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Radio Jazz Host And Musician Bob Nave Dies

Courtesy Bob Nave
Bob Nave performing at The Redmoor in 2012

The multi-talented Bob Nave, who died Tuesday at home, is hard to describe in one sentence.

I first heard him playing jazz on old WNOP-AM (740), "Radio Free Newport," broadcast from floating oil drums on the Ohio River in the 1970s.

If you were into rock music in the 1960s, you heard him playing keyboard on "Green Tambourine" with The Lemon Pipers.

The Oxford-based band hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart with the tune on Feb. 3, 1968. Nave, a 1966 Miami graduate, did the lead vocal on the "B" side, "No Help From Me."

For years he was the keyboardist for the Blues Merchants, which played all over Greater Cincinnati. (The pictures in this post were sent to me by Nave in publicity emails from 2011 through 2015.) 

Some know him for doing more than 50 interviews for Around Cincinnati on Cincinnati Public Radio's WVXU-FM Sunday night arts and entertainment show. Others know him as host of the Bop Connection jazz show on WVXU-FM from 1984 to 2005, when the station was owned by Xavier University.

He's still on the air as a rotating host of Jazz Alive 4 p.m. Sunday nights on WMKV-FM. He just taped two shows last week, with the final original broadcast scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9, repeating at 9 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10.

Credit Courtesy Bob Nave
Nave (right) with the Blues Merchants and vocalist Amy McFarland in 2012.

Nave also has helped local musicians as one of the first members of Gary Burbank's Play It Forward non-profit benefiting financially struggling musicians. Many of his radio fans didn't know that Nave's day job was working as an investment counselor at a Cincinnati bank.

"He served as treasurer, and we wouldn't have made it this far without his leadership," Burbank told me today. "He was always there with ideas, and could carry them out. A lot of musicians can thank Bob for a helping hand. Bob worked with us because he cared about local music, and he realized how important it is."

Nave grew up in West Carrollton, on the southern edge of Dayton. He studied broadcasting and philosophy at Miami, and worked at Oxford's WOXR-FM before it became WOXY-FM. He told me in 2006 that he did his senior research project in 1965 for Miami on WNOP-AM, where he met Oscar Treadwell, Ray Scott, Leo Underhill and other personalities. 

"Back in the '60s, I purchased a lot of records as a result of hearing them on Oscar's programs (on WNOP-AM)," he said. Nave later managed the Peaches record store on Colerain Avenue in Colerain Township, said Lee Hay,  Around Cincinnati producer who worked with Nave at Xavier's WVXU-FM in the 1980s.

When The Lemon Pipers recorded "Green Tambourine" in the summer of 1967 – the "summer of love" – Nave was a teacher at Pleasant Run Elementary school, according to anexcellent Cincinnati magazine story about the bandwritten by Rick Kennedy in 2008.

Credit Courtesy Bob Nave
Nave (right) with the Blues Merchants in 2015.

The band was playing the Boars Head in Oxford and Ludlow Garage in Clifton with members Bill Albaugh, Steve Walmsley, Ivan Browne, Bill Barlett and Nave. They were a hard rock and blues band, playing songs by The Who and The Byrds, until Buddah Records producer Paul Leka got them to record "Green Tambourine."

"Green Tambourine" spread like a wildfire up the charts, topping The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. The band lost its battle with the label over doing less bubblegum and more of their own music. The bubble popped, and by spring 1970, the group disbanded.

In 2006, Nave was a founding member of the Blues Merchants with Chris Kepes, Dave Koenig and Phillip Buscema. In the band, Nave played "a battle-worn Hammond M-3 organ, the one he bought second-hand in 1966 from promethean British blues bandleader John Mayall," wrote Kennedy in Cincinnati magazine.

I'll update this with services when they are announced. Play It Forward also is expected to schedule a memorial concert.

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.