Ray Smith had a passion for music, abhorrence for war
Published Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Island Packet

...And he still "has" in myself and doubtless many others, for the music - 'allowing me to share my music' - a paraphrase of what he would at times say at closing of show - and in his abhorrence, the passion and abhorrence carry on though with a a very sad passing moment especially at 7:00 p.m. EST in Boston.

The first show, Sunday March 7th after first hearing the elegant words ("John Voci, General Manager of WGBH Radio") on Sunday February 28, 2010, as surely many were about to enjoy an hour with Ray and his music, and his reflections, even his way of allowing one to "re-experience" in a way something that one might never have experienced, the music, the clubs he spoke about, and much more.

His closing with "most recordially Ray Smith, well left me....not to mention when he uttered the "contact" information.

On a lighter side: 'who remembers Maurice Chevalier" and then the mention of forty or fifty years not being long compared to relatively longer seventy or so. Try as a did with his wonderful descriptions to prepare one of what was to follow the some number of bars this and that whiled I enjoy that very much I never did get it but I did "get it' - especially what he referred to in a recent closing show, about his love of the music and hopefully some others beginning to enjoy it. I did from the first show I heard of him and at the time as struck by his "closing" words "most ...Ray Smith. (I take some of you know what I left out!) It is for others to find out.... I recall "clearly" Ray Smith mentioning but actually I vaguely "recall," Jack Teagarden (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Teagarden) in what sounded like one "hangover" and a session performance whereby he may have struggled to...I recall several years ago seeing the first photo of Ray in 'GBH "promo guide" and foolishly being surpised that he was not forty or whatever age I thought he 'sounded." (as silly as that may be); then there's the time he mentioned how the "shows" are prepared some time in advance - leaving me to discard the notion that he (and everyone involved - thinking of the gentlemen noted rightly at each closing, 'making the good sound better') prepared those programs in a week; also recall some years ago there being no break at 7:30 p.m. and ironically it was back to no break "interruption" but at times one can hear the "spot" break. For quite some time there was a clsoing theme skip of sorts that was for to be for many weeks, so it seemed.

Ray Smith's melodic voice has been stilled. With his passing Feb. 26 at age 87 goes an interesting slice of Americana.

Smith built a devoted following among traditional jazz and swing fans with his Boston radio show, "Jazz Decades." It's been a Sunday evening staple for 52 years, staying on the air even after he and Marilyn moved to Sun City Hilton Head in 1997.

He would record the weekly show in a studio built in his home here. It fit right in with the walls filled with music memorabilia covering the 20th century, and tens of thousands of albums -- blues, ragtime, classical and lots of the jazz of the 1920s and '30s.

The show will go on. WGBH, Boston's NPR station, streams it 24/7 online (www.wgbh.org), and WGBH general manager John Voci told me it will remain on the radio for some time. They'll pull from 1,900 episodes Smith laced with irreplaceable anecdotes and his "encyclopedic knowledge" of the music. Some 50 fans have responded to a tribute to Smith at the WGBH Web site.

Smith's radio work and his Paramount Jazz Band were hobbies kindled as a 7-year-old tenor in a church choir. He spent 47 years in the advertising business. As the eldest sibling in a single-parent home during the Depression, he learned early the value of hard work and the will to survive.

When I spoke to Smith just three weeks ago, it was about his service to his country on Iwo Jima. He went in with the Army radar team supporting the 5th Marine Division. We printed his recollections in the paper Feb. 15 to mark the 65th anniversary of the deadly invasion during World War II.

Smith's experiences are recorded in a book by Arnold Rosen of Sun City: "Before It's Too Late: Our Aging Veterans Tell Their Stories."

Smith told me in his New England accent that he was going into the hospital for a few days, then we'd sit down and talk about his passion for music. He said his health was great until he hit 87.

The next thing I knew, his obituary was in the paper.

He told me when we talked about Iwo Jima that he didn't want to come across as unpatriotic because he was always patriotic. But he said it taught him to hate war.

He said 67 million people died in World War II, 42 million of them civilians. That bothered him. And he said very few people saw the grotesque horror of it firsthand.

"I saw enough to learn, and firmly believe all of these past 64 years, that war is a scourge, the shame and the ultimate flaw of mankind," Smith told Rosen for his book.

"World War II did not need any other justification (for the U.S.) than Pearl Harbor, but war should never be anything but the completely definitive and ultimate final resort."

That's a voice that should not be stilled. "

Along the lines of above 'next thing I knew..." the way he sounded, and the way he spoke of the planning -will have that in a future program and talk of such - left me wrongly thinking Sunday's evening would carry forth unmitigated... ..................................................

Raymond Arthur Smith [April 13, 1922 to February 26, 2010]

Raymond Arthur Smith Sun City, SC Raymond Arthur Smith, 87, husband of Edith Marilyn Chase Smith, died Friday, February 26, 2010 in Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah, GA. Mr. Smith was born on April 13, 1922 in Malden, MA. He is the son of the late Arthur Smith and Miriam Pederson Smith. Mr. Smith was a Graphic Designer for many years. He served our country in the U. S. Army during WWII from 1942-1946 and participated in the battle of Iwo Jima. He hosted WGBH's Jazz Decades Program from 1959- present. He was also the leader and drummer of the his band Paramount Jazz Band. Surviving in addition to his wife, Marilyn of Sun City, SC; are one son, Douglas C. Smith of Fredericksburg, VA; two daughters, Andrea Brown of Worcester, MA and Priscilla McGaughey of Temecula, CA; five grandchildren and one great grandchild. Anderson Funeral Home is serving the family.

Published in The Island Packet from March 2 to March 9, 2010