Tom Shaker / Roots Host
Tom Shaker shows
Tom Shaker is a professor at Dean College, where he directs the Communications Program. He grew up in Poughkeepsie, NY, the son of a plumbing contractor who was a Jazz nut. They fought like cats and dogs over the one stereo in the house until Tom realized his Dad was right, Billie Holiday IS better than Grand Funk Railroad.
He spends his weekends saving diners for the American Diner Museum and listening to all kinds of music. In addition to international travel, Tom loves hitting the road to visit music festivals, diners, drive-ins, and oddball museums. He has an extensive collection of not only Jazz, Country, Soul and Gospel, but Hawaiian, Hillbilly and early 1920’s dance band music.
Over the years, Tom worked in radio, television and film production, before pursuing his academic career, receiving a master’s degree from UMASS and a doctorate degree from Boston University. He is currently working on a book and documentary about the history of Jazz in Rhode Island. Tom’s also on the Board of Directors of the New England Jazz Alliance.
5 Questions with Tom Shaker
What brought you to hosting a show on WICN? Why do you love being on the air?
About 15 years ago, when I was the chair of the Communications Program at Dean College, I went out to WICN to look for internship opportunities for my students. I ended up talking to the PD about music and got one myself. This has to be the longest internship in radio history!
What is your favorite WICN memory?
One Monday night I got a call that a longtime listener of the show wanted to drop something off for me. I put on a long soul song and ran to the front door of the Printers Building and there was the listener with a painting he did of James Brown in a class at WAM. He had signed it with the inscription “to Tom Shaker one of the best.” It was so touching (and good) that it hangs in my living room today!
The best concert I ever saw was ______________?
The Stax 50th Anniversary Concert at The Orpheum Theater in Memphis. It was an incredible reunion of Stax greats like Booker T & The M.G.’s, Eddie Floyd, William Bell, Mavis Staples, Rance Allen and one of the last appearances by Issac Hayes. The next day, at the Stax Museum, I ran into Eddie Floyd and got to walk through the museum with him as my “tour guide.” A dream come true!
Many listeners don’t know that the majority of our hosts are volunteers that do this out of a personal passion. What do you/did you do professionally off the air?
I started out working in television and film in Los Angeles, then made my way to Boston, where for over thirty years I’ve been a college professor at various institutions including Northeastern University, Boston University, UMASS, Dean College and WPI.
I have co-authored two books, “A Treasury of Rhode Island Jazz & Swing Musicians” and “In Harmony: Early Vocal Groups Remembered and Celebrated.”
I’ve also co-produced the award-winning documentary “Do It Man: The Story of The Celebrity Club.”
I’ve produced a couple of podcasts on Rhode Island Jazz History.
I’m also on the Board of Directors of The American Diner Museum, saving diners whenever I can!
Who are your favorite artists and/or albums of all time?
I have so many favorites!
Aretha Franklin, Fats Waller, Ry Cooder, Dave McKenna, Jack Sheldon, Elvis Costello, Jesse Winchester, Nick Lowe, Yo Yo Ma, Swamp Dogg, and Issac Hayes are just a few!
Some albums I’ve worn out over the years are
“New Morning” by Bob Dylan
“Al Green Explores Your Mind” Al Green
“Seconds of Pleasure” Rockpile
“Dusty In Memphis” Dusty Springfield
“Just As I Am” Bill Withers
“Charlie Parker with Strings” Charlie Parker