I remember getting the phone calls, the many phone calls. I’d been a DJ at KSPC for nearly two decades and was used to callers making requests or just wanting to talk jazz. But nearly all of the calls on that particular Saturday in early 2017 weren’t those types of calls. No requests, no talking jazz.
Instead, I was fielding a flurry of questions—and even a couple admonishments. You see, I had just permanently taken over Larry the Fox’s All that Jazz time slot at KSPC after he retired from his regular airtime schedule. His 3-5 p.m. show on Saturdays—during which he truly aired all that was classified as jazz—was replaced by me, a DJ whose strictly bebop jazz show (Bop, Drop and Roll) constricted Larry’s vast pipeline of swing to a mere pinhole leak of a focused subgenre with my motto of “no ballads, no big bands, no vocals.” The contrast between Larry’s everything-goes approach and my steadfast noes was not lost upon the listenership.
The calls from Larry’s longtime fans—and the questions—on that first Saturday were many: “Where is Larry?” “Don’t you play anything else?” “Are you just temporary?” “Why don’t you play big bands?” “Can I talk with Larry?”
I even got a, “no, I’m not listening to your show.” *click*
It was at that point I realized I was a “new guy” on the air. Which is funny, because although Larry was likely a few decades ahead of me in age (and had way more jazz knowledge than I could ever hope to acquire in my lifetime), I sometimes joked with him, labeling Larry as the “new guy,” as his start at KSPC in the late 2000s (with his first show Claremont Straight Ahead) made him a more recent entry in the ranks of community jazz DJs at the station. But his years at KSPC also made a sizable impact in the region’s jazz scene, as evidenced by the burst of phone calls I was fielding from his many loyal listeners on that first Saturday when I took over.
Larry was really personable. You’d want to just sit and hang with him, and he had that connection that he made with everyone he met, which extended over the airwaves. All that Jazz was Larry being in the zone, as he loved to talk about the music. Not just stack song after song, but discuss with a certain depth what was being played. And he had an excellent radio voice for a jazz DJ, a rumbling baritone resonating over a track that was ducked in the background.
When I couldn’t host one of my shows, Larry was always at the ready to be my substitute. I’d be out of town at a work conference three time zones away, listening to Larry filling in for me, that signature baritone emanating from my iPhone. He conducted several dozen interesting interviews with local and national jazz greats. And he’d sometimes interview non-jazz-career guests, such as city politicians and newspaper columnists.
And each year, Larry—who lived in Claremont for over 40 years and was also a drummer—would congregate some of the area’s jazz musicians and host his Jazz Roundtable series of discussions. To me, those Roundtables were truly important, offering quality airtime to the varied voices and talents that comprise the Inland Empire (and greater Southern California) jazz circuit. This annual update was very much a part of what Larry did in his efforts to, as he said, “keep jazz alive” in the Pomona Valley. And Larry kept at it through 2020, pre-recording and producing All that Jazz “revival” shows earlier this year from his home.
While we’ll sadly no longer hear new broadcasts from Larry, his listeners may be heartened to know that KSPC has maintained an archive of his interviews and Jazz Roundtables on its website. KSPC will continue to do its best to honor Larry’s motto to “keep jazz alive” in our area for all to enjoy.
Here’s to remembering the “new guy.” Thanks very much for your loyal service to our jazz community, Larry.
Wal is the host of KSPC’s Bop, Drop and Roll, airing Saturdays, 3-5 p.m. and Sundays, 1-3 a.m.