Ray Smith, 87, 30-year voice of Jazz Decades

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Jazz fans lost a good friend with the death on February 26 of longtime WGBH Radio host Ray Smith, who was 87.

Since 1972, Ray shared his encyclopedic knowledge as host of 89.7’s The Jazz Decades, bringing ragtime, blues, swing, and the great jazz of the 1920s and ’30s to the ‘GBH airwaves.

During his 38 years with WGBH, Ray produced more than 1,900 programs; the station will continue to share those archived programs with jazz audiences Sunday nights at 7pm on 89.7.

“Ray’s passion for the music he loved was infectious,” John Voci, general manager for WGBH Radio, told listeners. “We remember Ray for his music, but he also was one of the nicest and most gracious men you could hope to meet.”

As a testament to his love of music, devoted audience members have been sharing their memories of Ray at the WGBH Radio Web site.

Ray leaves Marilyn, his wife of 61 years, and three children.

From John Voci, General Manager of WGBH Radio

On Friday, February 26, Ray Smith passed away at the age of 87. He leaves Marilyn, his wife of 61 years, three children and jazz fans everywhere.

Ray came to WGBH in 1972 and over the next 38 years, he produced more than 1900 programs.

Ray first produced the Jazz Decades in 1958 for WKOX in Framingham, Massachusetts making the show one of the longest running programs in Boston radio history.

Ray was an accomplished drummer and a member of many traditional jazz bands including the Black Eagles, the Yankee Rhythm Kings, the Jazz Decades and the Paramount Jazz Band. For many years, he regularly performed at the Sticky Wicket Pub in Hopkinton.

A native of Melrose, Ray was a decorated veteran for his service during the Second World War including being part of the invading forces during the battle of Iwo Jima. In 1989, Ray retired from a career as a graphic designer and in 1997; he left New England for Hilton Head, South Carolina where he continued to produce his program.

Ray had an encyclopedic knowledge of ragtime, blues, swing and the great jazz of the 1920s and 30s. His passion for the music he loved was infectious. We remember Ray for his music but he was also one of the nicest and most gracious men that you could hope to meet. We invite you to post your comments and remembrances at our Jazz Decades page online at WGBH.Org.

Because of the archives, the show will continue both on-air and online for some time to come but we’ll all miss our colleague and friend Ray Smith, our guide through the Jazz Decades.

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