Bill Virgin's Radio Beat November 15, 2007

Includes archive of Bill Virgin's columns fromJ une 2006 - March 2009

Bill Virgin's Radio Beat November 15, 2007

Postby radiofan » Thu Nov 15, 2007 3:13 pm

On Radio: Jim Wilke, host of 'Jazz After Hours,' celebrates 50 years in radio business

One of the great mythic figures in radio is the late-night jazz disc jockey, playing music and conversing with listeners miles or even states away in the dark.

The fraternity of late-night jazz DJs wasn't large to start with, but one of the few remaining is Jim Wilke, who with his nationally syndicated "Jazz After Hours" is still playing music for night-owl jazz fans.

Although, thanks to the power of Internet streaming, those listeners may be continents, not states away. "I got my first e-mail from Tunisia," he says. And some may not be listening late at night. In Europe, he adds, "Jazz After Hours" is in fact a weekend morning program.

In the U.S., "Jazz After Hours" is now heard on about 80 primary signals (more if translators are added). Locally, it's heard midnight-5 a.m. Saturday and Sunday on KPLU-FM/88.5

To mark his 50th anniversary in radio, and his 24th year of doing "Jazz After Hours," Wilke is devoting this weekend to the recordings of the era in which he got his start (most weekends Wilke emphasizes the latest releases).

That was a heady time for jazz. "Everybody was out there," he recalls. "Only a couple of the main figures had passed."

The jazz scene at the time featured the established names such as Louis Armstrong as well as the new wave of Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane and a young bandleader from Seattle, Quincy Jones.

Wilke, who grew up in Iowa listening to jazz DJs from New Orleans, Chicago and Denver, got his radio start at a student station with a jazz and classical format in Iowa City. He migrated to California, then moved to Seattle where, for 17 years, he was KING-FM's program director.

The roots of "Jazz After Hours" can be traced to a live Thursday night program Wilke did at KING, from the Penthouse at First and Cherry (despite its name, the club was on the ground floor, he says). He learned the art of recording groups live (a frequent feature of another show he does, "Jazz Northwest," at 1 p.m. Sundays on KPLU-FM). Having once been a card-carrying member of the musicians union as a saxophonist, "I played enough to appreciate those who did it really well."

After KING, Wilke did some freelance work and teaching at Bellevue Community College, then started a jazz program at KUOW-FM. In 1984, "Jazz After Hours" joined National Public Radio; two years later, it moved to what is now Public Radio International.

Although Wilke doesn't stay up late to do his show live, he does record it in real time with both words and music; listening to one song may trigger a thought to share with listeners. "It's improvisatory radio," he says.

While producing the two seven-hour programs a week takes longer that way, it's preferable to his experience doing a jazz show for Sirius satellite radio, recording voice tracks to be aired between songs, sitting in a booth for hours and never hearing a second of music. "It was one of the most boring jobs I've ever had."

"Jazz After Hours," on the other hand, is "an enviable job," as well it ought to be. "I've designed it myself."

In other radio notes:

KVI-AM/570 has made major changes to its weekday lineup. Laura Schlessinger's nationally syndicated show is now heard in the 9 a.m.-noon slot (most recently she had been on KLFE-AM/1590). That spot had been held down by the Ken Schram/John Carlson-hosted "The Commentators," which shifts to 3-6 p.m. KVI has dropped Bryan Suits, who used to have that slot (and who took a leave from the station in 2004 and 2005 to serve a tour of duty in the Iraq war).

More changes, this time involving the morning program at KBSG-FM/97.3. The station has dropped Marina Rockinger, leaving Scott Phillips as the sole host. Program director Dave Logan says the plan is to "take a more decisive focus on the music. We won't be stopping down for a lot of talk." Phillips, whose brother Kent is a morning competitor over at KPLZ-FM/101.5, is also making less use of the "Fastlane" moniker.

And still more schedule changes, this time at KUOW-FM/ 94.9. On Sundays, effective Dec. 16, "Vinyl Cafe" moves from 4 p.m. to noon. A new show, "Wire Tap," from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., has been added at 1 p.m. "The Tavis Smiley Show" moves to 3 p.m. Sunday, "Studio 360" shifts to 7 p.m. and "American Routes" moves to 8 p.m. Another new show, "Sound Opinions," has been added at 10 p.m.

What's being bumped from the schedule is "Whad'Ya Know"; KUOW says the audience for the show has been flat.

On weekdays, "Marketplace Morning Report" has been added to morning drive time.

King County Executive Ron Sims answers listener calls on "Weekday" at 10 a.m. Thursday on KUOW-FM/94.9.

The Taj Mahal Trio performs live in the studios of KPLU-FM at noon Monday.

P-I reporter Bill Virgin can be reached at 206-448-8319 or

Bill Virgin's Radio Beat ... every Thursday in the Seattle P-I
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.
User avatar
Advanced Member
Posts: 11449
Joined: Sun Apr 16, 2006 1:24 pm
Location: Keremeos, BC

Return to Seattle / Washington State Radio News

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest