Jazz pianist and veteran radio programmer Dick Conte has been a part of the Bay Area Jazz scene since the '60s. He can be heard Saturday afternoons, 2 – 6 p.m. on KCSM, San Mateo.
By DICK CONTE
My first exposure to jazz was at my Uncle Leo's house when I was just a little kid. He had a piano that had rolls and I would sit and pump and pretend I was playing, barely reaching the pedals. More importantly, he had an extensive collection of jazz 78s; everything from Bix and Satchmo to Goodman, Basie, Billie and Bird.
That started my fascination with the music, and at 9, I started piano lessons.
In high school I joined a Dixieland band, until I heard George Shearing's Quintet. Then my pals and I started a jazz quartet.
Living in Connecticut gave us access to New York radio and such DJs as Jazzbeaux Collins, and Jean Shepard, and after moving to New York in 1959, Symphony Sid and especially Mort Fega.
While working for Pan Am in reservations, I attended The School of Radio Technique with my lifelong dream of working in radio and eventually as a jazz DJ.
We moved to San Francisco in 1961, where I discovered KJAZ.
Pat Henry gave me an audition in '62 and I landed on Sunday nights and did various time slots part time until '69, when I went full-time until '83.
I went on to KSFO playing jazz and big band on Saturday and Sunday mornings until a format change, then on to KKCY "The City", until another format change, then proceeded in '87 to both KCSM full time with Midday Jazz and KKSF on Sunday nights with The Jazz Cafe and A Taste of Brazil.
I continued on KKSF until 2009 and KCSM until present day, having retired to Saturday afternoons in 2000.
I continue to enjoy doing my weekly show at KCSM as well as performing jazz, solo, duo, trio and quartet gigs around the Bay Area.
So sometimes dreams do come true!
This is part of a series about falling 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.