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The KPAC Blog features classical music news, reviews, and analysis from South Texas and around the world.

Willie Ruff Remembers Billy Strayhorn

Vincent Oneppo


Credit Metronome
Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington at the piano, circa 1948.

   Willie Ruff, a soldier at the age of 14 and a graduate of Yale at the age of 22, has crossed the paths of many of the giants in the music world, including Paul Hindemith from the classical arena and Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Lionel Hampton, and Dwike Mitchell in the jazz world. Here he speaks to the often asked question of whether Billy Strayhorn languished in the shadow of Duke Ellington. Willie calls their relationship "symbiotic." He also tells of getting to know Billy Strayhorn, and of their collaboration in bringing to life Strayhorn's final composition, a Suite for Horn and Piano.

James first introduced himself to KPAC listeners at midnight on April 8, 1993, presenting Dvorak's 7th Symphony played by the Cleveland Orchestra. Soon after, he became the regular overnight announcer on KPAC.