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1986 Interview with Jay McShann

Jay "Hootie" McShann tells the story of how he first came to Kansas City, and put together his first band.

By Laura Spencer and Sylvia Maria Gross


Kansas City, MO – Jay McShann said he discovered the blues as a young man, listening to the radio and records by Bessie Smith and James P. Johnson. He was a self-taught pianist - he just picked out the songs he heard on the family piano.

McShann was a native of Muskogee, Oklahoma. Territorial bands like Bennie Moten and Clarence Love sparked McShann's interest in jazz. These bands were based in Oklahoma and Texas and toured a circuit that extended south to the Mexico border, north to Canada, west to Denver, and east to St. Louis. McShann played with the territorial bands before coming to Kansas City in 1936.

Jay McShann spoke to Ken Poston on KCUR in 1986.

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
Sylvia Maria Gross is storytelling editor at KCUR 89.3. Reach her on Twitter @pubradiosly.
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