Monday, March 14, 2011

Danny Stiles - Our personal private mentsch and music maven:
We are missing you so much

With the passing of Danny Stiles, the world has lost an encyclopaedic maven of music who had a front seat at the inception of America's greatest music form, and who took impeccable notes. We lost a dear friend, mentor and confidante. Miriam "gave" Danny to me after she befriended him a few years ago. My best memory was being with him for dinner at a nice Italian restaurant on the Jersey side. Miriam sat down next to him and the two looked like old friends, same expression, same posture. She was 17 and he was 83. It was one of those enchanted nights of music, good company and lively conversation.

 I can't say it any better than the way my daughter, Miriam, said it in a letter to Danny's younger fellow jazz- and popologist, Rich Conaty, who spins all the greats on his show, The Big Broadcast on WFUV. Rich did a tribute to Danny Stiles tonight.

Miriam writes:

Hi Rich,

I wanted to extend a personal thank you tonight for a beautiful tribute show to Danny Stiles. If you recall, I'm that kid who wrote to you a few months ago about trying to get a Big Broadcast/Music Museum-type show on the air at Barnard College. To my unending frustration, I never managed to get that off the ground, though not for lack of trying; I've vowed that when the good folks at WBAR get their act together, I'll try again.

You may also recall that part of Danny's radio repertoire was a summons to "precocious teenagers" everywhere to tune in and get hip to the Oldies; I was - and still am - one of those precocious teenagers. I met Danny when he was 83 and I was 17, when I was a bright-eyed youngster who loved vinyl (and wax!) and he was an encyclopedic veteran. He knew it all, and I wanted to learn it all. I think he got a kick out of my diehard dedication to that music - almost like he himself didn't fully believe there were actually any "precocious teenagers" out there until I came along.

Often, I would stop in at his office to visit with him and sit in on his recording sessions. Once he even cleared me for entry to the old NPR studio at Chambers Street, and I sat in while he recorded his 2-hour Saturday night show (which I then listened to again that night on the air). I like to think we were like Plato and Socrates - except that we sometimes exchanged Yiddish instead of Greek.

Danny would always talk about how he was one of the very last guys on the air to do what he did - and what you, Sir Conaty, still do. And it breaks my heart to think that we're now one more down for the count.

I'm still a precocious youngster - I'm now 21 - and I'm still a devoted student of this music. Time to take up the mantle myself, it seems.

Keep doing what you're doing; it keeps Danny's mission alive. It's the best tribute you could pay him.

Again, thank you for tonight's show.

Your big fan and pupil,