Thursday, January 14, 2010

R.I.P.: Ed Beach

Ed Beach, Host of 'Just Jazz' Radio Show, Dies at 86
by Margalit Fox
New York Times, January 14, 2010

Ed Beach, the host of a popular jazz radio show in the 1960s and '70s, who attracted listeners in New York and elsewhere with his sonorous voice, eclectic taste, vast erudition and pleasurably irascible temperament, died on Dec. 25 in Eugene, Ore. He was 86 and lived in Eugene.

Mr. Beach died of natural causes, his son, Mark, said.

"Just Jazz," Mr. Beach's show, played on WRVR (106.7 FM in New York), the radio station of Riverside Church, from 1961 to 1976. It was rebroadcast in several other cities.

Mr. Beach had trained as an actor, and his impeccable diction lent the show a certain cantankerous gravitas. So did his voluminous knowledge of his subject: he had a background as a jazz pianist and singer, a personal collection of LPs that ran to the thousands and, his admirers said, a scholar's understanding of the social, historical and musical contexts in which jazz was made.

While there were other well-received jazz shows on the radio then, his fans said that few rivaled Mr. Beach's when it came to ardor and information.

"He was a real illustration of how to do it with class, discographical information and reverence," the jazz historian Phil Schaap said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. "It hadn't been done that way before."

"Just Jazz" often devoted an entire show to a single performer or ensemble. Broadcast Monday through Saturday, it could range in a given week over Ma Rainey, Louis Armstrong, Charles Mingus and Kid Thomas Valentine and His Algiers Stompers, a New Orleans band.

Mr. Beach supplied meticulous credits for every tune he played -- naming title, label and performers -- but otherwise kept his patter to a minimum. He reserved some choice on-air remarks for record companies, whom he took to task for underpaying musicians. From time to time he castigated his own listeners, many of whom, he knew, were taping the show instead of supporting the artists by buying their albums.

Edward Alexander Beach was born on Jan 16, 1923, in Winnipeg, Canada; his family eventually settled in Portland, Ore. As a young man he performed throughout the West with a jazz trio and in 1949 earned a bachelor's degree in theater from Lewis and Clark College in Portland.

Mr. Beach did graduate work in theater at Cornell and for several years acted in summer stock, regional theater and on New York stages like the Equity Library Theater. He joined WNYC as a classical disc jockey in the late 1950s.

WRVR began broadcasting in January 1961, and Mr. Beach was hired as a classical D.J. a few months later. Before the year was out, "Just Jazz" was born.

WRVR was sold in 1976. Mr. Beach resigned not long afterward.

After an early marriage that ended in divorce, Mr. Beach married L. Karen Lafky in 1950. That marriage also ended in divorce. Besides his son, Mark Peter Beach, from his marriage to Ms. Lafky, he is survived by three grandchildren.

Mr. Beach returned to Oregon in 1977, resumed performing part time and spent a great many hours cataloging his record collection, his son said.

In 1980, WRVR became WKHK, with a country format. It is now WLTW, also known as Lite FM.

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