Mel Williams, a wise and well-respected member of the Modesto community, was familiar to radio audiences for nearly a quarter-century as a genial program host who offered up mellow sounds and insight commentary drawn from his encyclopedic knowledge of music. In addition, he was an accomplished musician.
Mel’s radio career began in 1974 with a one-hour program on KHOP in Modesto. Following KHOP he found a home at KUOP-FM where jazz listeners from throughout the valley would tune in at 6 o’clock to hear him open his KUOP-FM show with: “Good evening, my wonderful listening audience…this is the world of Mel Williams.” He was at KUOP-FM for 13 years. In a 1990 interview, Mel said: “Music is my first love, and it will probably be my last.
Mel Williams died May 30, 1999 in Modesto, CA. He was 69.
Here’s a segment from “The World of Mel Williams,” courtesy of KUOP-FM.
The following airchecks were donated to the Modesto Radio Museum by Christian Walter of Pocatello, Idaho. Christian lived in Modesto back in the ’90s and recorded many of “The World of Mel Williams” programs.
The World of Mel Williams on KUOP-FM, hour one from March, 1996
The World of Mel Williams on KUOP-FM, hour two from March, 1996
4 thoughts on “Mel Williams – Aircheck”
Mel was very soft spoken and kind to my baby girl and me back in 1994. His smile would lite up the coffee shop we would see him at weekly. He always had soft words and the brightest smile ever. We miss you forever Mel and never forget you. Lori Jensen Hooker.
Thank you, Laura for the wonderful tribute. I recently encounter this page and was pleasantly surprised. I know Mel would really appreciate the work here.
Thank you. Marcus Williams
I am listening right now to a cassette tape of Mel’s program from Dec. 9, 1997. I have a small collection of about a dozen tapes of Mel’s shows that Mel sent me over the years. We met in the fall of 1962 when I moved from Vancouver to go to college at Modesto JC. Being a young piano player who had gigged as teenager, I went to the AFM local and asked if there were any local musicians who played R&B, and was given Mel’s name. So I showed up at his house one day and introduced myself. We immediately became friends and my first gig in Modesto was with Mel at Doc Billingsley’s Club 14…. when I showed up for the gig, there was a poster outside with the club announcing “Iron Lung Williams”. I soon found out what that was about when Mel played a song in which he held the same note for as many as 3 or 4 choruses by way of a technique called “circular breathing”, earlier mastered by the likes of Rahsaan Roland Kirk. By the time Mel finished holding the note and carried on with his solo, the crowd was in a frenzy! The tension in the room was palpable and I was impressed. Mel was a master showman/entertainer and a fine blues singer as well as having a wonderful tenor saxophone tone and a wealth of standard tunes that were well known and loved. He was also a fine flutist. Mel’s favorite horn players were Gene Ammons and Dexter Gordon as far as I recall, but he knew and loved all the great players. He introduced me to a wealth of music and musicians… I first heard Aretha, Jimmy Smith, Brother Jack McDuff, Mose Allison, Herbie Hancock, and Sonny Stitt and more on Mel’s scratchy records (he had 5 little boys!) at his home.
When I met Mel and his family, the twins, Monte and Morris were in diapers and I believe young Mel Jr. was in about the sixth grade. I believe that during the 3 yrs I spent in Modesto, at least half of my free time was spent with Mel and Mandy and the kids. Mel and I played in Sacramento, Fort Ord in Monterey, all over Modesto and the San Joaquin Valley. He introduced me to many opportunities to play with other groups, including in Lake Tahoe and elsewhere with Jim Burgett.
Mel and Mandy and the kids came up to Vancouver/Maple Ridge twice to visit me and my wife and children and meet my parents. Our son was born in ’76, and when Mel and Mandy had their 25th wedding anniversary, we drove down to help celebrate and I got to sit in with the great John Hartsman band at the party.
Mel is a person I will never forget and my love for him and his family has been constant all these years. He and Mandy are a part of me.
Thanks for the opportunity to add my comments…. when I happened upon this site purely by accident, I saw a post by Larry Larson which seems to no longer be here but Larry and I were roommates for a few semesters… so a big hello to you, Larry.
And much love to Monte, Morris, Marcus, Michael and Mel Junior.
Condolences, to Williams family on yet another sad loss, Monte, my prayers and thoughts go out to your wonderful family!