[Dixielandjazz] WMNR-FM this Sunday - Tribute to John "Dan" Danscuk

Steve Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Fri Nov 30 15:53:53 PST 2007

List mates in Southern Connecticut knew this great DJ and are saddened by
his passing. Every Saturday night for 27 years he broadcast 3 hours of OKOM
on 88.1 FM there. If you are in the area, tune in this Sunday night, Dec 2
at 9 PM for a special tribute to a special man. They'll be playing "his kind
of music", vintage jazz.

Sadly there are not too many of his kinds of programming left.

Steve Barbone

Voice is silent, but jazz fills the air
11/29/2007 - 11:00:58 PM EST - CONNPOST.COM

At 9 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 17, John "Dan" Danscuk, 80, did just what he has
been doing almost every Saturday night for the last 27 years. He flipped a
switch on the control board of radio station WMNR-FM, 88.1 on the dial in
Monroe, to begin the program he called "Swing and Jazz."

For the next three hours he did what he had done in all those shows for all
those years; he played exquisite recordings by the greats of early jazz. As
usual, the emphasis was on New Orleans-style Dixieland, with names like
Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory, Bix Beidebecke, Sidney Bechet and Earl Hines
cropping up with regularity. There were tunes like "Muscat Ramble," and "St.
James Infirmary." The Preservation Hall Dixieland Band and Bob Crosby's
Bobcats were heard.

As was his wont, Danscuk also cued up a few tunes from the swing era of the
1930s and 1940s. It was the music Danscuk loved. It was the music the many
listeners to his program loved. And, next to his family, there was nothing
John Danscuk loved more than that magic mix of jazz music.

That night, when Danscuk signed off at midnight, nothing seemed amiss. It
was just another show to add to the nearly 1,500 he had under his belt since
first going on the air in 1980; just three more hours to add to his on-air
total that exceeded 4,200 hours.

The next night, Sunday, was to be a special one for WMNR. It was the annual
dinner when the station honors its on-air/off-air volunteers for their
dedicated (and unpaid) services. Danscuk was, of course, to be one of the
honorees. But as the dinner was about to get under way, Danscuk still had
still not shown up.

"We all wondered where he was," said John Babina, who founded the station in
1971 and now serves as a technical adviser. "He was always a big part of
these events."

The reason for the absence became clear when his son arrived at the
restaurant to tell the assembled guests that shortly after finishing his
broadcast, Danscuk was stricken with a heart attack. He died peacefully a
few hours later at St. Vincent's Medical Center in Bridgeport.

"Everybody was stunned," Babina said. "We went ahead with the program, but
there was an empty spot in all our hearts without John."

For vintage jazz fans in Southern Connecticut, Danscuk's passing is a huge
loss. With FM radio becoming ever more pre-programmed and canted toward an
iPod-toting younger audience, the sound of jazz ‹ especially early jazz ‹ is
becoming increasingly hard to find on radio. In this area, only Victor
Pachera's long-running "Jazz Classics," Mondays on WPKN-FM, (89.5) features
the music of the pioneers of jazz.

At 80, an age when most people are quite content spending their Saturday
nights in a big fat recliner chair watching television, by all accounts
Danscuk showed the energy of a man half his age, digging out records and
preparing his commentaries. Sunday mornings, Danscuk was up early so he
could buy and read three newspapers before the rest of the family got to
them. Most of the records and CDs Danscuk aired were drawn from his own
extensive collection that he'd begun amassing when he became hooked on jazz
while stationed with the Army Air Force as an aerial photographer in
Mississippi during World War II.

Although Danscuk drew his music from a wide spectrum of early jazz,
including the Chicago and New York schools, at some point in the show
listeners were sure to hear a version of one song: "It had To Be You." On
that final show it was played by the great Chicago group, The Wolverines.

"That was Dad and Mom's song," says his daughter Diane Danscuk-Ball of
Australia. "When he played it, that was the signal for Mom to call him at
the station and say she was listening."

Born in Elizabeth, N.J., Danscuk graduated from Rutgers University in New
Jersey and when not playing music on the radio worked as an auditor for
Tetley Tea in Shelton.

Sunday night, WMNR-FM (88.1) will broadcast a special memorial tribute to
John Danscuk from 9 p.m. until midnight. The show will feature the kind of
vintage jazz he loved so much, including, of course, a version of "It Had To
Be You."

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