It couldn't happen today. We tend to be fed only what we like and know because programmers have so many ways to pinpoint our tastes and emphasize them rather than broaden them.
But, in the '60s, a world without Internet, hundreds of cable channels, or FM radio, things were surprisingly diverse in the entertainment world. By that, I mean that any given outlet covered lots of bases. An evening of TV might include programs like Shindig, Bonanza and the Dick Van Dyke Show. And AM radio stations would mix The Four Seasons, Johnny Cash, The Shirelles…and Dave Brubeck. I tuned in for Chuck Berry, but I also heard Stan Getz. Cal Tjader, Cannonball Adderly, Jimmy Smith-they all had Top 40 hits, and those hits helped tune my ears to jazz.
When FM began to take hold, Sacramento’s Free Form Radio pioneer, KZAP, allowed the announcers to pick the music, and a few of them were deep into jazz. Fred Gaines, Charlie Weiss, Joe Ballardino. Again, I tuned in for the Rolling Stones, but I also heard John Coltrane, The Crusaders, Paul Desmond.
Eventually, I worked at K-Zap and had a chance to program parts of its huge jazz library into my shows.
At about the time KZAP phased out the jazz selections, KXPR, then KXJZ began to provide a steady, though part-time, supply of jazz. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of that programming for nearly a decade, enjoying, learning and exposing others to “America’s Music.” The pleasure I get from this vital, ever evolving art form is just as exciting as when I first heard “Walk on the Wild Side” back in 1962.
This is part of a series about how our music hosts fell in love with the artform of jazz.
We're inviting you to share your story of how you came to love jazz, in 200 words or less. Email your essay to [email protected] before February 14. We’ll read the top submissions on air and award several prizes.