When I was 10 years old, the AM radio was my best friend. Of course, you had to patiently wade through songs by Eddy Arnold and Dean Martin to get to the good stuff, rock 'n' roll and R&B from people like Ray Charles and Joey Dee.
In those days, we heard every kind of music through our often tiny transistor radios. One magical day, the disc jockey announced something called "Walk on the Wild Side" by Jimmy Smith. Smith's amazing Hammond B-3 organ playing burst through Oliver Nelson's horn-band arrangement like a railroad train on a collision course. After that first hearing, there was no choice but to anxiously await the next time it was played on the airwaves. But it was worth the wait. I'd never heard anything like it.
Smith's incredible percussion setting on the Hammond allowed him a growling reply to the call-and-response of the big band. It was more like a human voice than anything heard in those days of surf instrumentals like the Venture's "Walk Don't Run" or the Chantays' "Pipeline." This was BIG music from a great artist and I still feel a sense of awe when I hear it today.
This is part of a series about how our music hosts fell in love with the artform of jazz.
We're inviting you to share your story of how you came to love jazz, in 200 words or less. Email your essay to [email protected] before February 14. We’ll read the top submissions on air and award several prizes.