Mel Williams, Jazz Disc Jockey, 69



Best known for his jazz program that ran on KUOP-FM radio for some 13 years, the famed Mel Williams died May 30, 1999 at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto. His radio career began in 1974 with a one-hour program on KHOP in Modesto.   He was 69.

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, Mr. Williams was an accomplished musician.

He retired in 1992 from the city of Modesto, after having served mostly as a supervisor in office services. He is credited with establishing the Sickle Cell Anemia Program, which tested 11,000 people in 18 years and which was funded through jazz benefits. He also created the Mel Williams Physical Fitness Program, which began with a few persons in his back yard and later was offered at Modesto Junior College. The program grew from 10 youngsters to more than 100 of all nationalities

Every Friday evening for thirteen years, jazz listeners from throughout the valley would tune in at 6 o’clock to hear Williams open his KUOP-FM show with: “Good evening, my wonderful listening audience…this is the world of Mel Williams.”  In a 1990 interview, he said: “Music is my first love, and it will probably be my last.

Mr. Williams is survived by his children:  Monte Williams and Morris Williams, both of Modesto, Mel Williams of Ohio, Mike Williams of San Jose and Marcus Williams of Virginia.  Marcus continued in his father’s footsteps and enjoyed success as an area radio personality.   Mel also leaves behind  nine grandchildren.

One thought on “Mel Williams, Jazz Disc Jockey, 69”

  1. I played music in bands with Mel Williams in Tracy, Sonora, Lake Tahoe, Castle Air force Base, and Modesto. While he was older than me, we had a great relationship. I knew his wife, Mandy, and I met his many sons.

    Mel knew all of the older songs that pre-dated rock & roll, including “Caldonia” which Mel sang. Mel was famous for holding one note on his sax for what seemed like many minutes. I never learned the trick, but Mel had mastered the ability to play that long note, which was always a show stopper.

    At the time, there were not many Afro Americans living in Modesto. In fact, Mel may have been the only, or one of a few Afro Americans, working for the City of Modesto. I believe that Mel was a model for others who followed him.

    After I left Modesto and relocated in Los Angeles, I continued my contacts with Mel, and I recall attending his retirement lunch in the early 90’s. He loved his radio show and he was an expert in early jazz.

    Larry Larson

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