Remembering George Geiger, WUSF Jazz Pioneer 1947-2022
George Geiger and friend Michael Scott started "Jazz Night" on WUSF in 1966 in the basement of the USF library.
George Geiger, who in 1966 became the first DJ to play jazz on WUSF, died on Feb. 17 in St. Petersburg, after succumbing to "several intersecting medical problems," his family said. He was 74.
While attending the University of South Florida, Geiger created, produced and co-hosted a jazz music show.
He recruited friend Michael Scott to help and they called the show, which debuted in 1966 on WUSF, “Jazz Night.” It aired for four hours every Thursday night from the WUSF studios in the basement of what was then the USF Library.
It was the start of a tradition that has endured at WUSF for 56 years.
Born Lloyd George Geiger in Flint, Michigan on Oct. 17, 1947, he and his family lived in Rochester New York for a few years before moving to Tampa in 1955. Geiger graduated from Plant High School in 1965 and then attended the University of South Florida.
While at USF he and friend April Kelly created a comedy show that aired on WUSF radio. They called it “That Was the Week That Was at The University of South Florida.”
Geiger and Scott ran "Jazz Night" for four years until they graduated in 1969, Scott, who lives in St. Petersburg, said in an email to WUSF.
The show was kept alive by one of its earliest listeners and most avid supporters Vic Hall, who was a frequent guest on the show.
Hall would become the permanent jazz host.
Scott said he and Geiger wanted to present jazz in all its many styles.
“The music we played on “Jazz Night” included almost anything from any period in jazz history,” he told WUSF.
It’s a philosophy that has largely survived the more than half a century that jazz has been on the air at WUSF.
Scott rattled off a list of artist’s they liked to play in those days that would be familiar to current All Night Jazz listeners.
“A sampling of these would include Miles (Davis), (John) Coltrane, Bird (Charlie Parker), Wes Montgomery, Bill Evans, Jim Hall, Paul Desmond, Stan Getz, (Duke) Ellington, ("Count") Basie, Gil Evans, and various Bossa Nova artists including Joao Gilberto and (Antonio Carlos) Jobim.”
Geiger was particularly fond of Stan Getz and other musicians who played in a more relaxed style, Scott said.
After graduation, Geiger went on to have a successful career in Hollywood, becoming a writer and eventually producer for many memorable TV shows like “Profiler,” “Scarecrow and Mrs. King” and “Simon and Simon.”
In 1987 he was the co-Executive Producer for several episodes of the hit TV show “Miami Vice.”
Scott, Geiger and April Kelly became life-long friends. Kelly, also became a successful Hollywood TV writer and producer.
Scott would go on to have a rewarding career in the music business as a composer, arranger, and producer, that took him from Miami to Nashville to Los Angeles where he was reunited with his USF friends.
Geiger retired from the TV business and returned to Florida with his second wife Lorraine in 2002, where he taught a class “Screen Writing for Television” at Florida State University for many years.
Despite his many accomplishments, Scott told WUSF that Geiger always felt that “creating ‘Jazz Night’ and his pioneering efforts to get jazz on the air was always one of his proudest accomplishments."
Geiger died just short of four months after his wife Lorraine passed away on October 28 after a courageous battle with cancer. She was 72.
He is survived by a sister, Faith Walker, her husband Steve, her three daughters, Evelyn, Lillian, and Constance, and numerous in-laws.
Plans and date for a memorial service will be announced at a later time.
Read George Geiger’s official obituary and tributes from friends and family: here.