[JPL] nice article on XM's Russ Davis
JazzCorner at aol.com
JazzCorner at aol.com
Sun Apr 16 15:41:48 EDT 2006
Birmingham's Russ Davis is XM's jazz guy
Sunday, April 16, 2006
For XM Satellite Radio's Russ Davis, it's sort of like he never left
Birmingham. Davis programs XM's Beyond Jazz and AudioVisions channels out of New York
City, and almost every week, he hears from listeners in his old hometown. "I
get e-mail all the time from Birmingham," he says. "It's almost like I'm a
local radio guy. It's the same as if I was doing radio at WERC-FM in 1975." Davis,
whose parents, Jessie and Beverly Davis, still live in Pleasant Grove, also
features such Birmingham artists as Eric Essix and Meteorite on his modern jazz
channel, which is on XM 72. "I know the musicians are all thrilled that it
exists because it gives them a chance to be heard," Davis says. "So many of
these artists aren't heard on straight-ahead jazz stations."
A West End High School and University of Alabama graduate, Davis worked here
at the old WERC-FM album-rock station from 1975 to 1977, just when FM radio
was starting to challenge AM for listeners. He started out as the overnight guy
and later moved to afternoons. "I did an hour called `The Hour of Release,'
and after a while, it became pretty popular," he recalls. "It was mostly men
(listeners) because it was an hour of nothing but rocking, up-tempo stuff. We're
talking David Bowie and Queen's `Tie Your Mother Down' and all that kind of
stuff. "The audience was just wild for it. I remember one day saying, `I'm sorry
I have to get off the air at 6 o'clock. Let's all meet down at Kelly Ingram
Park and keep this going.'" And that's just what they did. "I drove down there
and I swear there were dozen of cars there," Davis goes on. "Everybody is
blowing their horns and stuff. That's the kind of thing that makes being on the
radio just so cool." Davis left Birmingham to join WQXI-FM in Atlanta in 1977. A
year later, he got into jazz when the station asked him to program a Sunday
jazz show. "I said, `OK, I'll do that, but I don't know anything about jazz,'"
he says. "They said, `Just do a jazz show.' "It was called `Jazz Flavors,' and
I'll be doggone if, after a while, it became popular."
After 11 years in Atlanta, he moved to New York City in 1988 to start
contemporary jazz station WQCD-FM and then got in on the ground floor with XM
Satellite Radio in 2001. It now has 6.5 million subscribers. "It's slowly creeping
into the fabric of society, whether people like it or not," Davis says. Since
1999, Davis also has programmed a jazz program for the international Voice of
America radio network, which reaches 94 million listeners. "That's an audience,"
he says. "I get e-mail from Thailand and Iran and Nigeria and Australia and
China. That's a whole different world, literally." As a kid growing up in
Birmingham, Davis would go downtown to meet the "Good Guys" from WSGN-AM and he
thought what a cool job that would be. Now, after more than three decades in the
business, radio is still a cool job for the 54-year-old Davis. "You better
believe it is," he says. Bob Carlton's media column appears on Sundays.
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