All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Interviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


Sid Mark: An Interview With The Legendary Philadelphia Disc Jockey

Victor L. Schermer By

Sign in to view read count
sid mark, frank sinatra Sid Mark is a Philadelphia institution. For the last fifty years (!), he has hosted the popular radio show, "The Sounds of Sinatra" exclusively devoted to the man and his music. (The show currently airs on WPHT 1210 AM: "Friday with Frank": Fridays 6pm-8pm ET; "Saturday with Sinatra": Saturdays 8pm-10pm ET; "Sunday with Sinatra": Sundays 8am-1pm ET.) Prior to that, during the post-bebop and hard bop eras, Sid hosted a long-running program called "The Mark of Jazz," playing all jazz and conducting interviews with many of the greats of the time. Today, Sid is a gentleman of diverse experience, hosting the Sinatra show, loving his family, making many public appearances, and advocating for various causes, especially infantile autism (his grandson suffers from that condition).

Sid's passion for Sinatra is boundless and constant. I interviewed him partly on account of my puzzlement about how he could be so single-mindedly obsessed with one performer. Admittedly, Sinatra is a cultural icon, an almost mythological figure who has symbolized the hopes, dreams, ideals, and struggles of two generations of Americans. Admittedly too, Sinatra was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, singers of all time. Even a music magazine as far removed from the crooning style as Rolling Stone paid him tribute. But nevertheless I was curious why someone would dedicate year after year to a Sinatra radio show. Sid Mark just goes on playing Sinatra records for a large audience of listeners, without any motives other than genuine admiration and affection for "Frank."

However, what many of his fans don't realize is that prior to his Sinatra program, Sid was a jazz show host—one of the first anywhere—and a prime mover in making jazz happen in the Philadelphia area. Music is propelled by people like Sid Mark. His dedication and his affection for the musicians has spawned many a career, kept the music in focus for the public, and fostered a positive climate in the music business. I caught up with Sid on the phone early on a summer morning in June, and we had a simpatico conversation, which went as follows:

Discovering Nina

All About Jazz: Sid, I'd like to pick your brain about Sinatra and your radio show, "Sounds of Sinatra." Then we'll turn to the general subject of jazz, more specifically jazz in Philly and your former radio program, "The Mark of Jazz," and finally some talk about Sid Mark the DJ, the person, and the humanitarian.

Sid Mark: Well, it's interesting, Vic. I looked up your writing on All About Jazz, and it seems we have a lot of similar interests, not the least of which is that one of my best friends was Al Stauffer.

AAJ: Al was one of the most wonderful people, and possibly the best bassist, I ever knew.

SM: And one of the people I was actually responsible for when it came to her success was Nina Simone.

AAJ: I know that Nina spent some time in Philadelphia.

SM: She started her career in Philadelphia. In her autobiography, she said the reason for her success was a white Jewish disc jockey, Sid Mark. She said, "If I knew him today, I don't know if I'd kiss him or smack him in the mouth!" (laughter.) That's a quote. We had a hell of a relationship! By the way, did the tribute concert by her daughter ever take place?

AAJ: It was performed at Town Hall last year. From what I understand, it was extremely successful.

SM: I love that picture of the two of them together.

AAJ: She's been very active in promoting Nina's legacy.

SM: Nina was something else. We had hours of discussions on the numerous radio and TV shows we did together. When I discovered her, she was just playing piano at a little joint in Philly at 22nd and Chestnut. It was a bar, and she wasn't singing, just playing the piano.

AAJ: She was originally planning to be a concert pianist.

SM: She went to Julliard for that. I'm getting ahead of myself, but anyway, at the time I was working at a jazz room called the Red Hill Inn in Pennsauken, New Jersey. I brought her in, she started singing, and for some strange reason people objected and wanted her to just play the piano! Boy, they were proven wrong.

About Sinatra

AAJ: Well, let's switch our discussion to the Sinatra show, which is your main gig these days and has been so for the last five decades. It occurs to me that for you to do a radio program exclusively playing Sinatra recordings for years on end, your passion for Sinatra must go very deep, even more so than the dedication of many of the Sinatra fans out there. What is it that makes that connection with him so profound for you?

SM: First of all, while his music was primary, it wasn't just the music, it was the man himself, because Frank was so multidimensional. Aside from just being the world's greatest vocalist, he was an incredible movie actor. He contributed to every known charity and helped more people than anyone can imagine. And he was actually a nice guy! You'd never hear women arguing about Frank. They all liked Frank. But you'd hear guys argue! "Well, I'd like to wear a hat like him." "You like him, but I don't!" But especially there was his musicality. With me working at a jazz room, the Basie band would come in, and I'd hang out with the guys, and they'd all be talking about Sinatra. I was only 22 when I started at the Red Hill Inn, and my job was driving the musicians over from the hotel.


comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Leonardo Pavkovic: Nothing is Ordinary Interviews
Leonardo Pavkovic: Nothing is Ordinary
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: March 16, 2018
Read Bobby Previte: the Art of Travelling Trustingly Interviews
Bobby Previte: the Art of Travelling Trustingly
by Ludovico Granvassu
Published: March 14, 2018
Read Dafnis Prieto: Cross-Cultural Mix Interviews
Dafnis Prieto: Cross-Cultural Mix
by Angelo Leonardi
Published: March 13, 2018
Read Julian Pressley: From The Duke To Ornette In His Own Way Interviews
Julian Pressley: From The Duke To Ornette In His Own Way
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: March 12, 2018
Read Stephen Nomura Schible: I wanted to make an intimate portrait of Ryuichi Sakamoto Interviews
Stephen Nomura Schible: I wanted to make an intimate...
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: March 10, 2018
Read Satoko Fujii: the Gift of Music Interviews
Satoko Fujii: the Gift of Music
by Angelo Leonardi
Published: March 7, 2018
Read "Satoko Fujii: the Gift of Music" Interviews Satoko Fujii: the Gift of Music
by Angelo Leonardi
Published: March 7, 2018
Read "Pat Martino: In the Moment" Interviews Pat Martino: In the Moment
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: January 12, 2018
Read "Paula Shocron: Paths to a New Sound" Interviews Paula Shocron: Paths to a New Sound
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: February 19, 2018
Read "Dominic Miller: From Sting to ECM" Interviews Dominic Miller: From Sting to ECM
by Luca Muchetti
Published: March 28, 2017
Read "Miles Mosley Gets Down!" Interviews Miles Mosley Gets Down!
by Andrea Murgia
Published: June 16, 2017