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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Danny Stiles 1923-2011

There aren't many left working who are continuing the tradition of the Great American Songbook on the radio, especially in the New York market--once a haven for traditional pop music dating back to the days of WNEW-AM. One who immediately comes to mind is the great Jonathan Schwartz, still broadcasting proudly on New York's WNYC NPR affiliate, as well as Sirius-XM satellite radio. The other was Danny Stiles--and sadly, we lost Mr. Stiles early last week. With him went a national treasure--a 65-year radio tradition that spanned the post-World War II days right up to the 21st century, bringing us all the cherished hits from the golden age of American popular music.

Danny was 87 at the time of his death, and still broadcasting on New York's AM NPR affiliate, as well as streaming on the internet 24/7. The so-called Vicar of Vintage Vinyl, Danny Stiles on your radio dial, he was a comforting oasis of nostalgia and quality music in a sea of chaos and nonsense. He was one of those popular personalities that made the world a happier place simply by his existence--you always knew that no matter what was happening in the ever degrading world of recorded music, Danny Stiles was still on the air, and that was a good feeling. I'm sad to think that it will no longer be the case, ever again.

Stiles considered himself something of a curator of 20th century musical history, with a collection of more than a quarter of a million records, mostly in the categories of swing and traditional pop, from which he drew for his weekly radio program. By the end of his career, he had been relegated to a god-awful late Saturday night time slot--but at least he was still out there, doing his thing, playing the music of Basie, Sinatra, Ellington, Holiday, Crosby, Goodman and so any others.

As Schwartz and others have pointed out, Stiles stuck to his guns and stayed true to his musical convictions, despite the insidious incursion of radio program directors that continued to rot his industry--and the musical tastes of a nation--from the inside out over the decades following the war. For that, and for the music he joyously brought into our lives, Danny Stiles is to be commended. He was a rare gift, and we shall not see the like of him again.

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