Radio host John Aielli celebrates 50 years on Austin airwaves

Sep 1, 2016

City of Austin proclaims Sept. 1, 2016 “John Aielli Day”

Austin, Texas – Sept. 1, 2016 – From an exploding population and gridlock, to the opening – and closing – of The Armadillo World Headquarters, Austin has undergone significant changes in the past 50 years, but one thing has been a constant: John Aielli, host of “Eklektikos” on KUTX 98.9.

Aielli at home in 2005.
Credit UT/Marsha Miller

This month, Aielli marks 50 years on Austin’s radio airwaves. To mark the occasion, the City of Austin has proclaimed Sept. 1, 2016 “John Aielli” day in recognition of his longevity and contributions to Austin’s music and cultural scene.

KUTX, along with sister station KUT 90.5, Austin’s NPR station, will celebrate Aielli’s career in the coming year with activities and tributes and even a special thank-you gift during the membership drives – a John Aielli bobble head.

As host of “Eklektikos” (7-9 a.m. Monday through Thursday) Aielli has been inspiring, informing and connecting Austinites to the local and touring arts scene, including singers, musicians, composers, choreographers and authors, through live interviews and live performances.

A sampling of his interviews over the past 50 years includes: musicians Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Phillip Glass, Chris Isaak, Graham Nash, Pepe Romero, Rufus Wainwright, and diva, soprano Elizabeth Schwarzkopf; writers Michael Chabon, James Ellroy, Jonathan Saffron Foer, Richard Ford, Alan Furst, Sebastian Junger, Dan Rather and Colm Tóibín; actor Matthew McConaughey; and Yoga master Swami Satchidananda, founder of Integral Yoga.

“I’m curious by nature. I enjoy talking to people and observing things about life, so radio is a wonderful medium to be in,” said Aielli. “And to be the guy that gets to talk behind the microphone – it’s a privilege and a challenge.”

Aielli started his career at KUT 90.5 in September 1966 as a part-time announcer between classical pieces. With his encyclopedic knowledge of classic music, he was soon programming the music himself. By 1970, his time slot had been named “Eklektikos” inspired by the Greek word eklektos, meaning chosen from the best. Until 2013, KUT was a dual – news and music – service, spinning out its music programming to KUTX 98.9.

Aielli in the KUT studio in 1972
Credit Frank Armstrong

According to Aielli, the name “Eklektikos” allowed him to expand the show to an eclectic format highlighting the best of different genres of music, such as the best Indian classical music, or the best folk music and so on. Eventually, the show expanded to include popular and rock music – and everything in between.

A professionally trained vocalist with in-depth knowledge of classical music, Aielli is known for the occasional irreverent critiques of the artists he plays, as well as off-the-cuff musings about the weather, gardening and life in general.

Beloved by Austinites of all stripes, Aielli and “Eklektikos” have won 15 “Austin Chronicle” “Best of” awards since 1990. There’s even a tribute Twitter handle @ShitJohnAielliSays and a popular hashtag #ShitJohnAielliSays that collect some of his one-liners.

Aielli in 1975.
Credit KUT

“I love playing the tunes and look forward to coming to work every day to make connections between the community and the arts,” said Aielli who was an English student at the University of Texas at Austin when he started working for KUT to cover tuition, room and board expenses.

“John’s unique perspective on the world is what makes him an Austin treasure. His curiosity and attitude make being around him refreshing and a ton of fun,” said KUTX Program Director Matt Reilly. “Now take that and put it on the radio. For 50 years! Amazing.”

For more than 30 years, Aielli has led the annual Holiday Sing Along. KUT and KUTX’s biggest public event, the Holiday Sing Along features Aielli leading nearly 5,000 citizens in singing songs of the season.

“John’s been on the air for 50 years because he reflects the spirit of Austin in many ways,” said Stewart Vanderwilt, director and general manager of KUT and KUTX Public Radio. “He’s passionate, honest, open to new things, and he’s completely comfortable in his own skin. As our city has grown and changed, he’s become a cultural touchstone of sorts for the spirit of our community.”

“It’s been amazing and wonderful that KUT and KUTX management have allowed me to do what I do every day,” he said, attributing his success and longevity to his three-pronged philosophy on life: be creative, have fun and share with others. “That’s what it’s all about,” he says.

About KUT and KUTX
KUTX 98.9 is the destination for music from the artists driving the sound of Austin today – from new and local artists, to music that’s stood the test of time. KUTX programming includes live, one-of-a-kind performances in Studio 1A; the Austin Music Minute, the KUTX Artist of the Month and the KUTX Song of the Day, as well as KUTX Live events that connect music fans to local and national talent. Named “Best Radio Station” by Austin Chronicle readers three years in a row, KUTX is directly supported by listeners whose investments give voice to the music that matters to Austin. More at kutx.org.

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For interviews or photos, contact:
Erin Geisler (512) 475-8071