SportsJam with Doug Doyle: Bob Porter, WBGO Announcer and Grammy-Winning Blues and Jazz Producer (2008)
Bob Porter, Grammy Award-winning record producer, heralded jazz and blues authority and author, legendary WBGO announcer, devoted husband and father and long-time Boston Red Sox and Celtics fan died on Saturday April 10, 2021 at his home in Northvale, N.J. He was 80.
The cause was complications due to esophageal cancer, said his wife, Linda Porter.
It was in 2008, the first year of SportsJam with Doug Doyle, that Bob Porter spoke about his passion for sports and music.
"If I had my way on a Saturday night in a strange town, I'd head for a sports bar with a good blues band. I'd watch the game with the sound off and listen to the music. I don't think I'm alone in that."
Porter was an iconic voice and presence at WBGO — the unequivocal expert behind Portraits in Blue, which he started as a syndicated blues show in 1981, as well as Saturday Morning Function, which focuses on rhythm and blues, and the Sunday morning show Swing Party.
During the 2008 interview, Porter gave us an indication what it takes to be a successful recording producer.
"If I'm doing my work well, we do it before we get into the studio. I want to make sure we got the right band and I want to be sure we at least have a direction in mind once we start and recording starts rolling. As far as I'm concerned, I want the guys play what they want to play, the way they want to play it. Now I'm there for a second opinion. I'm not hesitant about telling guys that the tempo is not quite the way it should be or if maybe we should change up the solo order and things like that. In a large measure, I want to capture the sound of the guys playing in the studio. It can be a great deal of pleasure and it can also be a huge pain in the neck at certain time. It depends on how well everything is going."
Bob's favorite baseball player without question was the Boston Red Hall of Famer Ted Williams.
"I saw him in the 50's perhaps a half-dozen times. It got to be every time I'd go to see him play he'd hit a home run. I say him hit a home run off Herb Score and Bob Feller in the same game, the best lefty and best righty in Cleveland history. I saw Williams when he was still great and he was in his late 30's by this time, but still the greatest hitter I ever saw."
If he could compare Williams to a musician, Porter says someone like legendary saxophonist Stan Getz would get the nod.
"Stan Getz had an obvious gift and really cultivated it to a point where everything he did was kind of magic."
It may be hard to believe someone so passionate about the Red Sox would marry a New York Yankees fan, but that's just what happened to Bob and Linda. How did they meet?
"We both worked for Ahmet Ertegun. I was working for Atlantic Records in the late 80's. I was actually in a very good position there in the sense that I reported directly to him. I had two tasks. One was to try and retrieve masters, some of which may have been lost in a fire. The second thing was to help restore the Black Music catalog at Atlantic which had fallen out of favor for much of the 1980's. I started there in 1986. Linda started there in 1988. We started going out shortly after that. The first thing I think we went to was a WBGO event at Carnegie Hall which featured among others, Albert Collins. She had never seen Albert Collins before and was thrilled. It got to be we could talk to each other about things that we couldn't talk to anyone else about because we both worked for the Chairman at Atlantic."
Bob wasn't just a sports fan, he was also a good hooper. WBGO morning host and close friend Gary Walker says Bob could still play a great game on the hardwood when the radio station employees had some games. Porter was the sixth man on his high school basketball team.
"I played center-forward. We didn't really have set positions at that point. You learned what skills you could get away with, but I was a pretty good free-throw shooter."
Bob admitted that he was a competitive person in sports and the music business. When I asked the veteran card player if he would bury me in a game of bridge, he didn't hesitate and said "yes".
We send our deepest condolences to Bob's wife and family. His iconic voice and knowledge of music and sports will be a just a part of his legacy.
Click above to hear the entire SportsJam interview with Bob Porter.