NYF’s weekly Open Mic Spotlight Interview features prominent award-winner’s from the wonderful world of radio. This week NYF interviews 2017 Gold Trophy winner Dick Golden, Host and Producer of “American Jazz: Tribute to Genius” (University of Maryland University College (UMUC) & George Washington University).
Dick Golden is a revered broadcast veteran and the beloved host of popular radio programs on jazz and the Great American Songbook. For over a quarter of a century Golden’s show “Nightlights was heard thought out Cape Cod and Southern Massachusetts sharing songs and fascinating conversations with jazz greats including Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, and Rosemary Clooney.
Dick currently produces and hosts GW’s award-winning cultural, educational program GW Presents American Jazz heard nationally on Sirius-XM Satellite Radio as well as Washington’s Federal News Radio. The series is produced in partnership with Tony Bennett’s Exploring the Arts Foundation. He serves as staff advisor to WRGW, the university’s student-run radio station. Dick has lectured at educational seminars for The Smithsonian Associates, and has hosted concerts for The Voice of America as well as programs with U.S. Service Bands in D.C
Keep reading to find out more about Golden’s inspiration for his award-winning program, the creative challenges he encountered during production, how his passion for jazz developed, and much more.
NYF Radio: How did your Gold Trophy winning program “American Jazz: Tribute to Genius” come to be produced? What was the inspiration for the creation of this celebratory program?
Dick Golden: The American Jazz “Tribute to Genius” program’s production was inspired by the celebration of Tony Bennett’s birthday on August 3rd and Louis Armstrong’s birthday on August 4th. Tony Bennett’s artistry, 17 years into the 21st century, has helped bring the songs contained in the American Songbook, the standards written by Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Duke Ellington, the Gershwin’s, etc. written in the 20th century to new generations of Americans. Bing Crosby once observed that, “Louis Armstrong is the beginning and end of American music.” Both artists, and their music, represent some of the highest achievements in American popular culture.
NYF Radio: What was the process in curating the music and stories to be featured in this celebration of the music lives and legacies of the jazz greats, Louis Armstrong and Tony Bennett?
Dick Golden: For the past 40 years I’ve produced and hosted radio programs that feature American standards and jazz. So much of the traditional jazz repertoire is made up of American standards and this is the intersection I’ve focused on my programs. I’ve never tired of studying the lives of the composers and artists. Tony Bennett, an NEA Jazz Master and this year’s recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize, has been an essential part of our programs and I’ve had the pleasure of many interviews with him and some of that material became a part of the first hour of “Tribute to Genius”. Louis Armstrong has been another essential artist in my radio career. In 2001, I was Senior Producer for a 13-hour NPR tribute to Louis and the research and interviews with eminent jazz musicologist Gary Giddins and others inspired my deep appreciation for the impact Armstrong continues to have on musicians.
NYF Radio: What creative challenges did you encounter during the production of this program and how did you overcome them?
Dick Golden: The major challenges in producing a program to celebrate this music and these artists is to have to contain the tribute to only 2 hours!!
NYF Radio: Where did you first develop your passion for Jazz? How did you come to share your passion on radio?
Dick Golden: Growing up in the late 1950′s and early 1960′s I was truly fascinated by radio…to be able to connect to such a diverse number of different realities that we’re floating through the air and cold be accessed by turning on radio and going up and down the dial to this day, even witha working knowledge of the basic science behind it, continues to this day to be magical!!! When I was growing up the radio spectrum was not just filled with stations that played pop music, but you often heard the voices of Sinatra, Ella, Tony Bennett, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, etc and this was the music that touched heart and soul of even a 12-year-old… and my appreciation for the music and the power of radio continues to deepen!
NYF Radio: How did the GW Presents American Jazz series, on Sirius XM Satellite come about?(Michel Freedman of University of Maryland University College (UMUC) & George Washington University , Senior Vice President & Professor of Journalism , USA weighs in…)
Michael Freedman: The spark for this series was actually created while I was serving as GM of CBS Radio Network and Dick Golden was program director of the CBS affiliate on Cape Cod, as well as that community’s beloved and longtime #1 radio host.
I had occasion to meet the great Tony Bennett in Manhattan and that led to a conversation about how to keep this wonderful music on the radio. We agreed to produce a series of specials for the network and it was Tony who introduced me to Dick! Once the connection was made, the three of us set about to further this cause and we began producing radio specials together at CBS. When I arrived at GW as a vice president and professor at the end of 2000, the three of us decided there was more to do and ultimately created American Jazz in the fall of 2001 on local radio in Washington. Tony Bennett himself opened the door to Sirius XM Satellite Radio by making a call on our behalf – without our knowing it. And the rest, as they say, is history! Over the years, Tony has contributed mightily to the series through interviews with Dick (excerpts of which have been used on the air) and his incredible support of the series and his dear friend, Dick Golden. Bottom line: Dick is a treasure and all of his listeners know it!
NYF Radio: Your show is in 15th year, and it’s also broadcast on the renowned jazz radio station, WGBO Jazz 88.3, with studios in Newark N.J., and transmitters in New York City’s Times Square, to what do you attribute its longevity?
Dick Golden: I believe the program endures (as mentioned I began the essentially same program as a 6 night a week, 4-hour program in September of 1977 on Cape Cod at WQRC radio) because the music is timeless. The American Songbook is populated by thousands of 32 bar songs that are really short stories about the human experience. When performed by artists who not only have unique voices and great musicality, but perform the songs with emotional honesty, this music, like great art, never grows old.
NYF Radio: How do you determine your weekly show’s format and how do you begin to prep for the show?
Dick Golden: One aspect of producing the weekly program that seems like an anachronism today is that I record each hour in real time. I don’t record voice tracks separately and then mix in music…as I’m playing a selection and listening in my ear phones I’m often inspired to play a different follow up tune because of something I heard… This method allows me to experience the program the same way the listeners will. I often use birthdays as a catalyst to feature an artist/composer’s work for an hour…I try to avoid any extraneous talk that detracts from the music but do try to remember to mention composers and recording dates to give context to music.
NYF Radio: Do you have any advice for jazz enthusiasts who want to honor this musical genre in the radio industry by creating their own formatted show on jazz?
A couple of years ago the PD at Real Jazz Sirius Radio forwarded to me an email from a listener who grew up in New Jersey and loved Real Jazz. He was thrilled to discover the American Jazz program because it was produced by GW and HE was a GW student. I reached out to Ryan Goynos and invited him to drop by radio studio when I was recording. I was very gratified that he had such a love of Billie Holiday, Basie, Ella, Tony Bennett, etc. He told me that he and his brother both LOVED this music and could his brother join Ryan in attending another recording session. I replied “of course…does your brother live nearby?” Ryan said, ” Yes, he also attends GW…he’s my twin brother!”. When Chris came into studio with Ryan I interviewed them on the program and had them choose 8-10 selections. It was such a great experience that I suggested I assist them in recording an audition CD for GW’s student radio station WRGW (on the air since 1929) and they co-host a weekly program called Capitol Jazz! I would encourage anyone in radio who loves this music to create podcasts and to convince PD’s to make some room in a station’s format ( weekends, overnights, etc.) for this music. Produced and hosted by someone with appreciation and knowledge of the music, I believe the program will find a very bright, loyal and engaged… and grateful audience.
NYF Radio: What is your personal dream project that you’d like to create? Or have you already created it and if so, what was it?
Dick Golden: If I had Warren Buffet or Bill Gates wealth, I would assemble a team to create a radio version of what Turner Classic Movies is to film…A broadcasting platform that presented this body of American music in the most engaging and intelligent style. Knowledgeable and passionate hosts…Wonderful feature and interview to educate and inform listeners … Wonderful features and interview to educate and inform listeners…creative programs that would encourage interaction with audience. The listeners I’ve heard from over the years are so involved in listening to this music and so inspiring in their reaction to what they hear.
For more information on New York Festivals Radio Program Awards, please visit: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/