When most Utahns think of jazz the names that come to mind are likely those of Karl Malone or John Stockton. But for a select group of Beehive state residents the only name associated with jazz and Utah is that of Steve Williams. Broadcasting for 31 years on KUER, Williams developed a sizable and devoted group of jazz-lovers across the state. When KUER decided jazz programing would end when Williams retired in June, those fans rallied and coaxed him to return behind the mic for one night a week on Salt Lake City public radio station KCPW 88.3 and 105.5 FM.
It is not an overstatement to say Williams was destined to be part of the jazz world. Born in New York City in 1946, his mother Marjorie was a tap dancer and singer and his father, Murray Williams, was a horn player with bands fronted by legends such as Dizzy Gillespie, Gene Krupa and Charlie Parker. Williams’ birth announcement not only appeared in the regular New York daily newspapers but in the jazz world’s monthly magazine Downbeat.
When Williams started at KUER Ronald Reagan was president. “I was up there five nights a week, usually by myself and I’d been at it for all those years. I made the decision it was time to retire. So on June 30th, almost 31 years to the day I had my first show, I did my last.”
Or so he thought. Williams had yet to sign off KUER for the last time when fate intervened at the Utah Arts Festival where he was serving as MC for the jazz performances.
“I was in the VIP area and I saw an old high school friend, Gary McDonough,” said Williams. “His son Roger is a host and producer at KCPW. They asked if I would consider doing a show there. I told them I’d think it over.”
Just two months into a retirement highlighted with a 15-day trip to France (a farewell gift from KUER) Williams met with KCPW General Manager Lauren Colucci.
“We’d been hearing from people in the community they wanted jazz back on the air and Steve was the obvious choice,” said Colucci. “He can provide a curated playlist and an educated voice that is just wonderful. You are not going to get that from something like an online service”
Williams returned to the public airwaves Sunday Oct. 16 hosting “Jazz Time with Steve Williams.” Williams said he hopes to bring in more local artists and play more locally recorded jazz.
“We have enormous talent right here in Salt Lake City,” he said. “I want to get the community back in community radio.”