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Jazz Unlimited Host and Jazz Historian Dennis Owsley to Retire

Dennis Owsley

Jazz Unlimited host and producer Dennis Owsley will retire from St. Louis Public Radiowith his final show airing December 29ending his 36-year legacy of presenting jazz on KWMU. Throughout his time with the station he has produced over 1,800 scripted jazz radio shows, playing music largely from his own collection, and sharing his immense knowledge of jazz music history.

“Dennis has had an amazing career and made a huge impact in the St. Louis jazz community,” said St. Louis Public Radio General Manager Tim Eby. “We are so grateful to him for his more than 36 years of service sharing his passion for jazz music with listeners.”

Owsley has been a jazz album collector, aficionado and historian since 1958. During his time as host of Jazz Unlimited, he was named a “Jazz Hero of St. Louis” by the Jazz Journalists Association and chosen as a recipient for St. Louis Public Radio’s Millard S. Cohen Lifetime Achievement Award. Jazz Unlimited was named “Best Jazz Show” in the Riverfront Times’ annual Best in St. Louis Awards six times. A “Dennis Owsley Day” was proclaimed in 2008 by the mayor of St. Louis.

Owsley has published two books, the award-winning City of Gabriels—The Jazz History of St. Louis 1895-1973 (2006) and St. Louis Jazz—A History (2019). He has presented 37 lectures, published 22 essays in St. Louis Magazine, given 14 adult education classes on jazz, produced five jazz concerts and presented three jazz and photography concerts with Carolbeth True and vocalist Erika Johnson. 

Owsley also has an international reputation as a photographer of jazz musicians. He co-curated exhibitions of his jazz photography at the Sheldon Art Galleries in 2005 and 2006. Archives of his historic photographs and interviews with jazz musicians are available at stlpublicradio.org

While Jazz Unlimited will come to an end, jazz music will continue on 90.7 KWMU-1 on Sunday nights from 9 to midnight. We also offer a 24/7 jazz stream and HD radio channel, Jazz KWMU-2, and are dedicated to continuing Owsley’s legacy of sharing jazz with the St. Louis community and beyond.

As the Director of Marketing & Digital Media for St. Louis Public Radio, Madalyn Painter works to move audiences to deeper levels of loyalty to our service to the community. She and her team provide targeted marketing, business intelligence, and visual design and support the station’s digital products and strategy.