I grew up listening to NPR. During the day, our local station WMUK had a classical music program and my mother always had it on. When I turned 16 and inherited the family minivan, the dial was already set to 102.1 FM.
As I started staying out at night, there was a different block of programing on the radio: Jazz with Bob Parlocha. At the time, I didn’t really enjoy jazz. In fact, I would say something like “I like jazz, but I won’t go home and listen to an album.”
What a pretentious snob.
Growing tired of the few cassette tapes I had, I turned on the radio and started really enjoying the music. Alone, in my car, I developed a love for jazz.
There was always something new and exciting with the musical choices and Bob always got me home safely.
I remember the exact songs he played. Several of those songs are still my favorites today.
When I first heard John Coltrane’s “Song from the Underground Railroad,” I was blown away. I had listened to “A Love Supreme” but the
I remember hearing “Use Your Brain” from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and this jam called “Sweet Pumpkin” from Richard Simon.
I’m sure there’s so much more I listened to in those hours of programming. I always loved how Bob would have themes for his shows. This was before the time of Shazam, so I had to stick around and listen to Parlocha announce what he played and look up when I got home.
I listened to the show throughout high school. In college, I’d put it on to try and impress a woman I was dating, unfamiliar with the local radio. “You have to listen to this,” I would say. “After 10 o’clock, there is nothing else to listen to.”
Each and every night, on lazy summer nights and dreary winter eves, Bob exposed listeners to new tunes and surprised us with old favorites, which I probably first heard on his show. Beyond the music, Bob was always there. He was reliable. Just turn on the radio dial and he was there.
I haven’t listened to his show in years. Thanks to digital music and now streaming services, I can listen to whatever I want when I want. I don’t live in Kalamazoo and don’t think I have an actual radio. But I know I’ll be tuning in every night via the internet radio as his last shows are broadcast to bid farewell to a master who inspired me and others by being there, every night, playing the music.
Rest in peace, Bob Parlocha. Nights will be lonely without out.