Ed Beach, a longtime jazz DJ in New York City and later Eugene, Oregon, died on Christmas day in Eugene. He was 85 years old.
Beach was born January 16th, 1923, in Winnipeg, Canada. He attended Grant High School and Lewis and Clark College. He moved to New York where he was a graduate assistant in Cornell University’s Theatre Department. That academic experience led to a career as a professional actor.
He came aboard as a DJ at WNYC in New York City in 1957 and later moved to WRVR, the famous jazz station, where he produced and hosted a daily jazz show called Just Jazz, until 1976. Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, in an interview with New York magazine said that, “Ed Beach on WRVR would do this very scholarly afternoon show, and I’d listen to that when I came home from school.” Fagen cited Beach, as well as Mort Fega and Jean Shepherd, as a major influence on his Nightfly character from the successful album of that same name.
Jazz composer and conductor Gunther Schuller, in the preface to his “Early Jazz” history, thanked “Ed Beach and station WRVR in New York for providing endless hours of superb listening, for his indefatigable enthusiasm, incorruptible taste, and unpretentious, accurate comments.” The tape recordings of the program, Just Jazz with Ed Beach, are in the Library of Congress collections.
Steve Schwartz, longtime DJ at Boston’s WGBH FM and an unofficial historian of jazz DJ, well remembers Beach and his shows. “I first heard Ed Beach on the radio in Boston in the early 1970s,” said Schwartz. “His program was rebroadcast locally from WRVR in NYC. Ed was the coolest. Not only in his choice of music but in his very hip delivery. Not hip in a hip kind of way but hip in that he knew so much about the music. It didn’t matter if he was featuring Louis Armstrong or Billie Holiday; Eric Dolphy or Charles Mingus. He had so much to offer in a non-condescending manner. He told you things he knew you wanted to know. He inspired me to want to emulate his style which i have tried to do. But he did it better than anyone I’ve heard so far.”