People who hear me on the radio are often surprised to learn that I'm an English teacher (though I do also teach an introductory course in jazz history). I have been teaching for over twenty years at the University of Pittsburgh at Titusville. I also do summer seminars on jazz and American popular music at the Chautauqua Institute. Musically, I am a product of my father's enthusiasms. Dad fell in love with jazz in high school. For years, he was a small town barber who amassed a big time record collection. He played records all the time, and I soaked them up--though I didn't realize I was doing so. A few bands were still on the road back then, and dad took us to see any band that came within a hundred mile radius. We saw Count Basie, Harry James, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, and Bob Crosby. In 1966, Dad took us to see the Duke Ellington Orchestra in a small high school gymnasium in Casey, Illinois. I was impressed. I decided right then to become jazz saxophonist and play just like Johnny Hodges. Sadly, a lack of talent and imagination drove me to the less glamorous but more stable profession of teaching.
I am a child of radio, though I was born in the wrong decade for it. Dad quit barbering in his 40's and went to work at a small town, commercial radio station. He sold ads, read the news and weather, and had a jazz program on Sunday afternoons. He maintained that program for over forty years, well into his 80's. Seeing dad work in radio heightened my interest in the medium. In 1990, I met Bill Garts, who hosted Saturday Swing Session for WQLN on Saturday mornings. Bill had started Saturday Swing Session in 1985. Bill and I became good friends over the years, working closely together for Allegheny Jazz Society. Bill died in the fall of 2013 at age 86. He was a much beloved figure in the WQLN family, and it gives me pleasure to continue the program that he loved so much.
As Saturday Swing Session approaches its fourth decade, the core remains mainstream jazz with an emphasis on musical history and swing. At times we drift toward traditional jazz with some Dixieland. At other times we dip into classic pop with the likes of Sinatra, Nat Cole and Bing Crosby. There are always big doses of the big bands and a variety of creative soloists. Thanks for listening.