Behind the Scenes to Behind the Mic- The Swing Era’s Bud Pearson

If my experience as a broadcaster over the last forty years has taught me anything, it’s that the typical engineer is most at ease poking around equipment ‘behind the scenes’, eschewing anything that has to do with being ‘behind the mic’.  But as you are about to learn, Bud Pearson, the host of The Swing Era,  is far from the “typical” engineer.

Born in a small town in upstate New York, Bud Pearson’s dad ran an auto repair garage and sold Shell gasoline. It was his father’s hobby as a ham radio operator that first awakened Bud’s interest in radio and electronics.

When Bud was ten years old, the family moved to Syracuse, New York, where Bud started listening to a small local radio station that featured big band and swing music from the ‘30s and ‘40s. All that great music emanating from the radio in the family living room awakened something else in Bud- a love for swing music- and he soon became an enthusiastic record collector.

Graduating from Smith Technical High School (where he majored in electronics), in 1954 Bud joined the staff of WFBL Radio in Syracuse, and by 1959 made the jump to TV when he was hired by Syracuse’s first television station, WHEN-TV. In the early 1970’s, Bud joined Ampex Corporation (pioneers of audio and video recording equipment) as their Mid-Atlantic field service engineer. A year later Bud was asked to join the PBS Network Center staff in Washington, DC, where he was appointed Technical Maintenance Supervisor. Later, he joined a startup company where he served as Director of Engineering and later Senior Project Manager. “We designed and implemented both mobile and studio television systems for all of the major networks. I designed and project managed the CNBC startup facility and Martha Stewart’s television facility, among many others”, explained Pearson.

But while the New York native was successful in his chosen career as a broadcast engineer, the “lure of the mic” and his love of great music was never far away. As Bud describes it, “I began collecting in 1946 and I have been a Benny Goodman fan from the start and consider myself a Goodman completest. It was Benny who started the swing era, but several leaders had an impact on big band music.” For a time, Bud even dabbled as a musician, playing the drums in a local swing band.

Upon retirement, Bud and his wife Edie moved to Central Florida from New Jersey, where he converted a room in his home to a radio production studio and finally realized his dream- melding his love of swing music together with his love for radio into The Swing Era.  The program first aired on legionary Leesburg (Florida) station WLBE 790AM, and today The Swing Era is broadcast globally, enjoyed by tens of thousands of listeners from San Francisco to Yorkshire, England.

The Swing Era is an entertaining and informative musical program fed by the enormous recorded legacy the swing era bands and artists left us. The program’s main focus is the period from 1930 thru the 1940s, a span of time that presents the bigger picture of this exciting musical era. Speaking of the incredible artists that The Swing Era showcases each week, Bud observes, “Aside from Benny Goodman’s contributions, one must not forget Artie Shaw, the Dorsey Brothers, Glenn Miller and many black artists and leaders, among them, Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington… a first time listener to any of these artists would be able to grasp the excitement of the swing era.”

Pearson goes on to explain, “I always wanted to do my own radio show. However, my career in radio and television was in engineering, and it wasn’t until my retirement that I finally got around to produce a radio show. The Swing Era program is the result of my desire to share the music I have collected all these years. I love to listen to swinging, four to the bar rhythm and exciting soloists, as well as great interplay of the orchestra sections in a fine arrangement. I point out that the VIPs of the swing era are the arrangers. I suppose the new interest in swing music is simply because it’s great music.”

The Swing Era program draws from Bud’s own collection of big band, swing era jazz and broadcast recordings of over 50,000 selections. His personal knowledge, backed by an extensive library of discographic and historical material, provide the basis for the program’s annotation.

As Bud would say, “So much music, so little time.”

There you have The Swing Era story… the rest is in the listening.

The Swing Era with Bud Pearson can be heard Thursdays 5PM Pacific/8PM Eastern & Sundays 2PM Pacific/5PM Eastern on Swing Street Radio.

Craig Roberts writes the “Hot Big Band News” column for Swing Street Radio, and on occasion claims to have been Bing Crosby’s caddie.