The nation's capital may be just at the other end of the...

Salmagundi

October 15, 1993

The nation's capital may be just at the other end of the parkway, but most Baltimoreans are woefully uninformed about what goes on in Washington.

They prefer their own city's institutions, including newspapers, radio and television. For that reason, many Baltimoreans may have never heard of Felix Grant, a Washington institution as a jazz disk jockey, who died recently at 74.

To call Felix Grant the Harley of Washington -- after Baltimore jazz disk jockey Harley Brinsfield -- would be unfair to both of these men who are now spinning records at that great jazz station in the sky. Harley at his best had a good program; Felix Grant had that but also exercised great influence on popularizing previously unknown talent.

He was largely responsible for the bossa nova craze that began in the United States in the late 1960s by introducing one listener, Annapolis guitarist Charlie Byrd, to those samba rhythms.

Byrd was so intrigued, he flew to Brazil. He recorded some legendary bossa nova not only with saxophonist Stan Getz but )) many great Brazilian musicians. The rest is history.

Felix Grant's tastes were eclectic. He played everything from blues and boogie woogie to Nat "King" Cole on his nightly "The Album Sound," which was a mainstay of WMAL's programming for three decades. The only constant was "Tenderly," his theme song.

Unlike Harley, who seldom was venturesome in music, Felix Grant was always searching for something new and untried.

In 1974, he became intrigued by reggae and flew to Jamaica to record such reggae greats as Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff. His program, syndicated throughout the United States, helped make those musicians household words.

Felix Grant stayed with WMAL until 1984. During the last years of his life he was featured regularly on the non-profit radio station of the University of the District of Columbia, where his Saturday programs had a strong following.

Even with Felix Grant gone, that station, WDCU-FM (90.1) is a jazz gem. Try it. As a tribute to Felix Grant.

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