Cazenovia Roger DeVore can remember hearing live jazz bands at his uncles' houses as well as many jazz records at his family’s home when he was just 5 years old, growing up in Ridgewood, New Jersey in the 1940s. His interest in the genre grew stronger as he got older, and he began visiting New York City nightclubs when he was as young as 16 to listen to the different jazz musicians who performed there.
“I’d go to the black R&B places in Syracuse and Philadelphia, and some of them were just wonderful — they really had great stuff going on there,” said DeVore. “And, often times, I’d be the only white guy in there.”
Over the course of his lifetime, DeVore has met hundreds of jazz musicians — many during their set breaks at performances — and still plays that music today on his two-hour long radio show called “Roger’s List,” broadcast out of WVOA 87.7 FM in East Syracuse.
DeVore attended Middlebury College and graduated from Washington College after serving in the Army. He worked a number of different jobs in several areas — from replacing leaking gas service lines all over Syracuse, to working as a lifeguard and cop on Cape Cod, to being a member of professional ski patrol in Vermont, to being employed as a representative with IBM Syracuse, to wholesaling to investment professionals certain private placement offerings, founding a bank marketing co. and a mutual fund, to the financial part of the oil drilling business, to business charter boat captain in NYC. He's founded and run several small manufacturing businesses. But throughout his different career paths and places he’s lived, one thing has stayed consistent - his love of jazz music.
“Jazz is interesting, it’s not like the pop music today, where you can just throw a lot of stuff out there and maybe somebody will like a little bit of something,” he said. “In jazz, there’s a lot of anticipation about what’s coming up next. And I’ve always kind of felt this anticipation — people are waiting because they know where it’s going, but [the music] often never quite gets there until maybe just about at the very end. It really brings people along.”