Sunday, January 29, 2012

Musicologist in the Family

My husband Ron has been doing a Saturday night radio show a couple of times a month at the public broadcasting station KZYX for years now. I can’t even remember how long he has been DJing this show. I’m listening to the tunes he is spinning right now while writing this. Tonight’s show is a tribute to Johnny Otis and Etta James, both of whom passed away last week. Ron makes it look so easy that people don’t realize how much effort he puts into his shows. Today’s show required two days of research as he delved into Johnny Otis’s professional life to determine which great musicians he played with in his early years, all the people he “discovered,” who his strongest influences were, and who performed with him and his band. We heard him at Kimball’s East in Oakland a long time ago and Johnny was pretty amazing (played piano brilliantly despite the fact that he was missing 3 fingers).

Ron is so humble and understated that people don’t realize how much he knows about R&B, Soul, Funk, and Jazz. He can often tell just by listening to an old Motown tune which of the studio musicians (mostly one of the “Funk Brothers”) is playing the bass, who is on keyboard, and who is playing the drums. He really should be awarded an honorary Ph.D. in ethnomusicology. That is a real subject and there are a number of colleges that bestow such a degree (including the University of Chicago). Ron could easily teach the subject. (He reads my blog, and I’m sure he’s going to be embarrassed by my glowing narrative here, and he’s going to take exception, saying he really doesn’t know all that much. But he does!) During his radio show, he tries not to say much and just let the music speak for itself, yet his choice of tunes often contains subtle connections that few people completely comprehend.

I’m grateful that we found a venue for him to share his knowledge about music as well as his voluminous music library with others who appreciate and enjoy the music he likes to listen to and that he knows so much about. Thanks to public radio, KZYX. I wish that Ron could retire from his day job and devote all his energy to his passion for music, sharing his knowledge and his tunes for more that just a couple of hours every other week. It is no coincidence that our son, Sudi, seems headed for a career in music as a prolific composer, performer, and DJ himself. Tonight, while Ron is spinning the tunes at KZYX, Sudi is performing his own compositions as a DJ at a house party in San Francisco. The acorn does not fall far from the tree, as they say.

[You can hear Ron’s show from anywhere in the world via the KZYX website, live streaming on the web. Click here to go to KZYX. Ron and I usually post on Facebook to let people know which weeks he is on. The show airs 8-10 PST Sat. nights.]

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