Nicknamed "The Mahj" by Duke Ellington himself (short for Maharajah, Purveyor of Swirls), the veteran Jazz DJ and one of America's leading authorities on Jazz, chuckles "Music is my love; it's my life." Charles "China" Valles began his musical career as road manager for saxophonist "Illinois" Jacquet in the Fifties and has met and interviewed musical giants such as Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. Valles arrived in South Florida in 1962 to head an upstart Jazz radio station, and eventually graced the airwaves including WBUS, WTMI and WDNA continuously until not too many years ago. With his delightfully gruff voice, full of whimsy and charm, Valles is a well-worn local treasure.
China has a treasure trove of stories from his "been there" Jazz history book, like the following on the passing of Symphony Sid Torin: "Sid was like a grandfather of Jazz radio," said China Valles, host of WTMI's all-night jazz show. "He was my idol, my hero. His show is what inspired me to be a jazz disc jockey." Valles, who first heard Symphony Sid in the late forties, said he copied Torin's relaxed, cool style. And Valles tried to return the favor in 1974, when he gave Torin the weekend nights disc jockey job at Miami's WBUS, an all-jazz station.
"I'd go pick him up at midnight after his show and I'd take him over to The Forge or somewhere, and we'd sit all night while he told me stories about Charlie Parker and all the greats," Valles said.
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