For Ray White, music is the axis of his career – and his life.
“I’ve always been attracted to music,” says the new host at CPR Classical. “My mom loved classical music and my dad was a jazz lover, so there was always music in the house.
“Mom was the romantic. She wore out Grieg’s piano concerto and ‘Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.’ My dad would listen to Ahmad Jamal, Abbey Lincoln and Henry Mancini’s big band arrangements.”
Join Ray White during afternoon drive Monday through Friday on CPR Classical starting Aug. 5th.
Then, as a 15-year-old in Hartford, Conn., White contracted Guillain-Barré syndrome, a polio-like disease. He still needs two canes to get around, yet he credits his disease for his long career in radio.
“While I was laid up in the hospital, a DJ from WDRC – my favorite rock station – came by. He was flabbergasted by what I knew about music and invited me to visit the station when I was out of the hospital. That opened my door to radio and it’s been my magic carpet ever since.”
Indeed, when White met The Kingston Trio and the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and the rock band Buffalo-Springfield around the same time, music and radio became inextricably linked in his psyche. In a radio career spanning four decades, he made his way from Hartford to New York – where he studied classical guitar for several years – to the Bay Area some 20 years ago. Most recently, White was the morning host at KDFC in San Francisco for nearly 12 years.
In the late ’80s, White spun rock at WLIR on Long Island and at WNEW-FM in Manhattan. And in the 90s, he moved on to smooth jazz on “CD 101.9” in New York before landing at KKSF in San Francisco.
“Along the way, I learned that classical composers and musicians were just as crazy and obsessed as rock musicians,” he laughs.
Among his guitar heroes are John Williams, the Assad Brothers, Ben Verdery and David Russell.
“I have such a huge appreciation for the guitar players I’ve met,” he says. “Occasionally, I still play guitar for myself – maybe a Bach prelude or an etude.”
And while he says it’s impossible to name a favorite piece, he notes that Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending” always gives him the goosebumps.
Known on-air for his dedication, authenticity and warmth, White is no stranger to Colorado, having frequently visited the region.
“We’d go to Boulder and I’d explore Aspen and Vail and Rocky Mountain National Park,” he says. “I absolutely fell in love with the lifestyle and discovered the Denver feel of CPR Classical.
“I love to work for a radio station that sounds like where it’s from. You really get the sense that CPR Classical is locked into the local arts community, which is harder and harder to find. So many stations sound much more removed.
“This is all I’ve done since I was 17 years old,” adds the music radio veteran, who’s also logged hundreds of conversations with many music greats. “I love music, and being able to present it is really exciting to me.
“Trading the Pacific for the Rockies is exciting, too. There’s a blank canvas before me and I can’t wait to fill it with the people and the music scene here. It’s all beckoning.”