The long version, if anyone’s curious:
In 1986, the summer before I entered college, my sister got me a job in Winston-Salem, NC, so I could save up a little dough. I ran across public radio there for really the first time in my life, and discovered that I really enjoyed jazz.
Two nights that summer while listening to WFDD-FM, I popped a blank tape into my boom box and when the moment seemed right, hit record. That 90-minute tape has lasted me over 20 years and has truly become part of the soundtrack of my life. But I’m not foolish enough to think it will last another 20 years.
My first thought was simply to digitize it and have it forever, static and all, just as it is, on CD, and I did that. But over time, not knowing what songs I was listening to has really gotten to me, and not having nice clean copies of them static-free has begun to grate on my nerves a bit as well.
I did a little bit of deejaying in college, so I knew about playlists. With little expectation, I contacted WFDD and asked if it was possible they might still have the playlists from the summer of 1986. I am pretty sure they are still laughing.
A bunch of the songs were easy to identify because I taped the announcer, too. Even if not for him, I’d have recognized “Take the ‘A’ Train” (2 versions no less) and “Take Five” pretty quick. I had some trouble identifying Louis Armstrong’s version of “St. Louis Blues” on my own because, well let’s face it, Satch isn’t the first person you’d choose to sing you a song so you could understand the lyrics. Still, once I knew what song it was (there was never much doubt about the artist), I just had to keep plugging away until I found the right version, which happened through pure dumb luck at the used record store one day.
When my own resourcefulness ran out, I had 4 songs I still couldn’t identify.
That’s when I turned to AllExperts.com. I put 60-second samples up on the web and started going through the Experts one by one, first in the Jazz category, then Blues (since one was so obviously blues-based). The very first person to help me told me right off I was asking him to do one of the hardest things there is in the business, a blind test to identify a song cold with no clues.
He then proceeded to hit a 2-run homer, giving me a title, artist, and album ID on one song (“Our Tune,” Michel Petrucciani from “Pianism”) and a title on the other (“All The Things You Are”) which allowed me to track it down through iTunes as being the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s version from “All The Things We Are.”
And then there were two.
More AllExperts experts suggested names for one of the remaining tracks. Dave Grisman, Bob Brozman. A nice guy at a website dedicated to mandolin playing said he thought it might be Jerry Douglas. I listened to samples from iTunes, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble all to no avail. I pretty much quit using Amazon when I discovered that B&N shows you the length of the track; this saved me a lot of time because I knew how long the song was.
A friend is a musician with a keen ear and a good heart, so I e-mailed him the mysteries. He said he was almost certain that one of them was Jerry Douglas, and what’s more he gave me the album title he thought the track was from, which he had found at Amazon. I checked B&N (as had become my custom): they didn’t even list the album. When I checked Amazon, sure enough there it was. I started going through the tracks, and BINGO! “Redhill” from Jerry Douglas’ “Under the Wire.” I had undoubtedly missed it when I stopped consulting both sites regularly.
And then there was one.
You can be part of this story if you can help me track it down.