Real Name:
Willis Clark Conover, Jr.
Profile:
Willis Conover (1920 – 1996) was an American jazz producer, broadcaster on the Voice Of America for over forty years, and the Jazz Panel chairman at the National Endowment For The Arts. He is recognized for playing one of the key roles in desegregating Washington D.C. nightclubs, as well as single-handedly keeping interest in jazz culture alive in Eastern Bloc during the Cold War, when jazz was banned by most of the communist governments. Conover was born in Buffalo, New York, and attended the Maryland State Teacher's College at Salisbury, Maryland. Despite his father's wishes, who expected Willis to continue a family tradition and join The Citadel military college in South Carolina, he pursued a career in radio, and became an announcer for WTBO in Cumberland, Maryland.

In 1955, Willis Conover moved to Washington, D.C., and started his legendary hour-long Voice of America Jazz Hour program. Voice Of America was only broadcasted on shortwave in the United States, so Conover wasn't particularly well-known domestically even by dedicated jazz lovers, but in the USSR and Eastern Europe, where his nightly broadcasts were the only available source of information about jazz for millions of people, Willis was the most beloved and respected Western radio presenter. Known for a sonorous baritone voice, Conover had been trying to make the broadcast more accessible for non-native speakers, and wrote his scripts in simplified English, talking slowly and with clear articulation. Thus, he often acted as an unofficial English teacher for Slavic and Eastern European listeners.

Terence Ripmaster, author of Willis Conover: Broadcasting Jazz To The World biography, interviewed Leo Feigin (an expatriate Russian jazz producer, who emigrated from the Soviet Union and started a renowned independent label Leo Records in the late seventies) for his book in London in 1999. Feigin claimed that Conover was 'like a saint' for Leo and his friends, and literally the entire generation of music listeners behind the Iron Curtain learned all about jazz by listening to Willis Conover's program, despite all Soviet officials' attempts to scramble and jam the signal of VoA, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and other Western broadcasters. Willis Conover visited Soviet Union, Estonia, and other Eastern European and Baltic countries several time during the sixties, always finding a triumphant reception, and treated with utmost respect and admiration by crowds of dedicated fans.

He produced jazz concerts at The White House (2), Newport Jazz Festival, as well as for movies and television, and had been known for arranging events where people of all races were welcome. In 1956, Willis Conover conducted a series of interviews with jazz luminaries like Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Stan Getz, Peggy Lee, Stan Kenton, Benny Goodman, and Art Tatum. They were added by The Library Of Congress to the National Recording Registry in 2010.

In his youth, Conover was interested in science fiction, and issued a Science Fantasy Correspondent fanzine. He was also in contact with horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, and their correspondence was published as Lovecraft at Last (Carrolton-Clark, 1975).

In 2015, the University Of North Texas published an open-access Music Library Conover Collection, with digitized copies of Conover's radio programs available online.
Sites:
Variations:

Vocals

Willis Conover - At Newport album art Dave Brubeck And Jay* & Kai* Dave Brubeck And Jay* & Kai* - At Newport (Album) Columbia US 1956 Sell This Version
Willis Conover - At Newport album art The Teddy Wilson Trio* & Gerry Mulligan Quartet With Bob Brookmeyer The Teddy Wilson Trio* & Gerry Mulligan Quartet With Bob Brookmeyer - At Newport (Album) Verve Records, Verve Records US 1957 Sell This Version
Willis Conover - At Newport album art George Lewis (2) & Turk Murphy George Lewis (2) & Turk Murphy - At Newport (Album) Verve Records France 1957 Sell This Version
Willis Conover - At Newport album art Ella Fitzgerald & Billie Holiday Ella Fitzgerald & Billie Holiday - At Newport (Album) Verve Records US 1958 Sell This Version
L 0291 Willis Conover - Spotkanie Z Conoverem W Polsce album art Various Przemówienie Willisa Conovera Various - Spotkanie Z Conoverem W Polsce(10", Mono) Polskie Nagrania Muza L 0291 Poland 1959 Sell This Version
4-44411 Willis Conover - The Empty Streets / Far Off, Close By album art Charlie Byrd & Willis Conover Far Off, Close By Charlie Byrd & Willis Conover - The Empty Streets / Far Off, Close By(7", Promo) Columbia 4-44411 US 1967 Sell This Version
Willis Conover - At Newport album art Count Basie With Jimmy Rushing, Lester Young, Jo Jones, Illinois Jacquet And Roy Eldridge Count Basie With Jimmy Rushing, Lester Young, Jo Jones, Illinois Jacquet And Roy Eldridge - At Newport (Album) Verve Records Japan 1978 Sell This Version
Willis Conover - At Newport album art Red Allen*, Kid Ory & Jack Teagarden Red Allen*, Kid Ory & Jack Teagarden - At Newport (Album) Verve Records Japan 1981 Sell This Version
Willis Conover - One Night In Washington album art Charlie Parker With The Orchestra (4) Charlie Parker With The Orchestra (4) - One Night In Washington (Album) Elektra Musician UK & Europe 1982 Sell This Version
Willis Conover - At Newport album art The Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge, Pete Brown, Jo Jones All Stars* The Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge, Pete Brown, Jo Jones All Stars* - At Newport (Album) Verve Records Japan 1982 Sell This Version
Willis Conover - Live At Newport 1958 album art Mahalia Jackson Intro Mahalia Jackson - Live At Newport 1958 (Album) CBS/Sony Japan 1986 Sell This Version
RJD 505 Willis Conover - "More Unissued" Vol. 1 album art Charlie Parker Charlie Parker - "More Unissued" Vol. 1(CD, Album) Royal Jazz RJD 505 Europe 1990 Sell This Version
CK 53629 Willis Conover - Live At Newport 1958 album art Mahalia Jackson Intro Mahalia Jackson - Live At Newport 1958(CD, Album, RE) Columbia, Legacy CK 53629 US 1994 Sell This Version
UPCD 27.55 Willis Conover - Washington D.C., 1948 album art Charlie Parker Charlie Parker - Washington D.C., 1948(CD) Uptown Records (2) UPCD 27.55 US 2008 Sell This Version

Writing & Arrangement

Willis Conover - A Touch Of Taylor album art The Billy Taylor Trio* Memories Of Spring The Billy Taylor Trio* - A Touch Of Taylor (Album) Prestige, Prestige, Prestige US 1955 Sell This Version
4-44411 Willis Conover - The Empty Streets / Far Off, Close By album art Charlie Byrd & Willis Conover Charlie Byrd & Willis Conover - The Empty Streets / Far Off, Close By(7", Promo) Columbia 4-44411 US 1967 Sell This Version
MLP 4001 Willis Conover - A Man And His Horns album art Anthony Ortega Memories Of Spring Anthony Ortega - A Man And His Horns(12", Mono, RM, Smplr, 200) Classic Records MLP 4001 US 2003 Sell This Version

Featuring & Presenting

GXTV 220055, GXTV 220056 Willis Conover - Voices of Vista No. 39 album art Various Various - Voices of Vista No. 39(12") Vista (4), Vista (4) GXTV 220055, GXTV 220056 US 1966 Sell This Version
KOD NO. 6 Willis Conover - The Color Of My Country In Jazz album art Özdemir Erdoğan Özdemir Erdoğan - The Color Of My Country In Jazz(LP, Album) Hap Plak KOD NO. 6 Turkey 1980 Sell This Version
Willis Conover - Inner Fires: The Genius Of Bud Powell album art Bud Powell Bud Powell - Inner Fires: The Genius Of Bud Powell (Album) Elektra Musician Japan 1982 Sell This Version
Willis Conover - One Night In Washington album art Dizzy Gillespie With The Orchestra (4) Dizzy Gillespie With The Orchestra (4) - One Night In Washington (Album) Elektra Musician, Elektra Musician, Elektra Musician US 1983 Sell This Version
Willis Conover - At Jazz At The Philharmonic album art Billy Holiday* Announcement Billy Holiday* - At Jazz At The Philharmonic (Album, Comp) Verve Records, Clef Records Japan 1994 Sell This Version
Willis Conover - The Complete Columbia Recordings 1955-1961 album art Miles Davis & John Coltrane Miles Davis & John Coltrane - The Complete Columbia Recordings 1955-1961 (Comp) Columbia, Legacy US 2000 Sell This Version
Willis Conover - At Newport 1958 album art Miles Davis Introduction By Willis Connover Miles Davis - At Newport 1958 (Comp) Columbia, Legacy, Columbia Jazz, Columbia, Legacy, Columbia Jazz US 2001 Sell This Version
005 Willis Conover - The Complete Jazztet Sessions album art Art Farmer / Benny Golson / Jazztet* Announcements Art Farmer / Benny Golson / Jazztet* - The Complete Jazztet Sessions(4xCD, Comp) Jazz Dynamics 005 Europe 2013 Sell This Version

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