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In Memoriam: Larry McKinley

Larry McKinley
Larry McKinley. Photo courtesy of the family of Larry McKinley

Larry McKinley, Minit Records co-founder and voice of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, has died at the age of 85.

The public is invited to a memorial celebration on Monday, December 16, beginning at 6:00 p.m. at the Lawless Memorial Chapel at Dillard University, located at 2601 Gentilly Boulevard in New Orleans.
Visitation will be held from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. at the same location.
A private burial will be held on Tuesday, December 17, 2013.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Larry McKinley's name to the George and Joyce Wein Jazz and Heritage Education Center, 1205 N. Rampart St., New Orleans, LA 70116,

Here's a brief reminiscence by WWOZ General Manager David Freedman.

Larry McKinley is actually the reason I am at WWOZ. When I was in high school on Saturday afternoons from noon ‘til six on WYLD-AM, Larry used to host a six-hour jazz show followed by a very groovy postlude featuring Dr. Daddy-O (Vern Guidry, but that’s a story for another time). Anyway, the thing about Larry’s show—and this was in the late ’60s—he played everything you could ever want to hear from the world of jazz: Bud Powell, Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, Kenny Dorham, Ben Webster, Dizzy, Monk, Miles, Charlie Mingus, Eric Dolphy, Sonny Rollins, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman and everybody in between and beyond. I mean, can you imagine hearing Ornette on AM radio in the ’60s? Or ever?

Well, Larry McKinley could, and he made it possible for me to get a first class education in jazz the likes of which I never would have gotten otherwise in my middle-class, whitebread world.

And I’ll always be eternally grateful to Larry for sharing this very special world that has meant so much to me personally over the years. Not only that, but it turned out that Larry’s tutelage served as my ID badge to the jazz police and cultural gatekeepers of this city which ultimately led to my association with WWOZ. Even more than all that, Larry McKinley and WYLD-AM set the model for what an informal, informed, passionate, human jazz Sherpa should sound like. It worked for me in high school and it works for me now. Thank you Larry for using the power of radio to introduce real music into my life, music that was shaping the sound of jazz in our own city -- the music of Nat Perilliat, Ellis Marsalis, Red Tyler, Richie Payne, James Black and so many others; for showing us better than anyone since how it’s done; (in my later years) for being so much fun to be around. Essentially for changing my life before I even knew you were changing it (for the better). So now I’m paying it forward. I’m listening to WWOZ, but I’m hearing your Saturday afternoon jazz show. Thank you, Larry.

--David Freedman

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