If you've seen today's PG, it's filled, as it should be, with election news. The Magazine section features my profile of Steeler and Pitt Panther broadcast Bill Hillgrove focusing on his deep passion for jazz, as well as his ten all-time favorite jazz albums. Many have no idea that he grew up a jazz fan and after graduating from Duquesne in 1962, spent several years as a music DJ locally before he ever got into sports broadcasting in the late 60's at WTAE radio then TV.
Throughout Bill's 16 years as TAE's sports director up till earlier this year, his love of jazz was rarely seen, unless one saw him at a club or occasionally emceeing a local show.
That changed in July, when he returned to his radio roots by hosting a "Weekend Jazz With Bill Hillgrove" on the Pittsburgh Jazz Channel, the online creation of former WDUQ staffers intent on maintaining a local jazz presence. And for those unfamiliar with this side of the man, his expertise is, well, stunning. You can hear some of it in Nate Guidry's video, and see how far back his jazz roots really go. This is a guy who as a member of Duquesne's chapter of Sigma Delta Chi, the Journalism fraternity, traveled to New York for a convention and saw iconic drummer Gene Krupa performing at the famed Metropole Cafe, and cherishes the memory.
This weekend, I heard him begin an hour of his pre-recorded show with an impressionistic description of New York's famous 52nd Street, so filled with jazz clubs it was known as "Swing Street" from the 40's to the late 60's. Bill saw some of that himself when he visited NYC in the 60's, and many photos exist of the street in its prime (the clubs are long gone today). He created a marvelous little audio impression of "The Street" in its day, one that clearly involved combining research and his own memories.
Honestly, you never hear this sort of thing on radio in any musical genre nowadays. It was very old-school, classy and insightful, revealing a love of the music as impressive as his command of local sports.
If you only know Bill for the Steelers, Panthers football and basketball and his years at TAE, this side of him is worth knowing as well.
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