL (which at the time mixed hits from Aretha, the Temps, Tops, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett with the Beatles, Stones, Animals, Spoonful, Airplane, Turtles, Doors, Rascals, Hendrix, Simon & Garfunkel, Laura Nyro . . . Commercial radio then sure was swell).

In the digital age one wonders if there would still be terrestial radio as it’s existed since the 1920s if people didn’t listen in their cars. There are a lot of attractive online platforms competing for ears’ attentions. Sadly for those who crave human contact, the digital platforms offer music but no djs, who fostered a sense of community among listeners. But that leads to an interesting comment posted on Ed Bride’s insightful article about the WGBH debacle by the supremely talented radio producer Bobby Jackson, formerly at

Bobby Jackson, producer/host of “Roots of Smooth”

WCLK-Atlanta and WCPN-Cleveland, now distributing his own show Roots of Smooth in 16 U.S. markets and on the web:

There is a much more at work here. This is about systematic oppression from privileged board room members who make the decisions about the relevance of African-American culture on the radio. I would venture to say that there aren’t many people of color at those tables who are making these decisions. . . The elimination of jazz on other public radio stations have not helped their numbers. In fact, in many situations, these behind closed doors, board room decisions have put the stations at odds with many supporters in their communities; supporters who have left their ranks. . .I am incensed that African-American music and culture continues to be marginalized and is the first to be thrown under the bus when there is a “financial” crisis. . .One of the reasons public radio exists in the first place was to give voice to the voiceless over the airwaves. There is a rich history surrounding what we do that speaks to affirmation of the true melting pot that America is suppose to be. It is a model on display to share; for all to learn from, how we are able to come together under the magic of jazz, a music that originated in the African-American and is now shared not just here in the United States, but the world over. It is insane that it is being taken off the shelf in so many places in its place of birth.

It may be an unintended consequence of financial strategies that the music which used to be so easily, cheaply accessible to Americans of every background and economic strata is now being relegated to an ever-more-obscure niche. But even if it’s unintended, it’s real. And Bobby is so right — public radio was instituted to be a voice for the otherwise unheard public. Non-commercial radio is supposed to have a mission beyond accruing profits.

Come on, WGBH — be a leader in public broadcasting, end the pernicious trend. Use the airwaves to promote great American music that has the potential to appeal to everybody. So it costs a few bucks to keep informed djs on the air — make that point in your fund-drives. Be a job sustainer, if not a job creator. Realize that Boston needs and wants “Eric in the Evening,” Steve and Bob, and will not flock to hear more talk-news but will tune-in for jazz.

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  1. says

    howard – – could you please site the source/link for david garland’s comment? i’d very much like to read the rest of his remarks. thx.

    • says

      Steve, David wrote it as a comment on my facebook posting of my previous JBJ piece on the WGBH situation. His entire comment (or rather, three comments which I put together here): “Lamentable situation; good article. / But also I wish good radio was considered a good “story” while it’s ongoing, not only when it’s cancelled. / My WNYC show Spinning On Air continues, and while it’s not a jazz show, jazz gets heard. I had a blast with this session:

  2. says

    Howard, thanks for these missives. As a 26 year broadcaster who played jazz at Chicago’s WXFM, Seattle’s KPLU and had specialty shows that played jazz on other stations, (WKGR, WAPL, KNUA) radio is dying quickly. The deregulation during the Clinton presidency was the last nail and only when the medium is completely devastated and devoid of the potential for profits will it have the chance to be re-born as a local medium. Even “progressive” stations, such as NPR affiliates are run with corporate mentalities and ascribe to a very limited and materialistic point of view. I remember one staff meeting at KPLU where the management was so excited that jazz musicians were going in the studio trying to make records that sounded like they would fit in at KPLU. They were so excited. I was horrified. Imagine smooth jazz circa 1957. Ugh. Hopefully in a 2nd term Obama will open up LPFM and radio could move to a neighborhood model. Of course, that will open up some potentially very interesting streaming stations and further take us away from the corporatization of radio, an event which cut out 60% of the jobs in the industry and presaged the economic crash of 2008. Many similarities in both events, the end result being rich get richer and… you know how this ends.

    • says

      I hope Obama will address much to the good in his second term; improving the prospects for radio would be a good one. The basic thing is to rebalance the corporate domination with genuine interests in a society based on American fundamentals. NPR and other PBS execs should be LEADERS IN THIS! Not sheep, not apologists, not destructive to the PBS/NPR mission. Fingers crossed, or would be if it didn’t make typing so difficult.

      • says

        Howard, NPR is a lost cause. Look at the poetry they give exposure to. Garrison Keillor reading poems by Ted Koozer? If there is a Jazz equivalent, it might be Kenny G or Boney James. Any risk there? Nada.

        LPFM and a return of airwaves to the public interest, as the 1933 FCC act intended. It will be a generation at least.

        • says

          Not quite true, Paul. There’s a lot of variety on NPR, and on NPR Music — for instance A Blog Supreme, The Checkout, broadcasts live from last year’s Newport Jazz Festival, Jon Weber taking over Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz, Kevin Whitehead reviewing on Fresh Air, also Jazz Set. Just thinking of all of what you hear as “NPR” is misleading, because the distinctions between local programs on NPR member stations, NPR- produced and -distributed shows and other networks’ productions aired on NPR affiliates is seldom clarified for listeners. Garrison Keillor’s shows, for example, are NOT produced by NPR, but instead by Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media, though they are most often heard on NPR affiliate stations. I’ve contributed segments about jazz and other forms of new and unusual music to the NPR News’ culture desk since the mid ’80s. Last fall I produced a segment on Anthony Braxton heard on Scott Simon’s Saturday Weekend Edition show. I have a couple of assignments I’m working on currently. Neither one is about Kenny G or Boney James.

        • Paul Lindemeyer says

          Mr. Nelson, I have mixed feelings about Garrison Keillor myself, but Ted Kooser is from my hometown, and even had a turn as US poet laureate. Maybe you associate deep art with other regional accents, and if so, you have plenty of company among my fellow midwesterners. But in the end, it’s a trope, and a very tired one.

  3. erica fox says

    i live near kansas city and upon moving here 3 years ago was astounded that there is no 24-hour let alone 12-hour jazz station in the vicinity. i do listen to the local shows (afternoons on community radio kkfi and evenings on kansas public radio), but there are many more hours to fill. at those times i am grateful for internet radio. i have been listening to wbgo via internet for years, as well as erstwhile wduq from pittsburgh (which i think also went the way of all stations). it is a sorry state indeed, but i am so grateful for these online possibilities with live djs featuring music and performers i might not otherwise be exposed to.