Coming from a Garage Near You
You’ve heard of garage bands? Well, Bob Parlocha can top that. He has a garage radio show, a worldwide jazz program emanating from the space that once housed his automobile. With the push of a button, the garage door rolls up to reveal a broadcast studio with literally thousands of albums and CDs lining the walls. It’s from this rather dank, dimly lit space, that Parlocha hosts six hours of some of the coolest jazz on radio today, a show that’s picked up on satellite by some 244 radio stations worldwide.
Many may remember Parlocha as the popular host of the Dinner Jazz show on Alameda’s KJAZ-FM, in the ’80s and early ’90s. Those were the salad days for KJAZ, a 1,500-watt station that could compete with the AM monsters of the time, KSFO and KNBR. KJAZ was hailed as one of the premier jazz stations in the country, and Parlocha had actually been a fan before he ever became a host. In fact, he’d had no broadcast experience at all when he sent station owner Pat Henry a tape in 1978. “He liked it and told me to come in at midnight,” Parlocha remembers. The next thing he knew, he was on the air. “I was totally panicked. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t do anything.” But Parlocha’s extensive knowledge of jazz and his mellow, made-for-radio voice got him through that night and many more, as he went on to carve a niche with his popular show.
Fast forward to today, when Parlocha can broadcast jazz in his pajamas. “My wife gets up early to go to work, but I sleep in every day,” he says. “I wake up when my body says, ‘Wake up!” ’ His days are his own, as long as he records his six hours of programming for Chicago station WFMT-FM, 98.7. The station uplinks Parlocha’s program to satellite where it’s available for affiliates worldwide.
Parlocha has been dreaming of a job like this all his life. And in a funny way, his childhood in Vallejo prepared him for this kind of exposure. “My parents would have wild parties,” he remembers, “and they’d go wake up Bobby, and Bobby would have to come out and sing songs.” Parlocha ate up the attention, memorizing the melodies and lyrics of songs by the era’s well-known artists, like Nat King Cole. And not just in English but in Tagalog, since both parents had Filipino backgrounds. “I remember all the Filipinos; I would say a certain line in Tagalog, and they would just crack up and throw money at me.”
In a strange twist of fate, Parlocha’s mother died about the same time that his radio career at KJAZ died. In 1994, the station was sold, and its trailblazing format was no longer deemed profitable. “I didn’t know what to do, and I panicked out so much [that] I lost my voice and could only whisper. But then these guys from Chicago called and said they wanted me to do a show, and I got my voice back.”
Indeed, Parlocha’s voice is a big part of his charm. Soft, warm and mellow, it’s as if his vocal cords were anointed for radio. But he does more than just play the pieces that others record. In the corner sits a saxophone, which he plays in at least two local bands. And a piano graces the wall next to a treadmill and some boxes of unopened CDs. He’s also a father, a husband, a gourmet cook and an interior decorator, of sorts, having done many of his own upgrades on the house.
But radio will always be his No. 1 love, and Parlocha is the first to admit that he has led a charmed life. “It doesn’t get any better,” he says, “having a job listening to records. I’ll never retire.”