Editor’s note: We apologize for the tardiness in printing this letter.
While socializing in the funeral parlor I reminisced about why Dick Buckley was one of my most admired disc jockeys [Dick Buckley, 85, riffed on jazz for more than a half century, Obituaries, July 28]. The downer, however, was thinking about how decimated the hours of jazz music had become, even in Chicago, that had featured so many great jazz musicians and the talented Dick Buckley, who had devoted so much to preserve America’s jazz culture.
I chanced to meet a couple of other jazz fans who admired Dick Buckley so. One was 87 years old and had driven alone over 80 miles for the round trip, coming from an area south of Gary, Ind. We shared very similar thoughts about how Dick Buckley was the DJ we had learned the most from about the personalities and unique facts in the lives of our favorite jazz artists. It was clear that we felt Dick Buckley was unique and only two other names came up with comparable praise, Sid McCoy and Daddy O’Daley. We praised Dick for educating us about the unique personalities and little-known facts of our favorite jazz artists and the other reasons why we always listened to his program, which often featured signature events.
I recalled for them the most memorable concerts I had attended. Most recently one such event had been the Tony Bennett concert at Ravinia, which celebrated his 80th birthday. The enthusiasm in the audience was electric as the fans rose for a standing ovation after every song. The concert was extended by several additional songs before finally rolling out the birthday cake with best wishes extended from Mayor Daley and the city of Chicago. A few other “most outstanding events” that I told my new jazz friends about were Sarah Vaughn in a very rare performance being backed by the full Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The reviews all stated she had topped any of her previous concerts in Chicago and very likely anywhere else. Sammy Davis at Mill Run and Lou Rawls at Drury Lane in the original location of Evergreen Park also gave their best concerts, and would have thrilled even Buckley, in spite of his feeling that singers just got in the way of the music. Count Basie allowing me to sit down with him at the table closest to his piano, talking about his great times in my birth place of Kansas City just before getting up to play at Bimbo’s in Frisco. Finally, Lionel Hampton treating my friend and me as his free guests because we drove him back to Topeka for his concert there, after he had squeezed in a trip to KU for the football game and a visit to our fraternity house as a “visiting fraternity brother.” These were certainly very special musical concerts, and in some cases signature events, because of personal visits with the “star musician.”
As I walked out of the room from the memorial service, however, I glanced at the stack of jazz CDs, recognizing them to be among Dick’s favorites. I began recalling how much I had enjoyed his favorite jazz musicians, and in some cases actually making them mine also. Dick’s soothing voice made you listen more intently to what he was saying, sometimes far more than the selection he played. It was his commentary that turned an otherwise ordinary hour of jazz music into a special event. I suddenly thought of how much the information and commentary of Dick had created a unique jazz program in a very similar way that my visit with the celebrity musicians had made that particular concert a signature event.
At I started the car up to leave, I turned the radio on, already tuned to the lone jazz station for Chicaogland. I thought, “I need some Basie, some Ellington or some Stan Getz,” but within a minute I turned it off. I realized that what I really needed at the time was some Dick Buckley.
Jim Strickland is an Oak Park resident.