There was a time when the laidback voice and encyclopedic jazz knowledge of Eric Jackson could be heard five hours a night, four nights a week on WGBH-FM. Things changed slightly when he was cut back to four hours a night.
Then they changed radically, and these days Jackson’s ever-popular show, Eric in the Evening, which ranges from jazz standards to some stuff that’s out in the spheres, is only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from 9 p.m.to midnight, still on ’GBH.
But Jackson’s radio history goes back to more than a decade before Eric in the Evening debuted in 1978.
WTBO, WBUR, THE PHIL MUSRA GROUP
The New Jersey native, whose father was a radio announcer, moved to Boston in 1968 to attend Boston University, and by 1969 was behind the microphone at the student-run station WTBO. About a year later, he began playing jazz on WBUR. Around that time, Jackson landed a spot as vocalist for The Phil Musra Group, and for about a year he sang jazz in clubs, in addition to playing jazz records on the radio.
WHRB, WBCN, WGBH, ESSAYS IN BLACK MUSIC
In 1971, he got a Saturday night spot at Harvard’s WHRB, but soon after made the switch to WBCN, where, he remembers, it was suggested that he do “a 60% jazz show with a heavy emphasis on other forms of Black music, but play some white music, too.” Shortly after being laid off by ’BCN in 1977, Jackson began filling in for late-night jazz host Hayes Burnett at WGBH, where Jackson had already been doing a show called Essays in Black Music. Even though Burnett eventually left the show, and Jackson kept doing it, it wasn’t until 1978 that he was officially hired.
ERIC IN THE EVENING, TEACHING, AMERICAN JAZZ MUSEUM
In 1981, Jackson premiered Eric in the Evening, opening it, as he would for years, with Tommy Flanagan’s cover of Horace Silver’s “Peace.” Jackson also taught music classes – not just about jazz – at Northeastern, Longy School of Music, Simmons and Wheelock, and has programmed music as well as writing copy to go along with it at the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City. But radio has always been at the center of his career.
“SPEAKING TO THAT MUSICAL MIND”
“I’ve always sort of envisioned that there are a certain group of listeners who have shared some common experiences,” he said of the people he believes tune in his show. “So if I say a certain line, this group of people will know exactly what I’m talking about. Maybe some other group won’t. I think people know at least a little bit about a wide variety of music, so a lot of times when I speak, I’m speaking to that musical mind that’s dabbled in this and that and touched into a lot of things.”
On September 17, 2022, Jackson passed away at age 72. “Eric’s great skill as a broadcaster was how he used his warmth and intimate knowledge to connect listeners to the music,” said Anthony Rudel, general manager at GBH Music. “He was a legend and will be missed.” A link to his obituary is included in the links section below.
(by Ed Symkus)