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Still Swingin' For The Big-band Era

July 11, 1986|ZAN STEWART

Chuck Cecil's like the guy who gets dressed up for the party and then his date stands him up.

Cecil was all set to celebrate his "Swingin' Years" radio program's 30th anniversary on Los Angeles air last month when his only local outlet, KGIL radio, dropped the program.

"It's kind of a drag not to be on the air in Los Angeles for this occasion," he said in his Woodland Hills home that doubles as his studio.

The tan, trim 63-year-old began the show, which focuses on performances recorded between 1935-55, on KFI in June, 1956. He moved to KGIL in 1973 and remained there, excepting a two-year stint at KPRZ, until June, when his two-hour spot--the last music show on now all-talk KGIL--was deleted.

Though he's not on the air here now, he will be within a month, according to Tracy Alison, public service director of KPCC-FM in Pasadena, which has optioned the show. In the meantime, "The Swingin' Years" seems to be heard almost everywhere else. Cecil sends out more than 200 hours of taped shows to some 50 stations across the U.S. (closest local stations are KFXM in San Bernardino and KPQP, San Diego).

Also, the native Oklahoman can be heard on the Armed Forces Radio Network and on World Christian Broadcasting, which beams a daily one-hour show via shortwave radio from Alaska to an estimated 80% of the world's population.

Cecil's subscriber stations receive a minimum of three hours a week on three reel-to-reel tapes, including a number of special features as well as random music selections.

A typical broadcast begins with a bit of trumpeter Harry James' "The Mole"; then Cecil's moderately deep voice intones, " 'The Swingin' Years'--if you remember Model A's and Model Bs, if you remember when foxtails flew from radio antennas and four on the floor wasn't a slogan but the only way you could buy a car, then you're a full-fledged member of ... the swingin' years ."

Then there's music, anything from Glenn Miller to Jan Savitt and Duke Ellington. Cecil culls his selections from a library of 50,000 records. He also has more than 300 interviews with greats like Louis Armstrong, Woody Herman and the late Benny Goodman.

The special features range from "Curtain Call," where Cecil inserts a current interview with a swing-era star plus playing some of the artist's past and present recordings, and "Turning Time Around," wherein the host spins a recent version of an older tune, then programs the debut recording.

"One of my favorites is "I Just Want to Be Loved by You,' " Cecil said. "I start out with Molly Ringwald, from the album 'World's Youngest Jazz Singer' which she recorded with her father, Bob, when she was 6, and contrast that with Helen Kane--who was the original voice of Betty Boop--doing the same tune in 1928."

Cecil and Edna, his wife of 38 years, produce the shows in their downstairs studio. "I spin all the records, do all the editing and dubbing," he said. "The engineers at KGIL really helped me learn how to use all the equipment. At KFI, I couldn't even move the microphone; the engineer did everything."

How does Cecil explain the continuing popularity of the big-band era? "This music has a simplicity and a great deal of humanness in it," he reasoned. "It's not very mechanical. Anyone can understand it."

After 30 "Swingin' Years," Cecil's ready for more. "I hope to keep going another 30 because this what I really enjoy doing."

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