Monday, March 05, 2012

Symphony Sid

Symphony Sid was the man that brought bebop to the masses. We don't know for sure how Sidney Tarnopol became known as Symphony Sid. In that era, it was common for immigrants to shorten or modify their surnames to make them sound less "ethnic."  That's how Sid Tarnopol became Torin. But that doesn't answer the question at all. One story says that he worked at a record store, the "Symphony Shop." I can find no record of any such retailer. Another version claims that it came with a rhyming introduction by announcer Walter Tolmes. The most believable version is that it came from the classical program he DJ'd on his first radio gig at 1380 WBNX-AM.More here.

Sid was born in 1909, in New York City. and grew up in Brooklyn. And that's where he made his debut in radio as a Jazz DJ on WBNX in the Bronx. He was already using the name Sidney Torin.  More here and here. I can't find a starting year, but generally I assume it to be around 1931, to fit the rest of his timeline. It is often written that he also worked at WBMS-AM, whose calls did reside in New york in this era, but that station was absorbed by 1450 WHOM-AM in 1933. The calls moved to Boston, as did Mr Torin later on, not until 1951, and took a job at another jazz station, 1090 WBMS. He didn't return to New York until 1956.

By 1937 on WBNX he was hosting a jazz show, his "After School Swing Session."  By 1940 he was also DJingat WHOM for his "After-Hours Swing Session.".  He followed that with overnight shifts at WMCA and WJZ . On WMCA it was an all night jazz show "the royal Roost" on WMCA around 1948.  That graveyard shift at WJZ was "Jumpin' With Symphony Sid." Somewhere in there he also was on WWRL. He was already the best known jazz DJ in New York. They even started wring songs about him. In 1947, Arnett Cobb recorded "Walkin' With Sid" on Apollo records. In 1952 King Pleasure recorded "Jumpin' With Symphony Sid" on the Prestige label. The George Shearing Quartet recorded it the next year for MCA, but so had Charlie Parker and Sonny Stitt.

In Boston he ruled the airwaves on WBMS and also did a turn or two at WCOP. He came back a few years later and landed at WOV, hosting the Birdland Jazz show.  He stayed for just a year, giving up the mic to B. Mitchell Reed in 1956 (probably). She spent the next year at WEVD, spinning salsa. He later moved to WADO-AM, still spinning jazz, he stayed there until 1964 when the station first went to an all-Spanish format. It was a shame they didn't keep him on.  the jazz community gave him a lot of flak for shunning jazz at WEVD, he eventually added jazz to the last hour of his program. He retired in 1970 to the Florida keys, and in 1976, briefly un-retired to do shifts on a Miami jazz FM station, 93.9 WBUS.. that today we call WMIA. He died on September 14th, 1984.