Desert Island Jazz
George Hughes (2000)
Mr. Hughes, who died at his San Mateo home May 12, was a charming man of far-ranging but discriminating musical tastes. One of the rock-solid programmers and announcers who made the old KJAZ radio a pleasure to listen to -- he disliked the term DJ -- Mr. Hughes was heard regularly since 1990 on KCSM (91.1 FM), where he continued that tradition of excellence.

As the all-night guy at KJAZ in the late 1970s and early '80s, Mr. Hughes had the freedom to play some of the most challenging jazz of the day -- records by Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman and other vanguard musicians -- as well as spinning discs by some of his favorite artists, among them vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, Thelonious Monk and Joe Henderson, said pianist and disc jockey Dick Conte, who worked with Mr. Hughes at both KJAZ and KCSM.

"He was very sympathetic to the avant-garde when it was not a very popular thing do,'' Conte added. "He had excellent taste, and he was great, sweet guy.''

Mr. Hughes grew up in San Mateo and attended Mills High School in Millbrae. As a teenager, he sometimes sneaked into the jazz clubs that once flourished in North Beach.

Mr. Hughes served as an intelligence researcher in the U.S. Air Force from 1967 to 1971, including one year in Vietnam. He studied at the College of San Mateo before receiving a bachelor's degree in communication arts from the University of the Pacific in Stockton. That's where he began his broadcasting career, playing records on KUOP.

His first professional gig was at Modesto's KOSO, where he played big band music and the best Rosemary Clooney and Anita O'Day records. Mr. Hughes worked various shifts at KJAZ from 1975 to 1988.

Like other fine announcers, Mr. Hughes was fired and rehired over the years by station owner Pat Henry, who was known to pull a disc jockey off the air if he heard a record he didn't like or didn't want to hear in that time slot. Mr. Hughes' wife, Gypsy Zaboroskie, recalled that the Henry once yanked Mr. Hughes off the air for playing a Cecil Taylor record during the mellow Dinner Jazz show. But Henry knew talent, and he hired Mr. Hughes back.

Mr. Hughes was an avid reader and an aeronautics buff. He taught broadcasting at various schools and colleges over the years, including San Francisco State University and Laney College.
Pick Artist Album Song Label
# 1 Duke Ellington Private Collection, Vol. 1: Studio Sessions, Chicago 1956 Just Scratchin' the Surface (Saja)
# 2 Lucky Thompson Tricotism Old Reliable (Impulse)
# 3 Woody Herman The Herd Rides Again ... in Stereo Blowin' Up a Storm (Evidence)
# 4 Ken Nordine The Best of Word Jazz, Vol. 1 You're Getting Better (Rhino)
# 5 Elvin Jones Merry-Go-Round Lungs (Blue Note)
# 6 Blue Mitchell Boss Horn I Should Care (Blue Note)
# 7 Roland Kirk, featuring Leon Thomas A Meeting of the Times Dream (Atlantic)
# 8 Junko Onishi Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 2 Brilliant Corners (Blue Note)
Book Edward Gibbon, "Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire", or Winston Churchill, "History of the English-Speaking Peoples", or Walt Whitman, "Leaves of Grass"
Luxury Item A refrigerator
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