Chuck Niles, 19272004
Photo by Debra DiPaolo
Longtime KKGO-KLON-KKJZ disc jockey Chuck Niles has passed away, having worked up until quite near the end. In a medium full of empty-headed blowhards and Clear Channel Stepford-jocks, Niles was in every sense an on-air personality.
I met Niles a couple of times it was easy enough. He was a denizen of the local jazz clubs; pop into Charlie Os on a weeknight, and there was a good chance hed be there. Last time I spoke with him, I was standing at the bar, and there was that voice: the unmistakable Chuck Niles whiskey baritone. He spun a few stories. Though he didnt know me at all, as with all great radio personalities youd swear he was your friend youve spent so many hundreds of hours listening to him. He came off as just a neighborly cat who happened to be the greatest jazz disc jockey in the world.
Niles was quite a supporter of living jazz, plugging local players on his show. And in the clubs, youd see him approach some young piano player between sets and compliment him on his swing, and the kid could barely keep his imperturbable jazz expression, he was so thrilled. Because Niles had been there; he had that bemused sense that I believe comes from having lived near the beginnings of a cultural revolution bebop. Niles knew many if not most of the founding boppers; he saw them play, bought their earliest 78s. A lot of stories slipped away when Chuck Niles passed on. Well still hear some of those stories, of course, but now theyll seem like just history instead of experience.
Im spinning the bop and the straight-ahead for myself now, just wishing that some folks could live forever.
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