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Ken Wiley, longtime host of The Art of Jazz, retires after 40 years

Kevin Kniestedt
Ken Wiley in the studio.

It’s rare for me to write about changes to our on-air line-up, but this occasion is significant enough in our station’s history that I wanted to be the one to share the bittersweet news.

After decades on-air with 88.5 FM, Ken Wiley, our longtime host of The Art of Jazz, has decided the time is right to retire. I say bittersweet because while I know we are all sad to lose Ken on our airwaves, I think we can agree that, after his many years of service, Ken deserves a long and happy retirement.

When he began at the station in July of 1982, Ken hosted the only jazz show on our airwaves. (The station played mostly classical music and carried no NPR programming at the time.) There was no looking back from there as Ken went on to reach thousands of jazz fans in the Northwest around his unique and engaging show, dedicated to “the art of jazz.”

In many ways, Ken provided a cornerstone for 88.5’s evolution into one of the country’s most popular jazz stations.

His Sunday show, The Art of Jazz, is beloved by listeners of all ages. It is a totally unique program because Ken not only shares his knowledge and love of the music, but also his passion of bringing people together to enjoy jazz.

It’s the kind of program where you sonically travel back in time and can hear the sound of the needle in the groove of the record. Some fans have told me, “They don’t make radio like that anymore.” Well, Ken did for 41 years, and the Art of Jazz has been one of the most popular programs on the station.

Ken will be sorely missed at the station and on the air.

To honor his legacy, KNKX will rename one of the audio recording studios in the Tacoma studio the “Ken Wiley Production Studio.” As reporters and jazz hosts use the room to share the music and stories that now define our service, we hope this will serve as a reminder to everyone how memorable music and storytelling is ingrained in everything we do.

It is a small way we can remember the incredible impact Ken has made on the station and on you, our listeners. In addition, you can listen to hundreds of hours of Ken and The Art of Jazz on our On-Demand page, which you can find on our website or in our app!

As we get closer to the new year, we will announce our new programming plans for Sunday afternoons. In the meantime, we invite you to join us in sending your well wishes to Ken via email at

Thank you, Ken, for your service to KNKX and jazz lovers all over Western Washington.

Joey Cohn is president and general manager of KNKX. He joined the station in 1987 and has held various positions, including director of content. Joey led the campaign to Save 88.5FM and launched KNKX as an independent station in 2016.