Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

345

Confessions of a Mad Journalist

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
The headline above this column has almost nothing to do with its contents; it was designed simply to grab your attention. That's what we writers do: offer a modest prize with one hand while concealing a more desirable treasure in the other. It's what we have in common with magicians. Actually, as last month marked the 13th anniversary of my having started writing for All About Jazz, I wanted to say a few words about that; hence the overblown caption. There are times (not often) when I'll hand someone my business card and he (or she) will say, "Jazz writer / reviewer. That sounds interesting. How do you become a jazz writer?" An intriguing question, one that probably has as many answers as there are jazz writers.

Speaking only for myself, the words "jazz writer"—more than that, an entire career in journalism—came about solely by accident. Not figuratively but literally: an accident that happened in the early morning hours of June 23, 1963, and neatly divided my life in twain. One moment I was an announcer driving home after working the midnight shift at WGAC Radio in Augusta, Georgia. The next moment I was as close to dead as one can be without actually crossing that divide. A drunk driver, traveling at a speed estimated at more than 100mph, had broadsided my car at an intersection and left me bleeding and unconscious by the side of the road. When I awoke in the hospital a day or so later, I was unable to speak; in fact, unable to do much of anything including eating. That would come much later. The tongue, as it turns out, was partly and permanently paralyzed, thus ending forever my dream of becoming a celebrated sportscaster.

At age 28, with a wife, two children and a high school education, I was an unemployed former radio announcer with no voice and no prospects. Time to suck it up and look for alternatives, one of which was going back to school to earn a college degree. After enrolling at Augusta College I became sports editor of the school paper, a position I'd held in high school. That led to a job at The Augusta Chronicle, the first of several in a career as newspaper writer / editor that spanned nearly 35 years. During that time I wrote about almost everything—except jazz. It took another "accident" to help make that happen.

While editing a newspaper in Illinois I'd seen a quarterly Canadian magazine, The Jazz Report, that included brief columns from various cities reporting on jazz performances and coming events. I thought that might be fun to do, so I asked if they'd like a column from Chicago. Yes, they replied, and so I started writing one. That would have been as far as it went save for an unexpected phone call from London, England, of all places. For some reason I'll never understand, Bill Ashton, the founder and director of the UK's National Youth Jazz Orchestra, phoned to ask if I would review the orchestra's latest CD. After I explained that I'd never before reviewed anything, he said that's okay, give it a try. So I wrote the review and sent it to Cadence magazine, which promptly turned it down, explaining that they didn't accept freelance reviews. Well, so much for that career, I thought, and tossed the review in the nearest round file.

About a month later I phoned Cadence to order some CDs (the magazine boasted an extensive catalog in each issue) and was told that the managing editor, Bob Rusch, wished to speak to me. In brief, he said he'd been impressed by the review I'd submitted and asked if I would like to become one of the magazine's regular writers. And that is how a near-fatal auto accident more than 30 years before led my becoming a "jazz writer / reviewer." Besides Cadence, I started reviewing for Marge Hofacre's Jazz News and other magazines including Jazz Improv and, in March 1998, All About Jazz, for whom I've been writing ever since (I stopped reviewing for magazines about two years ago).

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Los Angeles Jazz Institute Festival "Big Band Spectacular" 2017, Part 1-4 Big Band Report Los Angeles Jazz Institute Festival "Big Band...
by Simon Pilbrow
Published: July 18, 2017
Read A Big Band Spectacular? You Bet Your Brass! Big Band Report A Big Band Spectacular? You Bet Your Brass!
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 5, 2017
Read Time Check: A Paucity of Riches? Big Band Report Time Check: A Paucity of Riches?
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 2, 2016
Read Buddy Rich Rides Again Big Band Report Buddy Rich Rides Again
by Jack Bowers
Published: January 27, 2016
Read Buddy Rich: The Beat Goes On Big Band Report Buddy Rich: The Beat Goes On
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 11, 2014
Read Swingin' on a Riff . . . Hangin' by a Thread? Big Band Report Swingin' on a Riff . . . Hangin' by a Thread?
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 14, 2013
Read "Los Angeles Jazz Institute Festival "Big Band Spectacular" 2017, Part 1-4" Big Band Report Los Angeles Jazz Institute Festival "Big Band...
by Simon Pilbrow
Published: July 18, 2017
Read "A Big Band Spectacular? You Bet Your Brass!" Big Band Report A Big Band Spectacular? You Bet Your Brass!
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 5, 2017
Read "Dan McClenaghan's Best Releases of 2017" Best of / Year End Dan McClenaghan's Best Releases of 2017
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: December 15, 2017
Read "Montreal International Jazz Festival 2017" In Pictures Montreal International Jazz Festival 2017
by Dave Kaufman
Published: July 12, 2017
Read "David Sanborn: Stick Out Your Tongue" SoCal Jazz David Sanborn: Stick Out Your Tongue
by Jim Worsley
Published: October 23, 2017
Read "Omar Sosa Residency at SFJAZZ" Live Reviews Omar Sosa Residency at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: May 8, 2017
Read "Five Women X – Aubrey Logan; Robyn Spangler; Lauren Kinhan; Jackie Allen; Michelle Lordi" Bailey's Bundles Five Women X – Aubrey Logan; Robyn Spangler; Lauren...
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: October 21, 2017