Gary Farber has a great piece on the (soft) power of music, If it ain't got that swing, which introduced me to Willis Conover. Who's that?
Willis Conover is, or at least once was, one of the most world famous Americans for forty years, and yet unknown to all but a few Americans…
Thanks for re-kindling a memory! Living in Switzerland as a post-graduate student in the 1950’s, then married to a woman who was a jazz musician, we were starved for the music scene we had known on Chicago’s south side. Swiss friends first told us of Willis Connover and the VofA Jazz Hour and it became a lifeline.
What was truly amazing was the impact on our young musician friends; for some this was the stimulus to careers in jazz, for all it became an integral part of their lives. His influence cannot be overstated: there was simply no other way to have easy access to this music. Touring jazz musicians were few, even fewer made it all the way to Berne, Switzerland, and LP records were so blindingly expensive as to be prohibitive. The VofA provided unique access.