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Radio host and record producerby Todd S. Jenkins
Copyright © 2005 Todd S. Jenkins
Veteran jazz radio host, record producer and educator Mort Fega died of surgical complications on January 21, 2005. He was 83 years old.
Born in New Rochelle on the Fourth of July, 1921, Mort Fega served valiantly in the U.S. military during World War II. He piloted a B-17 Flying Fortress on 29 missions, including the bombing of Berlin, and earned the Distinguished Service Cross. Following his service he became one of the most popular voices of jazz radio in New York, when he began his Saturday afternoon program on WNRC. In 1962 Fega went to WEVD, where his show "Jazz Unlimited" aired six nights a week. The show, included spoken-word and comedy segments (Lenny Bruce was a close friend) along with various strains of jazz, drew a huge audience from as far afield as Canada. "Jazz Unlimited" was a true reflection of Fega's many interests, as he insisted upon control of the programming from the beginning.
Over the years Fega moved through several other stations across America: WBAI, WRFM and WTFM in New York, KXIV in Phoenix, AZ, and WWUH in Hartford, CT. Along the way he became a respected MC for jazz events all over, from the Newport Festival to the Apollo and Carnegie Hall. Fega founded the Focus Records label in 1963 to document the music of certain musicians he enjoyed, among them Bob Dorough (Just About Everything), Earl "Fatha" Hines (The Real Earl Hines), Chuck Wayne (Tapestry) and Carmen McRae (Bittersweet).
In 1986 the Fegas retired to Florida, although retirement didn't mean much to Mort. He taught jazz at Palm Beach Community College, wrote columns for the Palm Beach Post, and hosted "Focus on Jazz" for five hours on Saturdays at Boynton Beach's WXEL.
Mort Fega is survived by his wife of 60 years, Muriel; four sons, Russell of Altadena, CA, Douglas of Carefree, AZ, Kenneth of Sedona, AZ and Roger of Amherst, MA; and eight grandchildren.^ Top
Todd S. Jenkins
Todd S. Jenkins is a member of the JJA, author of Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2004) and I Know What I Know: The Music of Charles Mingus (Praeger, 2006), and a contributor to Down Beat, All About Jazz, American Songwriter and Route 66 Magazine.