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Remembering Rich

Rich Conaty

[Photo by Gus Philippas/WFUV]



On Sunday, February 26 on WFUV, we saluted the irreplaceable Rich Conaty and the heritage of his unique show, "The Big Broadcast," in a two-hour special, "Remembering Rich."

The tribute show is now available on-demand below. The full four-hour program from Sunday — "Remembering Rich" and a look back to "The Big Broadcast" from March 6, 1983 — will also be posted in our Weekend Archives for two weeks.

Rich took over an existing Sunday night program as a Fordham University student in early 1973, renamed it "The Big Broadcast," and was the host for more than 2200 shows that drew on his voluminous record collection and his encyclopedic knowledge of the jazz and pop of the 1920s and '30s. He died on December 30, 2016, at the age of 62 after a battle with cancer.

Producer and host Paul Cavalconte has gathered recollections from friends and colleagues, interspersed with many of Conaty's signature recordings. Guests include Vince Giordano — who with his band The Nighthawks, has performed music of the "Big Broadcast" era throughout the 40-year timeline of the radio show — with rock musicians Lenny Kaye and Marshall Crenshaw, journalist Will Friedwald, and fellow WFUV hosts.

As Paul puts it, "Rich and The Big Broadcast had nothing to do with nostalgia and everything to do with time travel. He easily projected himself into the era of his music, but remained contemporary and youthful in his approach. It wasn't an exercise in sentimentality but in curiosity about the past as a destination to explore." 

Vince Giordano recalls, "I’ve been going over many thoughts and memories about my dear friend Rich Conaty. My band, The Nighthawks, really got started by Rich! He acquired a handful of Xeroxes of original Paul Whiteman arrangements and was trying to start a band with them. I joined him, and later we became partners in the band; him being the front man and me in the back handling the music. He got our first jobs for the School of Visual Arts and a steady gig in Queens at a place called Egbert’s. 

"I really admired Rich for his relentless dedication to the music of the 1920s and 1930s. The work he put into each show took hours of research and programing, and his tributes were fantastic.  Another attribute was Rich’s courage to honor and respect the artists who made records in those years. He realized that it was a broad span of popular music that folks bought and listened to in the 1920s and 1930s, and he did a wonderful job presenting this cross section of music on his show.  As friends, he would confide with me about a harsh comment he might get for playing a certain record or artist.

"I have similar 'fans,' and we would both agree that 'you can’t please everybody!'  He had great taste and realized that not everything that was recorded was golden, and he would reject certain discs if he felt the performance wasn’t so good or up to his standards. His choices of material were always great, and he entertained so many fans and followers of his show with the variety of music he played and the fun way he presented it. I will miss him."