Saturday, February 23, 2013

Ross Gentile, former WSIE DJ, dead at 60

Ross Gentile, known to St. Louis jazz fans for more than 15 years as the host of "Standards In Jazz" on WSIE (88.7 FM), has died. He was 60.

Gentile, a longtime resident of Glen Carbon, IL, reportedly had been in poor health for some time, and according to friends and published accounts, had been undergoing regular dialysis treatments. A report first published on the website Berger's Beat says he died of a massive heart attack on Friday night at Anderson Hospital in Maryville; subsequent reports put the time of death early Saturday morning.

In addition to being a familiar voice, Gentile (pictured) also was a familiar face to local jazz enthusiasts, often serving as master of ceremonies at live jazz shows in the area. He began at WSIE in 1993, and frequently incorporated recordings from and interviews with St. Louis jazz musicians into his program. For much of his time at WSIE, he was on the air seven days a week, broadcasting from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

His jobs before WSIE included work as a broadcaster for KSHE from 1970 to 1973, and in promotions for A&M Records.

Gentile was fired by WSIE in April 2009 as they began a series of cutbacks that eventually resulted in the elimination of all local on-air hosts. (The station since has returned to featuring local programming and hosts, though some of the voiceover work now is pre-recorded.) He subsequently sued Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, seeking to regain his old job and recover back wages and benefits. Though the filing of the suit was covered in local media such as the Edwardsville Intelligencer, no information about any resolution was ever made public.

After leaving WSIE, Gentile went on to host a jazz program on Saturday afternoons for KZQZ (1430 AM) and continued to attend, and sometimes MC, live jazz performances around the area.

According to the obituary published Monday, February 25 in the Belleville News-Democrat, visitation will be held from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, February 27 at Sunset Hill Funeral Home, 50 Fountain Dr. in Glen Carbon, followed immediately at 7:00 p.m. by a funeral service.

Update - 3:30 p.m., 2/26/13:  An expanded obituary for Ross Gentile was posted today on the Belleville News-Democrat website. Here is the complete text:
"Ross Kenton Gentile was born on June 3, 1952, in East St. Louis, Ill., and died on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, at Anderson Hospital in Maryville, Ill.

Mr. Gentile began his career as a radio broadcaster at WIBV in Belleville, Ill., in 1967, at the age of 15, under Jim Bolen. He continued his career at KSHE-95 in St. Louis, Mo., and also served in the Illinois Army Reserves.

In 1974, he became the midwest regional promotions director for A&M Records in Los Angeles, Calif., where he earned numerous gold and platinum records and was responsible for the signing of the rock group Head East to a long term recording contract with A&M.

He promoted and remained personal friends with artist such as Beatle George Harrison, Peter Frampton, the Carpenters and music greats: Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Ella Fitzgerald and many others.

He worked at the "jazz station" WSIE, hosting his daily radio show "Standards in Jazz" until 2009, when he retired from his passion and love of radio due to failing health and kidney disease. Currently he hosted an hour long radio show "A Touch of Velvet" on 1430 KZQZ, in Belleville, Ill.

Ross was preceded in death by his parents, Betty Jean, nee Botkin, Zdroik and Sam Gentile.

Surviving are his sister, Dianne (Joe) Turek of Collinsville, Ill.; niece, Heather (Dr. James) Koch of Columbia, Mo.; great-nephew, John Joseph Koch; many loving family members, friends and radio fans.

Memorials may be made to the family. Condolences may be expressed to the family online at www.sunsethillcemetery.com.

Visitation: Friends may call from 3 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, at Sunset Hill Funeral Home, Glen Carbon, Ill.

Funeral: Services will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, at Sunset Hill Funeral Home in Glen Carbon, Ill. A memorial concert for Ross is being planned for a date in April."
Update - 12:45 a.m., 2/27/13: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has published a detailed obituary about Ross Gentile, written by reporter Michael Sorkin, that can be read online here.

(Updated after posting with information about Gentile's program on KZQZ. Updated 2/23/13 to correct Gentile's age at the time of his death and to add mention of his work at KSHE and A&M. Updated a third time to include information on funeral services.)

2 comments:

Gary Presley said...

St. Louis musicians have lost their best ambassador and supporter for live Jazz. I remember getting Ross to jam with us - he was a pretty good trumpet player. It's really a shame the way he was treated by SIUE. Ross really loved his music. He will be missed by listeners and players alike.

Gary Presley

Director Bob said...

I have to believe that anyone who ever met Ross knows what a good person he was. Ross supported us by allowing us tons of time on air to talk about our documentaries. He did it because he truly wanted to help us succeed and he knew this was something his listeners needed to know about. I only saw him a few times and yet he always treated me like we were old friends and made all of us feel truly welcome. He will be missed by our team and everyone who knew him.

Bob Miano, Civil Pictures

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