>> Friday, June 10, 2011

When I was just a kid, I had a couple of tube type radios that I had scrounged from garbage cans around the neighborhood.  A typical evening back then included cookies, candy milk or soda or both , The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, The Shadow….  If I stayed up really late, I would spin the dial, randomly stopping at anything interesting.  On a given night that might include a talk show taking call-ins on  ESP, extra-terrestrials, the Andrew Sisters, doo-wop music (part of a new thing they were calling rock and roll). Rock and roll was sweeping the country led by a group called Bill Haley and The Comets. 
And that is how I discovered jazz.  I don't remember exactly how or when, but one evening I paused at a station called WJZ (later the American Broadcasting Company-WABC-seed station for the ABC network of today). The DJ was a slick-talking New Yorker named Sidney "Symphony Sid" Torin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony_Sid).  I found out later that Torin was already famous to jazz listeners for his live broadcasts from Birdland. These shows included musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Charlie Parker,.
According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony_Sid),

"Although Sid was white, he was famous for his hipster lingo, his love of be-bop, and his knowledge of the black music scene. While modern critics later accused white jazz disc jockeys like Symphony Sid andAlan Freed of profiting from black radio and taking jobs away from black announcers (see for example Sinclair, 1989 for example), this did not seem to be a concern during the years when Sid broadcast. He won several awards from black organizations, including an award for Disc Jockey of the Year presented to him in 1949 by the Global News Syndicate, for his "continuous promotion of negro artists."[15] Among the entertainers he had helped were such jazz performers as Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughn, Charlie Parker, and Billy Eckstine. As his popularity grew, songs were written about him. For example, there was a reference to "the dial is all set right close to eighty" in the song Jumpin' With Symphony Sid, which was written by Lester Young with lyrics by King Pleasure; the song mentioned the location on the radio dial where Symphony Sid's Friday night show could be found. "Jumpin' With Symphony Sid" was also a 1950 hit for the George Shearing Quintet. In addition, another song, "Symphony in Sid" by Illinois Jacquet was written in tribute to him.[16] Following are the complete King Pleasure lyrics to "Jumpin' with Symphony Sid":
"Jumpin' with my boy Sid in the city,
Jumpin' with my boy Sid in the city,
Mr. President of the DeeJay committee,
We're gonna be up all night gettin' with it
We want you to spin the sounds by the minute
From down in the land that's really a-pretty.
"Make everything go real crazy over 'JZ,
Make everything go real crazy over 'JZ,
Play anything cool for me and my baby,
We don't want to think we're listening to Lacy,
It's got to be Prez, Bird, Shearing or the Basie,
The dial is all set right cloo-ose to 80,
Let 'er roll."
"JZ" refers to radio station WJZ.
""Lacy" refers to popular deejay Jack Lacy, a rival broadcaster of Sid's, whose show was called "Listen to Lacy" and who played standards and rock 'n' roll (thus: 'Hey Sid, don't play pop tunes and make us think we're listening to Lacy!').
"80" most likely refers either to WJZ, broadcasting at 770 (close to 800), or possibly the call letters of another one of Sid's NY stations, "WADO radio, 1280 on your dial."

For a while during the mid to late 1940s, Sid broadcast live from the Royal Roost night club in New York. In 1950, he moved the show to Birdland. Sid also did some shows from other New York clubs such as The Three Deuces and Bop City. He also continued to work with concert promoters, serving as MC for a number of jazz concerts at venues like Carnegie Hall."
I didn't know it at the time, but this introduction was the beginning of a life-long (addictive?) love to a form of music which has endured for more than a century and which has become the core of a now world music since sometime around the 1970-1990s.  And that is the subject of this blog.  So, like Sid would say, "Let 'er roll!"

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