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Willis Conover broadcasting Voice of America in 1969


Willis Clark Conover, Jr. (October 18, 1920 – May 17, 1996) was a jazz producer and broadcaster on the Voice of America for over forty years. He produced jazz concerts at the White House, the Newport Jazz Festival, and for movies and television. He created musical events where people of all races were welcome, thereby helping to break down the color barrier in the United States. Conover is credited with keeping interest in jazz alive in the countries of Eastern Europe through his nightly broadcasts during the cold war, when jazz was banned by most of the communist governments.

Conover's first arrival in Poland (1959)

Conover was a legend amongst jazz lovers primarily due to the hour-long program on the Voice of America called Voice of America Music USA. Known for his sonorous and baritone voice, many would argue that he was the most important presenter on Voice of America. Conover was not well known in the United States, even among jazz aficionados, but his visits to Eastern Europe and Russia brought huge crowds and star treatment for him. On a trip to Moscow a taxi driver recognized him by his distinctive deep-toned voice. He was a celebrity figure in the old Soviet Union, where jazz was very popular and the Voice of America was a prime source of information as well as music.

He died of lung cancer.


  • Willis Conover: Broadcasting Jazz To The World by Terence M. Ripmaster, iUniverse Publishing, 2007

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