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January 10, 2010

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Doug Zielke

Hey Marc!

Listening to jazz radio on a 1-tubed FM tuner that I built myself when I was 15 years old, not only gave me a life-long passion for the music, but an appreciation of the personalities who spun the wax. So naturally, I enjoyed reading about Mr. Beach. I only wish I could have heard him like you were lucky enough to do.
There have been so many great jazz DJ's. I think it's high time someone wrote a book about them. Or has it already been done?

Richard Carlson

The great jazz DJs were like wise older brothers or kids on the block, who'd sit you down with their collections, and teach you a little bit about listening. (The real job about listening ultimately is done all alone, counting the bars and learning the changes.) I was lucky enough to live in Western New York in the 1950s, near enough to Niagara Falls to pull in an AM station that carried Joe Rico every afternoon. Jump For Joe. Port of Rico. Yeah, that's him. In the '60s and early '70s I was in the City, and so got to hear (and record lots on reel to reel) the great Ed Beach (and so many other great New York DJs still operating).

Mort Fega was late night, and so pretty much a guy you might meet afterhours. Symphony Side was all Latin, all the time, up in Harlem. But Ed Beach was the perfect buddy, on in the late afternoon, and usually featuring just one artist for the whole 3 hours...or however long it was. He was in your house, while you were doin' stuff...and so it felt more personal.

He seemed to love trombones, and so I remember with great fondness his tribute to JC Higginbotham. Who else would give over an entire program to such a player? And it wasn't just LPs. Out would come a 78, and he'd always follow it with a gentle laugh, and say, "Yes...through the haze..." and it had been Bobby Hackett in some impossible-to-find session in the mid-30s. That's why we recorded: you could never hear this stuff any other way, and it deserved preservation and study. And always, the meticulous, respectful announcement of every musician on the record. And maybe stuff about them...like, they'd played with the Charlie Creach band out in the Midwest. Charlie Creach! Who's Charlie Creach. And so it would go.

I know Ed didn't like it when RVR switched the show to early mornings. Yuck! Ed was not morning person. He was not a bright-eye bushytail...nor sardonic as we preferred on BAI. Jazz and commentary didn't go well with breakfast, and Ed knew it. I couldn't believe that Riverside Church somehow was in financial trouble, but it was...and soon it all died. Ed never broadcast again in New York. All the DJs were vanishing at the same time. New York wasn't Fun City anymore. A madman on every street corner. People living in cardboard boxes. Time to leave.

Mort Fega told my friend Don Frese that Ed had gone back to Oregon, and I tried to write him. Ultimately emailed too, but didn't reach him I guess. I wanted to let him know. It's hard to tell jazz guys how much they mean to you. Emotion has to go through your horn I guess. Otherwise it just ain't cool. But Ed Beach always will be a best friend.

Doug Zielke

Richard...Great stuff! Thank you for that most enjoyable read.

Roslyn

Great reminiscence! I grew up in NYC in the 70s and remember Ed Beach well - I still have hours of tape from his show the day Ellington died. One of the rare ones.

sid lazarow

i started taping ed beach about 62 or 63 .srarted listening to jazz 1935.no one compares to ed beach

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  • Marc Myers writes on music and the arts for The Wall Street Journal. He is author of "Why Jazz Happened" (Univ. of California Press). Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a Jazz Journalists Association's "Blog of the Year" winner.
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