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Mort Fega

(7.4.21-1.21.05)

Photo of Walter Becker with Mort Fega and Donald Fagen
Walter Becker, Mort Fega and Donald Fagen

The “Nightfly” character wasn’t supposed to be a stand-in for any particular jazz DJ or even any particular person. But there were a few actual radio personalities of the time that went into the mix. In the early ’60s, Manhattan’s powerful stations were blasting hard bop throughout the metropolitan area. Out in the Jersey ‘burbs, I could get “Symphony Sid” Torin (later pegged as the “jazz traitor” for switching to a mostly Latin and Afro-Cuban playlist). In the afternoon, I rushed home from school to hear Riverside Radio’s fabulously erudite Ed Beach. I remember Dan Morgenstern’s show and a guy named R.D. Harlan on WNCN. But my favorite–along with monologist Jean Shepherd–was WEVD’s all-night man, Mort Fega, who died January 21, 2005, at the age of 84.

Unlike Symphony Sid, whose growling hepcat routine was getting old (“No, dahling, I’m not goin’a play Etta Jones tonight”), Mort had no jive persona to sell. He was laid-back, knowledgeable and forthright, the cool uncle you always wished you’d had. I looked forward to Mort’s between-track commentary as much as to the music itself. With Red Garland’s “Mort’s Report” playing softly in the background, Mort, with the grace and enthusiasm that reveals itself only in the most bona-fide jazz lover, would carefully list every soloist and sideman.

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