Family, Colleagues Remember Legendary Host Dick Buckley

July 23, 2010

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Dick Buckley (WBEZ/Photo courtesy of Ken Davis)

The legendary jazz radio host Dick Buckley has died. He passed away yesterday at West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park. He was 85.

NOTE: Visiting hours are planned for 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesday at Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home in Oak Park. A short service will follow at 11 a.m.

SOUND OF MUSIC

Hearing this fanfare was part of a weekly ritual for jazz lovers for years. It's how Dick Buckley routinely started his Sunday show.

BUCKLEY: Hi everybody…

Buckley was a jazz host with WBEZ for more than three decades. His broadcast was a key part of many people's lazy Sunday afternoons -- full disclosure -- including mine.

TESSER: This is what he loved to do, play some good old good ones, as he used to call them, tap his feet to them, songs he had heard, versions he had heard a 100 times, and enjoy them again.

Neil Tesser is a jazz critic and former WBEZ jazz host who worked with Buckley. He says he knows a lot of people who didn't know anything about jazz. But they listened to the show because they got caught up in Buckley's enthusiasm.

TESSER: What you heard on the air was who Dick was. That was his great charm, there was no filter, there was no, I'm now on professional radio duty. You heard Dick Buckley talk to you, and if it sounded like he was in your living room, it's because he talked to you like he was in his living room. It was a direct connection with listeners.

BUCKLEY: Let's get started with the...

Buckley often weighed in to correct liner notes. Tesser says he enjoyed Buckley's willingness to freely offer his opinions.

BUCKLEY: That all-star big band, they could have offered 16 fellows off the street. It's an all-star….

SEGAL: Well, he certainly kept the traditional music alive.

Joe Segal's the owner of Chicago's Jazz Showcase.

SEGAL: He played a lot of music that other DJs were not playing. Most of them started playing in the 40s, but he kept the swing bands going of the 30s, the 20s and even back to early Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke, and all that, he would play all that music and talk about it and impart a little bit of knowledge.

Buckley's love for the art form always came through.

BUCKLEY: Boy, if I could play ballads like that, I wouldn't care f I ever made any money, I'd just sit around and amaze myself. Beautiful, beautiful, Bill Watrous, trombone.

His love of jazz started at a young age. But Buckley's son, Jeff, says that didn't find favor with his grandfather.
 
JEFF BUCKLEY: He thought jazz was like the devil's music. My dad wanted to be a jazz trombone player, but his father said no son of mine is going to be a musician. So my father had to look elsewhere.

That elsewhere turned out to be radio. Buckley was in the military when somebody noticed his powerful deep voice. He worked at the radio station at his air base and later went on to work for a series of radio stations.
 
JEFF BUCKLEY: There was always jazz playing in the background. I remember on Sundays, my mom and the kids would go to church, and we'd come back, and he'd have jazz on pretty loud throughout the whole house.

Jeff Buckley says his father loved hearing from his fans.

BUCKLEY: He figured the people who were his fans were the people with the best taste in the world.

Jeff Buckley says there were three things his father loved most: His late wife, jazz and baseball.
 
BUCKLEY: Everybody knows him as a jazz historian and a jazz expert, but the most important thing about my dad was my mother.

Dick Buckley is survived by two sons, a daughter and three grandchildren. The service is planned for Tuesday morning at Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home in Oak Park.

I'm Lynette Kalsnes, WBEZ.