I was tidying some paperwork at home and came across this letter, sent twenty- five years ago today; it must have been one of the first letters I received at the station. I have redacted the identifying details to protect the innocent, and appended the text of the letter below the image for clarity:
July 30, 1987
Flavian Wallace WNUR Evanston Campus Northwestern Unlversity Evanston, Il
Dear Mr Wallace:
For almost 2 hours this morning you contaminated the airwaves with eternally long monotonous musical marathons, which merely showed the technical proficiency and endurance of the various performers.
I am aware that the term “jazz” has a broad spectrum, but to extend it to the ridiculous with cacophony causes irreparable harm and damage to the memory of such giants of Jazz as Armstrong, Goodman, Basie etc.
I am aware that all people cant be pleased at all times, but if the sounds you are sending over the airwaves the majority of time constituted the basis of our history of Jazz, 1t would never have gotten off the ground.
I suggest that 1f Armstrong and Lester Young were playing in one saloon, and Parker and Gillespie were playing in another the Armstrong and Lester place would be filled forever simply because they reach the people and their sounds are compatible with the common man.
This is an over simplification, of course, and I took 4 of the of the best, but the point 1s that bebop, contemporary and other forms of mutilated music called Jazz, has never and w111 never match or compare with the great traditional sounds of Jazz, which extend from the Dixeland, to the Honk Tonks and nite clubs, and from the small combos to the b1g bands.
Come back home. Maybe with this kind of music we can once again bring Jazz back into the mainstream of our popular music.
I really do appreciate hearing from listeners, even when they have negative comments (of course the positive ones are nicer, but hearing the other side is good too). I wonder if this gentleman gave up and went elsewhere, or if he stayed listening to my show to see if I would come round to his point of view. I hope he’s still around somewhere enjoying the kind of music he likes best; he’s right that the old masters were indeed great, even if I can’t agree with him that everything from bebop on is necessarily inferior (Sturgeon’s Law notwithstanding).
My thanks to all of you who have ever taken the time and trouble to call or write, it is always nice to know that there’s someone out there listening. Here’s to the next twenty-five years of listener feedback!