10 November 1955

Dave Brubeck Interview with Willis Conover


Many thanks to Maristella Feustle, Music Special Collections Librarian at the University of North Texas for providing this wonderful and very historical link - a very extensive interview which Dave did with Willis Conover in 1955, with good musical selections interspersed.

Under the wonderful stewardship of Maristella , UNT have established an archive  devoted to the late Willis Conover, Voice of America radio programs.

15595831_a0dadd46_640.jpgDuring the Cold War, Willis was the world's greatest purveyor of jazz. Nightly, he would broadcast jazz music to the the world on VOA with a geographical focus on those living behind the Iron Curtain, in Cuba and in Southeast Asia living under communist rule. His programs would be replete with live interviews with jazz performers and luminaries.

 According to Willis:

"Jazz is a classical parallel to our American political and social system. We agree in advance on the laws and customs we abide by and, having reached agreement, we are free to do whatever we wish within these constraints. It's the same with jazz. The musicians agree on the key, the harmonic changes, the tempo and the duration of the piece. Within those guidelines, they are free to play what they want. And when people in other countries hear that quality in the music, it stimulates a need for the same freedom in the conduct of their lives."

So the VOA described what freedom was all about to people who had never experienced it throughout the world by using jazz music as the vehicle for the demonstration of what freedom sounded like.

Willis was a contractor to the VOA so all the material that he produced -- scripts, tapes of live programs and interviews, pictures, memorabilia, etc. was personnaly owned by him.

When Willis passed away, his estate donated all of his personal materials0D0F3FB9-DC49-409C-829F-79F8C38EC381_mw1024_mh1024_s.jpg from the VOA to the University of North Texas.

As of today, parts of the Conover archive are now online and open to the public, thanks to a grant from the Grammy Foundation to digitize the 360 oldest reels collection, covering approximately 1955 through 1969. There are just under 2100 reels in total.

Click here for the interview with Dave.


1. Theme ("Take the 'A' Train") and introduction
2. Dave Brubeck Quartet, "Stompin' for Milli"
3. Dave Brubeck Quartet, "Stardust" (live, with different melody)
4. Conover introduction, interview with Brubeck
5. Dave Brubeck Quartet, "This Can't Be Love"
6. Brubeck's comments
7. Conover's comments, mid-program identification and theme ("Take the 'A' Train")
8. Interview resumes
9. Conover introduction, and "Audrey"
10. Interview resumes
11. Dave Brubeck quartet, "Take the 'A' Train"
12. Closing theme ("Take the 'A' Train") and announcements  

For the remainder of the collection posted to date, click here.

Warmest congratulations to Maristella and all at UNT for this magnificent and culturally important work. Highly recommended to all lover of Jazz and beyond.