As this marks another year of continuous broadcast of our live jazz radio show you can imagine that we have seen a lot of the great players pass away. We have been through an unexpected swing dance craze and numerous station buyouts. If you choose to read the vein ramblings below you will see that to keep a Jazz radio show on the air this long it takes a heap of perseverance.
In late December 2004 it was learned that KAAT-FM, who we had been affiliated with since the late 1980s, was on the block. The station was sold and is now broadcasting a Spanish music format. KAAT aired it's last Big Band Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, March 12th and 13th back in 2005. Our last full broadcast of the jazz radio show we did on KAAT, called Parker's Place, was on March 12th, 2005.
Upon hearing the rumor that KAAT was up for sale, we began looking for another radio station to turn to. Enter KFSR 90.7 FM. The station had been broadcasting jazz music weekday mornings until noon for several years and expanded its jazz programming in January of 2007. KFSR offers a number of other great programs throughout the week and supports other music that you just don't hear anywhere else. It seemed like a perfect match.
Due in part to a nod and tip of the hat to station management from the good cowhands over at The National Big Fresno Barn Dance (KFSR Sundays 2-4PM), we began broadcasting our live jazz radio show on KFSR-FM Sunday, February 20th, 2005. We felt that a new time slot, on a new day, on a new station, warranted a new show name. Now known as Jazz Joint Jump, our live, weekly, clambake still features the same great style of jazz. What's more, there are less interruptions and the show can once again be heard live, world-wide, as KFSR streams live on the internet in both Real Media and MP3.
We were fortunate to be moved into a drive-time slot beginning December 5th, 2006 and now broadcast on Tuesdays between 4 and 6PM Pacific time. Listening to the show live on KFSR is easy. Wherever you are, just click on the player of your choice above and you are on the campus of California State University, Fresno, more commonly referred to as Fresno State University.
So here's the inside history of our little adventure into the world of radio broadcasting; in 1985 we hit the airwaves of Central Cally with a weekly big band music radio show that lasted one whole hour. In humble surroundings, over AM 790, we broadcasted from a little, beat up wooden building, on the outskirts of Fresno. Our weekly "one-hour of glory" was called the Sentimental Supper. The only thing worse than the announcing was the smell of the ridiculous food we actually cooked up on a hot plate over the air during the show. The setting of the show was supposed to be an old Big Band era style hotel, as we claimed to be broadcasting from the Grill Room of the Ecstasy Hotel (our call letters were KXTC.) A dinner music loop-track, complete with crowd noise, was run under all announcer segues to give the impression we were really there. We used a corny little dinner bell when requests were honored. When the station was sold in 1987 and for our last show (then a whopping 2 hours long) we had a character named Julia Childless come in and prepare a gourmet meal in the kitchen. She promptly burned the place to the ground and we signed off with Happy Trails.
Two hours a week wasn't what we were looking for out of radio. So in order to get "there" we volunteered for everything and anything we could do at the station to learn as much as we could about radio broadcasting. Obviously the "Old Professor" Jim Flynt, who managed the radio station, was a pretty hep old dude and he ran a pretty loose ship. Oftentimes we wound up on the air for as many as 25 hours a week subbing for hung-over or disheartened young DJs, with stars in their eyes, who could have cared less about jazz, big band or swing music.
During this period it suddenly became apparent that being a child of the Rock And Roll era didn't do much for old Parker's knowledge of jazz history, the Big Band era, swing music or anything else outside of loud amplified guitars and screaming vocalists... unless of course it was soul music, or folk artists doing protest songs. Anyway, we figured since the chicks weren't actually beating down the doors or lighting up the phones (at least the ones under, say, 65) maybe we should start learning a bit about jazz history and the Big Band era and buying records to supplement the overabundance of Martin Denny and Kay Kyser records the radio station had in its library.
We embarked on a mission of really learning about big band music and the history of jazz, buying up anything we could find in the way of reference books. We also listened to any other big band and jazz radio shows and stations we could find on AM, FM or Shortwave to get ideas. One shot of inspiration came from a very unlikely source, a locally produced, extremely funny morning team known as Dean And Don who broadcasted their Breakfast Club over 105.9 FM KKDJ, arguably the best rock radio station Fresno has ever had. Growing up south of Cleveland and listening to East Coast radio, Parker was pretty hard to impress, but these guys at KKDJ really had it going on. Under many of their theatre-of-the-mind type comedy bits ran old big band songs and jazz instrumentals by guys like George Shearing and Oscar Peterson. Old time radio type announcer intros used before skits, and well timed sound effects were also part of the lure.
As fate would have it these two immortals of Fresno radio used to listen to the big band radio show we did on KXTC (probably for a laugh) and friendships developed. We were quite surprised to find that they too were big band jazz and swing music fans. Being roughly the same age, suddenly it became not so weird to be immersed in what seemed to be a dieing music genre. Good music is good music.
From then on, finding rare jazz records has become a (generally) harmless addiction and through the magic of the internet has taken us to places as far as Germany, The Netherlands, England, Japan and Australia in order to satisfy the back monkey (or in this case, 400 LB orangutan).
In 1987 KXTC was sold and our new home, until 1989, became KEAP AM 980. Fortunately there were no play lists at KEAP either so once again we were able to free-form it, adding more and more mainstream jazz tracks to our ever increasing jazz radio library. But while the KXTC studios were humble, the KEAP studio was just a down right dump. We used the premise BYOTP while affiliated with KEAP, standing for "bring your own toilet paper." There were a number of wasp nests in the attic and in the summer, without fail, those pesky suckers would get into the studio long about 9PM. Let me tell ya,' you learn how to read radio copy and smile in a radio studio full of wasps baby, and you can read copy through anything. Yikes!
KEAP sold in 1989 and we got out of the hornet's nest landing headfirst at KAAT-FM. Initially KAAT was broadcast over 107.1 and then moved in the 1990s to 103.1. The station is still licensed and has its main studio in the Sierra foothill community of Oakhurst. Up until 1999, when KAAT began satellite studio operations in Fresno, we made the weekly sojourn up the hill to studio A. Oftentimes this meant a drive of nearly two hours depending on where the bread and butter job happened to be that Saturday. For our last five years on KAAT we conveniently broadcasted our radio show from Studio B in Fresno. The signal was in turn sent via a microwave link to the transmitter in the Sierra Nevada and in turn beamed as far West as I-5.
We should probably back up here to 1994. That was the year our old buddy Dean Opperman, of Dean and Don fame, came back to Fresno after a number of years in Santa Barbara radio. Dean was placed as program director at KKDJ and instructed to resurrect it back to its former state of glory. KKDJ had a 50,000-watt signal and could be heard from Bakersfield to Modesto clear as a bell. Lo and behold Opperman convinced management that a jazz show would work on Sunday mornings. So, with a bit of trepidation, Parker became the "Jazzmaster" at KKDJ and was heard Sunday mornings from 6AM to 10AM. This was the top of the mark for old Parker. A killer signal, fantastic ratings, a great time-slot, tons of calls, and oh yes, multitudes of chicks...well maybe not, but four out of five ain't bad.
As is the case in radio these days, KKDJ sold out in 1995 to a big business radio station holder called Infinity. When it sold, Parker immediately baled and within weeks the staff was told the station would became Spanish. Luckily Larry Gamble, the owner of KAAT, was gracious enough to allow us back on the air. In early 1995 we rebuilt the old white wooden one story out on the back forty of the KAAT complex and opened it up every Saturday as the jazz juke joint we called Parker's Place.
During the stint with KKDJ in 1994 it was noted that many callers were younger in years. However we generally attributed this phenomenon to a younger audience listening in the rest of the week, since the format was free form rock. With younger listeners requesting everything from Mose Allison to Benny Goodman, and college kids hinting at underground swing dance parties, you would think a little bell would go off. Hoping a resurgence in popularity for jazz and swing music was possible, but still in disbelief, we were floored by the 1998 swing dance craze. Suddenly we found ourselves doing something that never even seemed remotely possible in the mid 1980s, spinning CDs for young swing dancers, live, and booking bands like Stompy Jones and Steve Lucky for local swing dance dates. Although it was a short period, due to a lack of competent Lindy-hop swing dance instructors in many areas, as Fats Waller said, "one never knows, do one?"
Broadcasting big band swing and classic jazz music isn't lucrative but it comes with its rewards; We were on the air the Saturday following the passing of Frank Sinatra with a four-hour radio special. We were also on the air the Saturday after Peggy Lee passed away with a two-hour tribute. We have also bid our adieu to Les Brown, Jonah Jones, Al Grey, JJ Johnson, Rosemary Clooney, Ray Brown, Lionel Hampton, Nina Simone, Benny Carter, Billy May, Ray Charles, Barney Kessel, Illinois Jacquet, Artie Shaw, Ray Brown, and Oscar Peterson.
Sure there are guys out there that have been at this big band and classic jazz radio game a lot longer than we. However since the mid 1980s our enthusiasm and interest for both the music and the history behind it, for both old and new treasures, has never waned.
We look forward to many years of the continued joy that comes with hipping you to the new jazz gems we run across. If the day ever comes when there isn't any "feel good" in it, well, we'll just hang up the old headphones and put a lock on the door of the Jazz Joint. It sure would get stuffy in a hurry though, and stuffy we ain't.
Any old time you're in our neck of the woods bring us up, or check out the audio archives or live stream on the net. Hopefully it'll be solid kicks for you, as much as it still is for us.