Although rarely heard in the United States, Willis Conover was one of the most important radio broadcasters in jazz history. He worked in Washington D.C. and New York radio during the 1939-54 period but it was his association with Voice of America (starting in 1954) that was most significant. Conover's broadcasts introduced jazz to European (especially East European) listeners during the Cold War, paving the way for visits by American artists in the 1960s and 70s. Pianist Adam Makowicz was one of literally millions of listeners who first heard jazz on Conover's show. The broadcaster also served as emcee for the Newport Jazz Festival for over ten years, produced Duke Ellington's 70th birthday concert at the White House in 1969 and was the influential chairman of the jazz panel of the National Endowment for The Arts. Willis Conover's importance in spreading the jazz message worldwide cannot be overestimated.
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