On Wednesday nights for several years I had a date with a man I’d never met. His name was Charlie McIntosh, and he had never heard of me.
When I discovered our public radio station, it didn’t take me long to discover Swing Chronicles, the radio hour that Mr. McIntosh hosted. Each Wednesday night at 9 p.m. the listener entered a world that was seventy to eighty years in the past, as Charlie highlighted a week from what he called “the Golden Age of Swing” – usually in the 30’s or 40’s – and played hits from the Billboard charts of that week. He also featured different artists – playing a set of three or four songs from Artie Shaw, for instance, or perhaps the Dorsey Brothers, or maybe a lesser known jazz musician. The music, brought to us courtesy of Charlie’s vast, very vast, record collection, was adorned with the scratches and pops that accompany old record albums, and sprinkled generously in between with historical data about the week which was being featured.
Most Wednesday nights, from the time my husband and I married until we had our second child, I would retire to bed early with a book and listen to Charlie’s show on the radio, as his friendly, affable voice announced the next set of songs from Red Norvo or Louis Armstrong, or gave a quick description of some news on FDR or the war from that week in history.
But after our second child came free time grew short and sometimes I didn’t get to keep my date with Charlie. Toward the end of last year it became a rare thing, and recently I decided that it was important that I try to reclaim my Wednesday night engagement, but when I tuned in, Charlie wasn’t there. When I tried again the next week, it was the same thing, and when I reluctantly checked the internet, my fears were confirmed. Charlie McIntosh passed away last year.
When I look for information on him, there is not much to be found beyond that which is contained in his obituary – a brief chronology of schooling and work for IBM in New York City, before retiring and devoting himself to his passion, which was jazz music. He left behind a wife and does not seem to have had children.
I have found a single picture of Charlie, and I share it with you here. This is Charlie McIntosh, the man who taught me all about jazz. I was always meant to be a jazz lover, I just needed a teacher. Farewell, Charlie. The Wednesday night lineup will simply never be the same.