• News/Talk
  • Music
  • Entertainment

Kind Of Blue

Listen to this Story
Larger view
Jim Dougherty in the studio
View the Slideshow

Tonight, for the first time in 37 years, Jim Dougherty will not be doing his midnight jazz show, "Big Bands Then and Now." Dougherty aired his last show on WSUI in Iowa City on New Year's Eve. He's the latest casualty of a trend in public radio. The local midnight jazz host used to be a fixture on public radio stations but, for the last decade, more and more stations have been cutting back or dropping the shows altogether. As Kyle Gassiott reports, Jim Dougherty went quietly off the air.

When I started listening to Jim's show I was really amazed at how much he knew about jazz. Here was someone who knew everyone who played with Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, could tell you when Billie Holiday stopped recording for Columbia and went to Commodore, and why Fats Waller finds "Her Feet's Too Big." I went to sleep every night listening to Jim and I'm convinced that's why his music and stories have made it into my sub-conscious. Why else would I want to randomly blurt out to complete strangers on the bus one night that it was Bunny Berrigan on the radio playing that solo in "I Can't Get Started"?

Jim is one of the people who have radio in their blood. When he was ten he got an amateur radio set and started "broadcasting" his shows from his bedroom to the kitchen where his parents were listening to the radio. They just listened along as if the show was coming from a station miles away-his early Arbitron ratings were excellent. In high school he quit all of his extra curricular activities-like jazz band-to host a weekly show on KWPC in Muscatine, Iowa. At the end of the day he even swept the station floor and burned the trash out back and one night almost the station itself.

When he started at WSUI in 1970 he was the host of the hottest show around, "Rhythm Rambles." This show was so good that people switched the TV off to listen. Every broadcast started at noon with a version of "Stardust" and Jim kept listeners swinging through their lunch hours each weekday. Later Jim switched to all night shows but he still kept "Stardust" as his musical signature.

A couple of years ago, Jim had a heart attack when he was getting ready to host his Thanksgiving night show. He was off the air for three months over the holidays and that really hurt. Every holiday or anniversary gets some musical recognition on Jim's show and none more than Christmas and New Year's when he really pulls out all the stops. Each day he put together the shows he wanted to do in his head. All listeners heard in the winter of 2004 was the BBC all night, 'til Jim came back in February just in time for Valentine's Day. It was the thought that he was depriving his listeners of great jazz that brought him back to the microphone and he says saved his life.

I was really depressed when I found out that my late night jazz hero was going off the air but I should have known better. Jim's decided to take his show to the internet where its midnight everywhere. When you're as passionate as Jim is about sharing your music, you don't just fade out.


  • Comment | Refresh

  • Post a Comment: Please be civil, brief and relevant.

    Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. All comments are moderated. Weekend America reserves the right to edit any comments on this site and to read them on the air if they are extra-interesting. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting.

      Form is no longer active


    You must be 13 or over to submit information to American Public Media. The information entered into this form will not be used to send unsolicited email and will not be sold to a third party. For more information see Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Download Weekend America

Weekend Weather

From the January 31 broadcast

Support American Public Media with your Amazon.com purchases
Search Amazon.com:
 ©2015 American Public Media