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Exclusive Interview with Ronnie Littlejohn

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Talking Jazz with Radio Host JAZZ FM 91 Ronnie Littlejohn

Long story short, I used to be a recreation director and a good friend had a look at my work and helped me contact Jazz FM 91. As a fan of all types of music, I was so excited. An introduction was made and a few days later, an unexpected interview with radio host Ronnie Littlejohn happened.  Ronnie has a long history in the Canadian music scene. For 15 years he fronted Planet Earth, one of Canada’s premier jazz/funk/soul bands.  He is also the official emcee of the 2019 Niagara Jazz Festival. Today in our interview, topics include Jazz, special guests, events, the song of the day, hosting Gumbo Kitchen on Jazz FM 91, and more.

1. Can you tell us about JAZZ FM 91 and your role at the radio station?

There really is no other station in the world like JAZZ FM 91. We are the only ALL JAZZ station in Canada. We are listener supported so we are not owned by any of the major broadcasting corporations like Darth Vader and Sons. I can’t think of any other radio station that has such a connection to its community. We take listeners to these incredible jazz safaris all over the world. We host live concerts within the walls of our station. These intimate little shows where Canada’s best jazz musicians are literally performing a few feet away from you inside our beautiful radio station. My role is to bring exciting, great radio to the people week after week.

2. You are the radio host of Gumbo Kitchen Fridays from 9 pm to midnight on JAZZ FM 91.  Can you tell us a bit about the show?

I came up with the idea for The Gumbo Kitchen about eight years ago. An all New Orleans radio program focussing on the music of New Orleans. The traditional jazz, funk, soul, second line, Mardi Gras Indians, Gospel, Zydeco. All of it. New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz. It is only fitting that an all-jazz radio station should have some music dedicated to it. The great thing about Gumbo however is if you’ve ever had good gumbo you know that you can put just about anything in it. Ok, maybe not tomatoes but the show is not strictly New Orleans music. If it’s spicy and has the right flavor I put it in the pot! The word gumbo covered a multitude of things. The city of New Orleans is the city of gumbo.

3. Ronnie Littlejohn, do you have any special guest(s) coming to the show in the near future?

This show allows me the freedom to reach out to artists I love. They have all been very receptive. In my first year at JAZZ.FM 91, I have interviewed George Porter Jr of The Neville Brothers & The Meters, Cyril Neville, John Boutte, Ivan Neville, Irma Thomas, Ben Jaffe of Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Galactic, Alex Pangman, James Andrews. In the next few weeks, I have The Five Blind Boys, filmmaker Michael Murphy and composer Terence Blanchard.

4. Are there any special events that we should be aware of?

There is ALWAYS something going on at JAZZ FM 91. I think we are doing another International Jazz Safari to New Orleans in April of 2020! That is not to be missed. We take our listeners all over the city.

5. Where do you get your “fun facts” when you choose your song of the day Ronnie Littlejohn?

Songs have these incredible stories behind them. How they were recorded, how they were written, the history behind the song. Stories like how Louis Armstrong accidentally dropped his sheet music on the floor and started making up nonsense syllables in the studio because he didn’t remember the words to “Heebie Jeebies” and that became what we all know now as scat singing. He thought they were going to laugh at him. But they LOVED IT! A great story! When you tell someone a story about a song they tend to lean in a little when you play it for them.

Radio Host Ronnie Littlejohn and Bill King – Such a Night (Dr. John)


 

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Jovin Tardif is a freelance writer, storyteller, interviewer, reviewer and conversation starter.

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