Eulis Cathey, a record executive and radio broadcaster who was known for his long stints both at WBGO radio in New Jersey and at SiriusXM satellite radio, died April 27 at his home in Buffalo, N.Y., after a short illness. He was 67.
His death was announced by his sister Patrice Cathey, who posted a statement to her brother’s social media. She told JazzTimes that despite his illness, his death was sudden.
Cathey had a distinguished career in broadcasting that spanned more than 40 years, beginning at the campus radio station of his alma mater and progressing steadily until he became a nationally broadcast announcer at SiriusXM in 2007. He hosted daily programs on the satellite service’s mainstream jazz (Real Jazz) and smooth jazz (Watercolors) channels.
For much of his tenure at SiriusXM, Cathey enjoyed a parallel stint as a local jazz broadcaster in the New York City area. He was a staff announcer for Newark’s jazz and National Public Radio station WBGO from 2006 until 2017, when he moved back to his hometown of Buffalo. (He was able to continue announcing for SiriusXM from Buffalo, but unable to continue with WBGO.)
Before going national in radio, Cathey had also developed a parallel career as a record company executive. Between 1987 and 2003, he was variously employed as a staff promoter, producer, and artists & repertory representative at Island, Virgin, Atlantic, and Verve Records and at N-Coded Music, in addition to freelance consulting for these and other record labels. Although he frequently worked in the urban and contemporary jazz markets, Cathey always maintained a passion for straight-ahead jazz.
“It has always been something that I felt enriched my life,” he told interviewer Bret Primack in 2011. “It is something that affected me on an emotional and artistic level that I think has been hard to find in any other art form. … I couldn’t actually imagine not having as a part of my life. … That’s why I enjoy presenting it to people.”
Eulis Merle Cathey, Jr. was born June 13, 1953 in Buffalo to Eulis Cathey Sr., a case worker in the Erie County Department of Social Welfare, and the former Ruth Houston, a teacher. Cathey Senior had grown up in the southwest and had been a singer in the 1940s, working in a vocal quartet and on one occasion singing with opera star Marian Anderson. He passed his musical interest on to his namesake.
Eulis Jr. graduated from Buffalo’s Nichols School in 1971 and matriculated that fall at Ohio Wesleyan University. In his junior year, he transferred to the University of Dayton, also in Ohio, and it was there that he began his broadcasting career, hosting a jazz show at the university station WUDR. After completing his degree in communication arts, Cathey became the promotions director at WDTN-TV, the NBC network affiliate in Dayton. After only a few years in television, however, Cathey returned to his hometown and to radio, becoming the overnight jazz disc jockey at radio station WEBR.
Cathey transitioned into the record industry in 1987, when he moved to New York City and joined the promotions department for the Urban Music division of Island Records. He then held a similar (regional) position at Virgin Records before becoming an A&R director at Verve/PolyGram in 1990. While at Verve he also began working as a producer, and in that capacity was a Grammy nominee for his work (co-producing with Bill Cosby) on the 1992 Jimmy Heath album Little Man Big Band.
After 10 more years in the record industry, working in promotions first for Atlantic Records, then for N-Coded Music, Cathey returned to radio in 2006 when he took the Sunday-night slot at WBGO. His program, The Sunday Night Music Mix, continued until 2017. The following year, he joined what was then XM Satellite Radio, gaining a national audience—which grew substantially in the following year when the service merged with its competitor Sirius Satellite Radio. Cathey hosted midmornings on SXM’s Real Jazz channel, also hosting a weekend show on the smooth-jazz channel Watercolors until his passing.
In addition to his sister, Cathey is survived by his mother, Ruth Houston Cathey; three devoted nephews; and a great-niece. Funeral arrangements are pending.