Tag Archives: Carmen McRae

Tommy Hale – The Hawk

How do we just…lose people?

I’ve just learned tonight of the death of a high school friend, Thomas Hale.

Tommy was bright. Tommy was verbal and cheerful.

He knew more than I did about music in general and jazz in particular. By that, I mean he didn’t just love the music, but he knew why he loved it and he could share that knowledge.

Tommy DJ’d a Sunday afternoon jazz program on WLAP-FM.

This was in the late 60’s. At that time, FM radio was an afterthought. Most of the radios in the market didn’t even have FM reception and the owners of those that did were mostly uninterested. FM was where I went to hear Ben Story’s late Saturday night folk music broadcast (where I discovered Judy Henske, Phil Ochs, Patrick Sky, and the Limeliters – look ‘em up, — you can thank me later), or classical music and opera, or rhythm and blues (Gladys Knight, Ike Turner, Hank Ballard, and Carmen McRae – look ‘em up), and jazz…yes, indeed…jazz.

WLAP-FM’s format (this was before we knew what “format” was) was targeted to the African-American population of Lexington…enthusiastically so. I believe, at one time, it was rated #1 by Ebony Magazine.

It was trés cool.

<< “Well hello to you and salutation from the West Georgetown Street Blooooooz Association. Sink or swim, you’re in with them; WLAP…FM” >>

Totally exotic.

All the DJ’s had on-air nom-de-plumes. “Little Bee” assured that he was about to “put a little hep in your step, glide in your stride, and gut in your strut.” I was in my teens and needed every bit of that I could garner.

Tommy was “The Hawk”.

His Sunday program didn’t feature too many vocalists and it wasn’t “easy to dance to”. He tried to keep it lively but he was passionate about the music and he could tell you why.

A couple of Sundays he invited me to join him at the station for his show. I sat in the back, a goodly distance from the live mikes, and watched and listened. Tommy had to be his own engineer. He juggled tapes and lp’s and a myriad of dials and switches to deliver a seamless (to my worldly 16 year old ears) program of Brubeck, Tommy Hale, Miles, Tommy Hale, Prez, Tommy Hale, and Coltrane…and the Hawk.

Some of it all…

…not enough…

…but some…

…stuck.

To this day, I hear this music and recognize it and thrill to it instantly. But I can’t always tell you why.

Tommy could.

Tommy and I graduated from Bryan Station and went our separate ways. I have not seen him since.

And now he’s gone.

He gave me a treasure, a soundtrack for most of my life.

How do we just…lose people?

‘s not right.