After a seven-year absence, veteran jazz producer Dick Bishop is returning to WFIU with a new 13-week program.
Longtime listeners know Dick as the station’s founding father of jazz. Beginning in the late 1950s, he presented jazz on WFIU for nearly half a century, winning a wide following in the south-central Indiana community.
Dick’s most popular and long-running program was Afterglow. He took the title of the show and his theme from a Marian McPartland composition; all of the rest — the elegance, the passion, the laid-back expertise, the congenial charm, and the delivery with a “martini moon” quality to it — came from Dick himself.
In addition to his considerable knowledge and love for the jazz and American popular song that he played every Friday evening, Dick also drew on his personal relationships and encounters with many of the performers that he featured. He signed off on his last Afterglow program in 2005, turning the show over to David Brent Johnson.
Now Dick returns to the airwaves with a new program, Standards By Starlight, emphasizing the classic composers and performers of the Great American Songbook. It airs Fridays from 9 to 10 p.m. just before Afterglow with David Brent Johnson.
So, why did Dick come out of retirement?
“American popular song is becoming a rarity on the airwaves,” he says. “Not at WFIU; we’ve done a great job of keeping it alive. But in general, you hardly ever hear it on the radio these days. And yet it’s so timeless … songs that speak of the same kind of emotional ups and downs and the human experience, and they were written many decades ago.”
Standards By Starlight will spotlight “the classic composers: Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer … the classics of American popular song, performed by people like Stan Getz, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra.”
According to Bishop, his new show will be “more ballad-driven and less jazz-driven” than his vintage Afterglow program. He also feels that it will be a good lead-in for the current Afterglow, which continues to air at 10 p.m. on Fridays.
“I have enormous respect for what David has done with Afterglow,” he says. “And in order to be a little bit different, I’ll play singers like Vic Damone and Jack Jones that you probably won’t hear on Afterglow, and that I stayed away from when I was hosting the show myself.”
Standards By Starlight has already gotten one key blessing, from the person who wrote its theme song (“Twilight World”): pianist and longtime Bishop friend Marian McPartland.
“When I told her I was quitting Afterglow a few years back, she wrote me and said, ‘Darling, as Duke Ellington once said, retire to what?’” Bishop says, laughing. “So maybe you can go home again.”