Veteran radio personality Gordon Spencer will present Friday's Jazz in the Afternoon on KIOS starting October 18. Spencer has been hosting jazz radio broadcasts continuously since 1976.
From childhood on Gordon Spencer’s life has been full of music. He was in the audience during Philadelphia Orchestra Children’s Concerts, his father up there on stage playing viola. At home little Gordon delighted in recordings of Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Ravel, Debussy. And was baby-sat while his father played Mozart and Haydn string quartets with friends.
Gordon’s aunt Marion, a concert pianist, took him to Carnegie Hall for a Duke Ellington performance, although the word “jazz” was never used. That word first came into powerful focus when Gordon, while a student at Swarthmore College, heard, live, Wilbur DeParis and his New New Orleans Jazz. Gordon wanted to get up and dance. The spirit, the joy grabbed him and has never let go.
Not long thereafter, WFLN in Philadelphia offered Gordon a full time announcing job, mostly hosting classical music but also the one-hour “Concert of American Jazz.” Later Gordon would move on to WHAT in Philadelphia and to pop music station WOND in Atlantic City. In both places Gordon shared his love of jazz with listeners.
He moved to New York, hoping for an acting career. That wasn’t easy. To put bagels on the table, he announced classical music for WNCN until the management let him create his own six hour overnight show, “Sounds of the 20th Century.” Needless to say, jazz was a part of that, along with much contemporary concert music.
A new management at WNCN had other ideas. Gordon tried an acting career again. He got roles off-Broadway, in summer stock, a few movies, and TV shows. Nothing major. Small income.
Back to radio, including programs on WNCN under yet another new management. But, missing jazz and other newer music, Gordon volunteered to do a weekly program on WBAI, New York, “American Music.”
Then he and his former wife Helga, decided to try to live in Europe. They spent nearly five years there, mostly in Italy. No jazz.
New York again. And WNCN. Another new management welcomed him. The morning show.
Then the glories of New Mexico beckoned and Gordon took over a morning classical program on KHFM in Albuquerque. A weekly jazz show soon came with it. Oops, another new management. Gordon moved over to KKOB radio and became a news anchor and reporter while hosting jazz on KUNM.
Gordon’s wife Hannelore was the Marketing Director for The New Mexico Symphony Orchestra and, when she was offered the same position with the Milwaukee Symphony, they moved. There Gordon worked at both classical music WFMR and jazz station WYMS, and became the theatre critic for weekly alternative newspaper Shepherd Express.
Another opportunity for Hannelore: Marketing Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony. So, in their third city, Gordon hosted classical music part-time on WQED-FM and started his own shows on WRCT. Jazz was part of that as was contemporary concert music and cast recordings of musicals. More theatre reviews, this time for Pittsburgh’s City Paper. Plus, in spare time, taking roles in local semi-professional theatre.
Hannelore’s family lives here in Omaha. And now so do Gordon and she. He hopes to keep on doing what he’s always loved doing: performing and sharing his love of music with radio listeners.
(Additional material courtesy of Chris Cooke/KIOS)