Taylor's Take Eight: Billy The Broadcaster
July 24, 2011. Posted by Tim Wilkins.
The following is the eighth in our series of tributes to Dr. Billy Taylor, part of our birthday celebration of "Doctor T," who would have turned ninety this Sunday, July 24. Check wbgo.org/billytaylor for our full tribute page, which includes more clips and our exclusive webcast of Billy Taylor: A Life In Jazz, a new video documentary by Bret Primack.
Take Eight: Billy The Broadcaster
Billy Taylor's success as a broadcaster brought him - and jazz - into living rooms across the United States. Starting in 1958 with The Subject is Jazz, then on The David Frost Show and CBS Sunday Morning, Taylor was the first to introduce jazz through television to mainstream audiences, and he reached radio listeners as a disk jockey for WLIB and WNEW.
Indeed, he became so well known to audiences as a broadcaster, that some didn't realize that he had an equally hard-earned reputation as a pianist!
Starting in 1975 with Jazz Waves, Taylor worked tirelessly to create a home for jazz at National Public Radio at a time when it was increasingly absent from commercial radio. These shows, which incorporated perforamance and commentary, also set the record straight about his own musical skills.
"NPR was like the light at the end of the tunnel," he told singer Nancy Wilson, the host of Jazz Profiles. "It was a way to keep jazz alive."
In 1977 he got his own show, Jazz Alive!, which he followed with Taylor-Made Piano and finally Jazz at the Kennedy Center. He hosted many jazz specials, such as the annual Toast of the Nation New Years' Eve celebrations. In all, Taylor created hundreds of hours of jazz broadcasts for public radio.
On the 25th anniversary of his first NPR broadcast, Jazz Profiles produced a special portrait of Dr. T, which contains many excerpts from his career on the air.
Of course, 25 years was only half the story - for by the time of his death in 2010, he had been a broadcaster for more than fifty years!
To hear the audio of this program, click here:
© 2011 WBGO
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