The Willis Conover Collection

My love for shortwave radio was already strong by the time I was six years old. It was fascinating to me to tune in radio stations from around the world and hear different languages, news from places I had to look up on the map, and stories from cultures I knew nothing about.

And, of course, new music.

From an early age, while listening to our own shortwave international powerhouse, the Voice of America, I would regularly hear this:


As a kid, the music was new and exciting to me, and that voice was soothing. That was Willis Conover, who went on the air at VOA for over 40 years, broadcasting jazz to the world. He was all but unknown in the US; around the world, however, he was bigger than life for bringing American music and culture over the Iron Curtain. Many people learned English or even became jazz musicians themselves because of Willis Conover.

I have wanted to hear some of those old recordings for many years. This summer, after many years of archiving Conover’s material, the University of North Texas received a grant and began digitizing some of the thousands of recording they have of Willis. I was excited to learn they’ve started releasing the material for all  to enjoy, thanks largely in part to Maristella Feustle, UNT Music Special Collections Librarian (and jazz guitarist).

The initial batch of material includes two compete episodes of Music USA on VOA, interviews with Dave Brubeck, Louis Armstrong, a set from Bill Evans, and much more.

If you enjoy jazz, check out this site and learn more about Willis Conover and his role in jazz history.


Summertime Done Come And Gone

Happy almost-October! The summer has flown past and there haven’t been any additions to the Archives. However, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been any activity.

The big news is that NTAP has officially formalized a relationship with the Sousa Archives imageand Center for American Music at the University of Illinois. Jeff Machota donated over a dozen vintage Nature’s Table shirts to the Sousa Archives, Here’s a photo of Jeff and I (left & middle) making the donation to Sousa Archivist Scott Schwartz (right):

This formally creates a procedure by which donated materials to NTAP will be transferred to the Sousa Archives for safekeeping, cataloging and preservation. In the case of recordings, the physical media (cassettes, reel-to-reels, etc) will be handed over to the Sousa Archives after NTAP digitizes them.

Scott Schwartz also provided Jeff and I guidance on creating a Deed Of Gift form for NTAP, similar to the one we fill out when NTAP gives material to the Sousa Archives. Many thanks to Scott for his assistance!

Another noteworthy item: during my last visit to C-U in August, I managed to get an oral history recording from Jeff Machota, describing his time at the Table from 1984 until the end. I hope to have that posted to the Oral History area soon.

Of course, the main thing folks are interested in is the music. Jeff and I have had very busy summers with work, and life has simply gotten in the way. I hope to get back on track and start providing new recordings at a minimum of once every month. Keep following the What’s New tab here on the ste, or the Nature’s Table group on Facebook,  and you’ll see the latest devlopments

Thanks for the support! Drop us a line if you have any questions or donations; we’d love to gear from you.