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Jazz says its final goodbye on Los Angeles AM radio

May 01, 2012|By Kirk Silsbee
  • Mark Manring
Mark Manring (m3bks1pd20120430205921/600 )

A silence has descended on Los Angeles' AM radio band. On April 2, KABC's longtime morning man, Doug McIntyre, acquiesced to his management’s request that he no longer program jazz.  Although he hosts a current events show 5 to 9 a.m. weekdays, McIntyre represented the last vestige of AM jazz, with his variety of big band bumper music, full songs and on-air interviews of jazz personalities.

The station apparently sees jazz as hindering its bid for a wider audience.  In its place, rock music now serves as McIntyre's bumper music.

McIntyre's sadness about the decision is tempered by a degree of philosophic pragmatism.  "I understand that Cumulus wants to attract a larger demographic,” he says.  “The company has a lot of money on the table.  It’s a $2-billion operation with 500 stations around the country.  L.A. is a very competitive radio market.”

KABC program director Jack Silver would not speak to the matter, nor would the station’s parent company, Cumulus in Atlanta. 

McIntyre's sense of community had been notable during his 16 years on L.A. radio. He marked the passing of trumpet ace Uan Rasey by playing his feature on the theme to "Chinatown." He has talked jazz with session pianist Mike Melvoin (“Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys,” Sinatra’s “That’s Life”).  “So much of the world’s great music is made here,” McIntyre points out, “and it’s made by jazz musicians.”

Gordon Goodwin, a frequent on-air guest, often heard his big band on McIntyre’s show.  “I’m disappointed,” he concedes, “but it’s up to us — the fans and musicians — to change it.  We can’t limp home and put on "Kind of Blue" and expect the world to catch up.  We have to defend this music publicly and repeatedly and help people like Doug spread the word.  This music is relevant and meaningful in today’s world.”

Playboy Jazz Festival publicist Nina Gordon often turned to McIntyre for exposure.  “We’re losing the media presence for jazz,” she laments.  “It’s ironic that it’s so close to International Jazz Day, where the world honors jazz.  It’s tremendously popular all over the world, and very popular in L.A. — Playboy Jazz almost always sells out well in advance. 

"There’s a bigger taste for jazz here than most people realize; you see it in the many school jazz bands.”

McIntyre is grateful for the programmatic leeway he’s had up to now.  “For 16 years I was allowed a free hand,” he says, with some amazement.  “I was playing Sweets Edison, Horace Silver, Cannonball Adderley; you couldn’t hear them anywhere else on AM.  I got to do three hours with Artie Shaw, and that was a huge thrill.”

Still, he wonders about a city festooned with advertisements for pornography conventions.  “Erotic Expo happens twice a year at the Convention Center,” McIntyre sighs, “and the billboards are everywhere.  Isn’t there room for Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra on the L.A. airwaves?”

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