The Troy Street Observer

May 3, 1981: Debut of Eric in the Evening on WGBH

On May 3, 1981, Boston heard Eric Jackson host “Eric in the Evening” for the first time on WGBH radio.

Photo of Eric Jackson
Eric Jackson. Photo by Craig Harris.

Radio plays such an important part in The Boston Jazz Chronicles, and I’m hoping to tell a dozen stories about the voices we heard before the year is up. We’ve already met Tony Cennamo, John McLellan, and just a few days ago, Ken Malden. Today we meet Eric Jackson, a bridge figure in these chronicles, a part of “Boston jazz past” as well as “Boston jazz present.”

Jackson came to Boston in the late sixties to attend Boston University, and that’s where he started in radio in 1969, at student-run WTBU. Radio appealed to Jackson, and it was in his blood—his father Sam had been a jazz deejay in Rhode Island years before. After WTBU came short stints at WBUR, WHRB, and WILD. Then came five years at WBCN playing all kinds of music, and finally in 1977 Jackson landed at WGBH. In 1981, he filled in for the vacationing evening deejay, who chose not to return, and the slot became Jackson’s. He’s been there ever since, through good times and bad. Jackson has conducted some 3,000 interviews, and has brought us music we enjoy listening to for 43 years, and that is an amazing achievement.

His work has not gone unrecognized. Jackson was the winner of the 2012 Duke Dubois Humanitarian Award, presented by the radio trade group JazzWeek, honoring his commitment to jazz radio and his service to the jazz community. JazzWeek previously named Jackson Jazz Programmer of Year in 2008. Locally, JazzBoston recognized his role and accomplishments in 2011 with a pair of events during Jazz Week. All this speaks to the quality of his work.

Jackson is called the dean of Boston jazz radio, and being “dean” implies seniority. Consider, for example, that Eric in the Evening started two years before WFNX even went on the air; it’s now gone and he isn’t. Only a handful of programmers can match Jackson’s 43 years on air. There’s Matt Siegel of Matty in the Morning on WXKS (41 years). José Massó’s been hosting his weekly ¡Con Salsa! for 39 years. Ron Della Chiesa started at WBUR in 1959, and he still hosts some classical programs and his WPLM Sinatra show. That’s the senior class, and it’s not very large. There were a few local radio legends who were on-air for about 50 years, like Dave Maynard, Jerry Williams, and Norm Nathan. Jackson is in select company, and it’s about time that the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame  inducts him into their ranks.

In the meantime, we’ll say thank you, and keep listening. And what else could be played here but “Peace”?

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