How a jazz guy turned his passion into a gift for his town

On Sunday, the final episode of “The Jazz Guy with Bill Wood” aired on Voice of Vashon.

On Sunday, something unfathomable happened: the final episode of “The Jazz Guy with Bill Wood” aired on Voice of Vashon.

I somehow never thought the phrase, “Nothing good ever lasts,” would apply to this show, and yet, here we are.

How to say goodbye to such a long-running local treasure?

“The Jazz Guy” has clocked almost 600 episodes since 2000, when Bill first took to the airwaves — or would you call them “modem waves,” since Voice of Vashon was only streaming on the still-clunky internet in those days? However we managed to listen way back then, it was always a delight to hear Bill’s erudite take on jazz, and he’s kept the music coming, year after year.

No other Voice of Vashon show has come close in terms of its longevity.

Culling from his colossal collection of jazz records and deep catalog knowledge of the genre, Bill faithfully kept jazz hits and obscure cuts coming, year after year, in episode after episode.

He didn’t let anything get in his way, even during the scariest days of the COVID pandemic.

In a phone call, Bill and his wife, Jeanne Dougherty, detailed the complex and now strangely hilarious safety and technical protocols they had followed in the time when Bill had been forced to work in the studio separately from his longtime, trusty sidekick and audio engineer, Michael Golen-Johnson.

These protocols included carefully swapping CDs back and forth in plastic bags, repeatedly sanitizing the VoV studio and using disposable microphone “condoms” when on the air. But taking a break from the show wasn’t something Bill and Golen-Johnson ever considered.

“We didn’t have anything else to do in those days,” Bill said.

Through the decades, each Jazz Guy episode was a small, shining jewel of impeccable curation, based on oddball themes that included flowers, insects, birds, oceans, friends, dreams, sports, and really rotten people, to name but a few.

Listening in was a chance to swim in the warm bath of Bill’s great obsession with jazz. So it was only right that the show’s final episode had an elegiac and profound theme: “10 Ways to Say Goodbye.”

In a written promo, Bill explained the simple reason that his show’s long run was coming to an end.

“The energy is fading, it’s hard for me to crawl on the floor looking for the right vinyl, and so the time has come to say goodbye,” he wrote. “What a beautiful word. A sad word, a loaded word, but with a kind of sunset grace about it.”

And so, that sunset happened: Bill — now 92 years old — sat down in Voice of Vashon’s Jean Bosch Studio with Golen-Johnson and let his jazz heroes deliver the final grace notes.

There were tributes to Bill Evans, George Shearing and Art Pepper, delivered respectively by Bob Lark, Greg Abate and the Hot Club of Detroit.

Bill spun Anat Cohen playing Gordon Jenkins’ “Goodbye,” and Garry Dial and Dick Oatts performing “Goodbye Little Dream, Goodbye,” a seldom-played ballad by Cole Porter.

The show kept rolling, all the way through the end when Bill dropped the needle on a true tearjerker: John Coates Jr. on solo piano, playing “Goodbye, Old Friend.”

Then, just like that, Bill signed off, urging his listeners to “Stay steady, stay strong, and above all else, stay cool.”

For the past 24 years, Bill has shown us now how to do just that, with his passion for jazz and unwavering support for Voice of Vashon. But he didn’t do it alone, he said.

Along the way, his partnership with Golen-Johnson became a key element of The Jazz Guy’s success, he said.

“He’s the guy that made it happen,” Bill said.

Bill also credited his wife, Jeanne, for pushing him into his deejay career — a second act for Bill, who moved to Vashon in 1995 after retiring as a writer in the entertainment industry in Hollywood.

“When we came up here, I was not in good shape,” Bill recalled. “I had no idea what I was going to do as a retired person, and I was getting underfoot a lot.”

At Jeanne’s urging, Bill attended one of the first organizational meetings for the Voice of Vashon — and was hooked.

Bill not only launched “The Jazz Guy” as one of the radio station’s first shows, but he also served on the nonprofit’s board for years, helping to shepherd the fledgling station through what felt like the never-ending process of finally receiving its FM license in 2014.

Bill, in short, found something to believe in, something to work for, and a place to endlessly keep creating, week after week. We should all be so lucky, and so productive.

And here’s the happy ending, or not-ending, as the case may be: Bill isn’t done yet. He’s currently working on a new, occasional jazz show for Voice of Vashon — a deep dive into a niche of the genre that fascinates him most of all.

He’s calling it “The Dixieland Postgraduate Plan,” following jazz players who had to transition to a different style after the popularity of Dixieland diminished.

“Time was passing them by,” he said. “They had to do something else.”

Sounds like a marvelous plan, Jazz Guy. Your fans await to see what you do next, too. There’s no way we’re letting you off with “Goodbye.”

Listen to episodes of The Jazz Guy with Bill Wood, including the show’s final episode, at Elizabeth Shepherd is The Beachcomber’s former arts editor and editor, and current reporter. Happily, she has known and admired Bill Wood since 1997, when she first arrived on Vashon.