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Because Hamiltonians Swing: Leo Rayhill ’49


Leo Rayhill ’49
Leo Rayhill ’49

His house is bursting with LPs and CDs, some neatly stored on specially made shelves, others within easy reach. Music is always playing, and it’s almost always jazz. 

Leo Rayhill ’49 hosted his first jazz radio show at Hamilton’s WHC, where he spun tunes and acted as his own engineer. For nearly 60 years, he’s been putting out music and still hosts his long-running show, Sounds of Jazz, on WCNY-FM in Syracuse, N.Y. He’s interviewed some greats, among them Stan Kenton, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie. Rayhill calls Louis Armstrong his most wonderful guest. Armstrong arrived apologizing for being overbooked and able to spare only a couple of minutes. “He stayed two hours,” Rayhill recalls. 

If jazz has a rival for Rayhill’s affection, it’s his alma mater. He saw his first Hamilton football game as a kid growing up in Utica, N.Y., and went on to play for the Continentals. He’s been a class agent and still volunteers however he can. Hamilton teaches students to think, Rayhill says. “The teachers were wonderful, they brought me along, and I wound up with pretty good marks. Not at the beginning, but I was good at the end.” 

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