Wolff jazz show to end at KMOX


Long before there was the well-known prominent defense attorney, there was a young child with his own make-believe radio station playing his favorite jazz music.

“This is Don Wolff with Station L.O.V.E. playing your favorite tunes……”


He was a little boy who sold papers for three cents a piece on the corner of Delmar and Clara. There was the child who grew up relatively poor in University City on Cabanne and Peachtree Lane, a boy who discovered a diversified world in this music that would become a lifelong love affair.

“This was the 40s,” Wolff recalled, “My father would take me to this all black club in the vicinity of Sarah and Delmar. It was the only place I saw blacks and whites together. I would just love going there, hearing the music and seeing that.”

A man still holding a little boy’s heart with a pocketful of memories has walked into several stations for more than 20 years sharing his childhood passion for jazz music. For 15 of those years, Wolff lived out his childhood dreams by playing those tunes on KMOX Radio from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.

To the dismay of legions of fans, the music ride will end soon. Wolff’s last show is Sept. 29, the victim of changing times. His legal show Justice For All is also being cancelled.

“I was told the station is moving in a new direction and will have a more modern sound, but I thank KMOX for giving me this opportunity for as long as it has been,” Wolff explained.

“We are going in a different direction,” said Dave Ervin, KMOX 1120 vice-president and general manager. “He remains a close friend of mine and the KMOX family. He should be applauded for his many years on the jazz show and his legal show.”

On the road to becoming an attorney, Wolff attended University of Missouri in Columbia on an athletic scholarship where he became president of the student body and president of the Young Democrats.

Wolff began his radio career after friends bought the KXOK station and commissioned him to do a show for free. When the format changed, he moved to WSIE radio in Edwardsville, Illinois before coming on board at KMOX.

“I came into this big studio and for three weeks I just had to sit on one side and talk while the producer handled everything else. After three weeks, they said ‘you are on your own,'” he laughed.

It would be at KMOX where Wolff wove himself into an international jazz tapestry with the station’s 100,000-watt transmitter as a springboard. Listeners from more than 40 states and Canada have tuned into his show. He’s a walking music history lesson, having met the icons of the field ranging from Ella Fitzgerald whose last performance he attended at Carnegie Hall to locals such as Denise Thimes who he has assisted in her career.

It’s 8 p.m. on Saturday, as Wolff begins his third to last gig. With a list of 40 songs, he still must decide which 20 will be heard tonight. The selection is a daunting task, a process he actually begins three days before. He must figure out how to select from the thirty thousand recordings in his basement.

The station tonight is a bevy of activity starting with representatives and musicians for the Old Webster Jazz and Blues Festival, of which Wolff is a co-founder, taking place the following weekend. Gumbohead, a New Orleans-style band sits in for an hour, along with the festival’s public relations director, Dawn DeBlaze.

“He has done so much for the world of jazz, locally and internationally, and especially for the children to know this type of music. It’s a huge loss to the world jazz community in terms of promoting the art,” DeBlaze said.

One listen and you know the show is not just about the music. It partakes in history, along with community, and reaches out to those in need.

Midway through the night, B’Rosh Hashanah and Shofar Shogood by Ben Sidran hits the airwaves. Wolff, who attends United Hebrew Congregation, plays such music for those unable to traditionally attend Rosh Hashanah services. He would also perform the service for other religions.

“Those who are ill say it means so much to them to hear this music. It means so much to hear the shofar blown and they get to hear it here.”

Every show includes a tribute to police officers. This night, there is an additional remembrance for the 9/11 tragedy. Later, he does a birthday tribute to Nan Wyatt, a KMOX colleague and old friend who died several years ago. She would have been 49. It’s a tradition that he’s done since her death four years ago by playing songs in her honor, a gesture prompting Wyatt’s mother and sisters to call from around the country and thank him publicly for his show and friendship.

It’s been an emotional night for Wolff, with a series of calls from those expressing the void he leaves and how they literally say they will cry.

For as much as he has given the jazz world, Wolff insists it pales in comparison to what it has given him.

“This has not been a vocation, but avocation,” he said. “My whole profession has been about me because I would be in front of people. This made it about somebody else. I watched them and it made me appreciate, respect and admire these musicians.”

It’s midnight and his shift winds down. Everything Must Change and Someone To Watch Over Me help end the hour.

“It’s like losing a part of your family. People are very sensitive and sentimental. I play music that reminds them of younger, happier days,” he said.

“Jazz is the original American art form that needs to be preserved. It reflects freedom, diversity, fellowship, and partnership,” he said.

His signature piece, Song of Songs plays out the night.

For any information and updates on Don Wolff, go to www.donwolff.com.