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Jazz salutes its disc jockeys

William Gottlieb
The Library of Congress

The advent of bebop added a fresh sound to American music. It also added new voices to some metropolitan radio stations: the late-night jazz DJs who specialized in presenting this new music to their fellow hipster nightflies. To recognize the work of the groundbreaking DJs who lent them critical exposure, jazz musicians of the period would occasionally write songs in their honor. Here are five of those songs.

Jazz Salutes Its Disc Jockeys


Artist: King Pleasure with Annie Ross

Album: King Pleasure Sings/Annie Ross Sings

Song: Jumpin' With Symphony Kid

Sid Symphony Sid Torin is perhaps the most widely know of the early jazz disc jockeys.  In 1941, his late night show, After Hours Swing Session, broadcast from WHOM in New Jersey became the show for New York jazz fans to listen to if they wanted to hear up-and-coming artists.  By 1949, Sid was heard in more than 30 states, broadcasting on the ABC radio network.  He can still be heard today as the announcer on jazz recording made by Charlie Parker and others during Sid’s live shows at the Royal Roost in New York.  Several songs where written for him, but the one which has best withstood the passage of time is Jumpin’ With Symphony Sid, written and originally recorded by saxophonist, Lester Young.  Later, jazz singer, King Pleasure, put words to Young’s music and created this time capsule of what it must have been like to stay up all night in New York with Symphony Sid.  

red garland-mort's report.mp3
Mort Fega


Artist: Red Garland Trio with Ray Barretto

Album: Manteca

Song: Mort's Report

Mort Fega was something of a late starter in comparison to Symphony Sid.  He began his jazz broadcasting career in 1955 in New Rochelle, New York and by the time he landed a job at WEVD, he had to go toe-to-toe with Sid for listeners.  But Mort carved out his own niche and was honored with a great blues by Red Garland: Mort’s Report.  After presenting jazz on various stations around the country, Mort retired to Florida, but he kept his hand in the game.  He did a weekly show on public radio station WXEL until late 2004.  This lovely blues also features Paul Chambers (bass), Art Taylor (drums) and Ray Baretto (congas).  

charlie parker-an oscar for treadwell.mp3
Oscar Treadwell


Artist: Charlie Parker/Dizzy Gillespie

Album: Bird & Diz

Song: An Oscar for Treadwell

Oscar Treadwell’s jazz radio career began in 1947 in Reading, PA.  During his time as a broadcaster in New Jersey and Philly, he earned the friendship and respect of a number of jazz artists, including Charlie Parker, who wrote An Oscar For Treadwell in 1949.  Parker’s band on this track includes Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet), Buddy Rich (drums), Thelonious Monk (piano) and Curley Russell (bass).  Beginning in the 1960’s, Oscar hosted jazz radio shows in Cincinnati until his passing in 2006.  

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Holmes "Daddy-O" Daylie


Artist: Cannonball Adderley

Album: Somethin' Else

Song: One for Daddy-O

Holmes “Daddy-O” Daylie was Chicago’s brightest jazz radio star from the 40’s through the 80’s and one of the first African-American’s to have a regularly scheduled jazz program  He was also a master of rhyming on-air patter, from “the music host who loves you most,” to “I’m as nice as a mother’s advise.”  Cannonball Adderley, a jazz alto saxophonist who also had a love of word play, paid his tribute to Mr. Daylie with ‘One For Daddy-O.’  Adderley is accompanied by Miles Davis (trumpet), Hank Jones (piano), Sam Jones (bass) and Art Blakey (drums).  

gerry mulligan-line for lyons.mp3
Jimmy Lyons


Artist:  Gerry Mulligan

Album: Featuring Chet Baker

Song: Line for Lyons

Today, Jimmy Lyons is best known as the co-founder of the Monterey Jazz Festival, still going strong. But he got his start as a jazz broadcaster on both coasts. After a few years at a radio station in Santa Ana, Calif., in the Los Angeles region, he moved to New York, where his The Jubilee Show brought jazz greats to the Armed Forces Network. He would later resettle in northern California, and his Discapadesprogram was key to exposing new developments coming from the West Coast. He's remembered as the title subject of saxophonist Gerry Mulligan's tribute "Line for Lyons," first recorded in an influential piano-less quartet with trumpeter Chet Baker.  

Nick began working at KNKX as a program host in the late 1980’s and, with the exception of a relatively brief hiatus, has been with the station ever since. Along with his work as a Midday Jazz host, Nick worked for several years as KNKX’s Music Director. He is now the station’s Production Manager and also serves as a fill-in host on KNKX’s jazz and blues programs.