As a drummer in Southern California, while working with Dave Pike at Hungry Joe’s on the Pacific shore in Huntington Beach, Ron Pelletier met a DJ at L.A.’s flagship Jazz station KBCA-FM, who had come by the club. Dennis Smith was doing the mid-day shift with Gerald Wilson during which Gerald was conducting interviews with many Jazz greats.
Ron says: “I took Smith up on an invitation to come by the station, more than a handful of times, sitting in awe watching Gerald and Dennis play the music and conduct the interviews. I knew then that I would love to get into radio”. Fast forward a couple years…again while on the bandstand, this time with Sam Most…Tom Schnabel, the music director at KCRW in Santa Monica, dropped into the club. Ron says: “I asked Tom how I could get on the air. One thing led to another and before long I was doing shows on KCRW. The format was called “Strictly Jaz”, and my focus was to do interviews to get the players on the air to not only entertain but to educate. The first was Vinny Golia, the second Joe Williams and that started it for me”. Through a grant from Musicians Union Local 47 in Hollywood, Ron also started to produce live performances broadcast from KPFK (KPFA’s sister station in L.A.) with a signal that reached the San Diego border. The station had a loft space large enough to fit an audience of 200 or so for the weekly Saturday afternoon performances.
At the same time Ron was awarded an N.E.A. grant to bring Jazz artists into the classrooms in South Central L.A. to play for them, to talk to them, and simply to expose the kids to a rich part of their cultural heritage. Ron moved to SF for an opportunity to work at KJAZ in the early to mid-80s. He was also on the air at KCSM before joining the board of Jazz In Flight, producing weekly shows as well as an annual world class festival whose namesake was Bay Area drummer Eddie Moore.
Ron says: “I’ve since been devoting a great deal of time to preserving a literal mountain of analog taped conversations with so many historical Jazz figures from the entire spectrum of the music…converting these old tapes to a digital format to more easily share them via all the new technologies available to us now. And I, of course, feel extremely fortunate to be on the air at one of the very few remaining 24 hour Jazz stations left in the country”.
Check out Ron every Wednesday night from 10PM-2AM on Evening Jazz on KCSM-FM.