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Published: Friday, 12/30/2005

Jazz drummer in Toledo had a weekly radio show

Charles A. "Chazz" Mewhort, 63, a jazz drummer whose gregarious personality helped nurture the Toledo jazz scene, died Tuesday of renal failure at a hospital in Salinas, Calif.

Besides drumming at local clubs, parties, and other venues, Mr. Mewhort hosted a weekly radio jazz program on 101.5 FM until several years ago where he told the stories and history of jazz.

"He had an encyclopedic knowledge of the jazz industry," Don Mewhort, his brother, said. "The lesser well-known musicians he knew things about as well as we know Ella Fitzgerald."

He was an announcer and producer at WNWO TV-24, working there for about 20 years until the late 1980s.

Over the years, he found ways big and small to boost the interests of jazz.

Margaret "Rusty" Monroe, who operated the former Rusty's Jazz Cafe on Tedrow Drive for years, said Mr. Mewhort guided her with advice for setting up the stage to meet the requirements of touring musicians.

"He was a great help to me," she said.

Jim Gottron, a jazz pianist, teacher, and technician, said Mr. Mewhort prepared lunches every Wednesday for years for jazz musicians who gathered at his place for talk and to trade information. It always drew a good group.

"If you got there at noon, you had lunch," Mr. Gottron said. "If you got there at 12:08, you got there too late."

The two often performed together. "He worked with all the piano players in town," Mr. Gottron said. "He liked be-bop and modern jazz - but not too far out."

Mr. Mewhort, who was a past president of the Toledo Jazz Society, insisted on owning the most up-to-date drum sets. That meant he bought a new set every few years.

"All the drummers were waiting in line to get his used drums," Mr. Gottron said.

His interest in music began as a child at the family home on Densmore Drive, Debbie Keller, his sister, said. Their Uncle Al taught him the drums.

As a teenager, he brought home like-minded friends. "Growing up, our house was always filled with jazz music," Ms. Keller said.

Mr. Mewhort could read music but much of what he played was done by ear, she said. "He could play piano a little, but drums were his love," she said.

Born in Toledo, Mr. Mewhort was a 1960 graduate of the former DeVilbiss High School. He attended Bowling Green State University, Ohio State University, and briefly attended the Berklee School of Music in Boston.

For a period during the 1960s he lived in southern California, but returned to Toledo after a few years.

Several years ago, Mr. Mewhort returned to California, this time to live in Salinas with his son. There he was the host of a daily jazz radio show in Carmel and continued to perform in the area.

"He was a real helping hand," Donald Mewhort, his brother, said. "He never much cared if he got paid. He just was a good friend."

Survivors include his mother, G. Virginia Mewhort; brother, Donald, sister, Debbie Keller; son, Miles, and stepson, Tyler Aubry.

There will be no services but a musical celebration of Mr. Mewhort's life is pending. Arrangements by Walker Funeral Home.

The family suggests tributes to the Toledo Jazz Society.



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