All Things Kenton Blog

Willis Conover

Willis Conover was an important behind the scenes operator in the world of jazz. As a concert producer, he was involved with the Newport Jazz Festival, as well as many other live and recorded concerts. For over four decades his Voice of America broadcasts brought jazz into the households of countries in which jazz was not tolerated.

In early January of 1947 he sat down with Stan Kenton at the studios of WWDC radio in Washington DC. Kenton was just about to complete a week with his band at DC’s Capitol Theatre.

The topics vary, but the one constant is jazz. During the interview, Conover adds a local man to the discussion, Joe Snow, who wrote a scathing letter about Kenton. The two men cordially discuss their different viewpoints,

Kenton names his favorite musicians in the business at the time, and interestingly only chose two from his current band (Safranski and Manne).

Alto: Benny Carter
Tenor: Vido Musso
Trumpet: Conrad Gozzo or Chuck Peterson
Trombone: Bill Harris
Drums: Dave Tough or Shelly Manne
Bass: Eddie Safranski
Singers: Billy Eckstine and Anita O’Day

The audio and pictures are from the Willis Conover Collection, part of the Music Special Collections at the University of North Texas Music Library. This wonderful archive and its preservation has been the work of many people at UNT, most notably, Maristella Feustle, Music Special Collections Librarian.

You can listen to this historic interview and read the transcript here.