LONG LIVE THE "SWINGIN' YEARS"!
He's known as "The King of Big Band Radio." His mind filled with priceless memories of unforgettable performances, stories and facts about a golden Era of American history when the Big Bands reigned and the dance halls were filled with thousands of young people moving to the beat of music that he calls: "..lyrically and musically strong, and joyful."
Indisputably, a time where some of the best musicians emerged leaving their mark in global history. Cecil himself is an institution the very young 77 year old is single-handedly keeping the musical years between 1935 to 1955 alive for many generations of fans to enjoy.
Radio host Chuck Cecil keeps the pages open on this timeless chapter with his commitment to produce a weekly show called the "SWINGIN' YEARS." The show has highlighted the music and personal anecdotes from such greats as: Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman.
On Saturday afternoons at noon we listened to his show (on KPCC, 89.3) --his voice taking people back in time to relive fond memories of their youth -- while those of us born decades too late, fantasized about those special nights when the band was playing in the elegant legendary ballrooms
His descriptions are so vivid as he sets the mood and scene with the kind of imagery that paints a picture of sight and sound.
The show is now syndicated in a number of U.S. markets and Australia. Though fans in Los Angeles were faced with bitter disappointment as new ownership of KPCC changed the format to exclude our favorite show. (see bottom for current station)
Cecil has been quoted as saying: "My greatest satisfaction has come from simply serving as a vehicle to provide today's listening public and opportunity to hear Big Band music and read the letters I receive each week from listeners thanking me for doing my part keep the Era alive.
"Chuck was working at KFLW in Oregon when he met a beautiful teenage girl named Edna Brown. She was the vocalist for Baldy's Band, a popular band in Southern Oregon.
Edna performed a show at a nightclub and on certain nights, it was broadcast over the radio. Chuck's new job was to announce Edna and the band. She had never met or seen him before. Edna remembers the moment they met, as if it were yesterday. He tapped her on the shoulder and said: "... and your name is?" She looked up at his face and literally could not remember her own name. The feeling was mutual, and they were married in 1947.
The two are more than life partners, they are a business team as they work together on the show.
After 53 years of marriage, there's still a sparkle in their eye when they catch a glimpse of each other. Edna recently gave this piece of advice to Erik Robison & Sylvia Skylar (the Hollywood Style sweethearts) on their wedding video, she simply said: "Remember to always be in love."
Chuck and Edna have a family of four children and 15 grandchildren! (They also look magnificent and very young).
Mr. Chuck Cecil was Born in an Oklahoma ranch in 1922. After a severe drought in 1935, Chuck's family auctioned off their livestock and property and moved Hollywood -- later settling in the San Fernando Valley. Also attending Van Nuys High School with Chuck during the 1940's were Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe (Norma Jeanne Baker, at the time). He was a guest at Monroe's wedding to Jim Doughety in 1942.
1942 was also the year when Chuck found his first radio job at KVEC in San Luis Obispo. In December of that same year, he was called to active duty by the Navy. Chuck wanted to become a fighter pilot and he was accepted for the navy's v-5 pilot training Program flying Grumman. When the war ended, Chuck was serving in a replacement squad waiting for his first combat assignment.
In 1946 Chuck went back to radio. This time he found a job at KFLW in Klamath Falls, OR. From that point on, Chuck worked at a number of radio stations, where he learned everything from reading news and announcing sports, to spinning records and selling advertising.
After realizing that record companies were re-releasing the classic big band hits and that there was a market for the music, Chuck created the SWINGIN' YEARS, and that year, by the way, was 1956. He was working for KFI in Los Angeles and convinced his supervisors that his was a viable project. He was right.
Now, back in the San Fernando Valley, Chuck produces his show from home. The entertainment goes on for 4 hours. The music is accompanied by Chuck's account of the activity going on during the time of the recording. The music which comes from his library of 40,000 tracks -- is supplemented by excerpts from over 300 insightful interviews he conducted with the greats of the Big Band Era. The tapes include conversations with such talented artists as: Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Artie Shaw and many others.
LET'S KEEP SUPPORTING CHUCK'S EFFORTS --
The year 2009 marks the 53rd anniversary of the "SWINGIN' YEARS," but the stories never end and the music is as good as ever, as new generations of fans discover it for the first time, decades after it was recorded.
Next time you see Chuck and Edna, make sure you say hello and tell them how much you appreciate them. They are two of the nicest people I've ever met.
Also, let's work toward making sure that the "SWINGIN' YEARS" continues to have a precense in Los Angeles. The stations that broadcast the show are public stations
which always need financial support from the listeners. Participate by donating to
their pledge drives.
Written by Sonia A. (thanks to John Tumpak for his great articles!)