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Miami mourns the loss of Phyllis Campbell, aka "Mama Jazz"

11/28/2011

Phyllis Campbell, aka
Phyllis Campbell, also known as “Mama Jazz” to her listeners on Miami University’s public radio station, died Saturday, Nov. 26, in Eaton. She was 89. Campbell hosted the Mama Jazz radio show for WMUB 88.5 FM for about 30 years, where she had attained a large fan base.

She also worked in other capacities at Miami from 1967 until she retired in 1994, first in the personnel and guidance department and later as secretary to the dean of the graduate school. During the years that she held office and on-air jobs, she put in 60-hour weeks.

Campbell graduated from Miami-Jacobs Junior College of Business in 1941 and attended Miami University. Prior to joining the staff at Miami, she was a bookkeeper for Ashman Heating Company in Eaton.

Her Mama Jazz show originated in 1979 as a two-hour format, becoming so popular that it eventually became a four-hour, five-days-a-week show. It was one of the most popular radio shows in southern Ohio and was one of the most successful at being able to generate support from listeners for the operation of WMUB.

"Everyone had a story and a special memory of Mama. Once you heard that voice, you could never forget it," recalled Cleve Callison, former general manager of WMUB. "She was feisty as all get-out, passionately devoted to jazz and unabashedly loyal to her legions of fans. I can't think of anyone I've met in radio who has seen that kind of devotion doubled back so much as the lady simply known everywhere as Mama.

"The song running through my head right now is 'Hello Central, Give Me Mama Jazz,' an adaptation of the classic 'Dr. Jazz' by Dave Greer and his band, one of Mama's favorite groups."

"As Phyllis loved to say, the station's call letters could be interpreted as 'With Mama Until Bedtime,'" said John Hingsbergen, former WMUB program director. "In addition to the many thousands who enjoyed and learned from her program, there are hundreds of student board operators who, under her tutelage, learned about the music while they honed their skills as broadcasters."

She was commended by the G.H.B. (George H. Buck) Jazz Foundation in New Orleans in 1993 for preserving the music of New Orleans jazz musician George Lewis “and his living pioneers of New Orleans jazz,” by locating lost masters and having them digitally transferred to compact discs. Buck said “you turned your back on the commercial promotion department of so called jazz labels, and decided to give the art form, the true art form, a chance to be heard by the public. As a result southern Ohio has been a much richer place to live and work.”

Campbell, who started her shows with Count Basie tunes, was honored at the Preble County Bicentennial Celebration in 2008 for her many years on the air.

She was a member of the Business Professional Women of Preble County and served as grand marshal for the Richmond Community Rose Fest and had served as master of ceremony for area events.

She is survived by her husband, William; sons Perry of Alabama and William “Corky” of Columbus; daughters Jane Campbell Gordon of Eaton and Gail Campbell of Oxford; a brother, grandchildren and other family members.

The family will hold a private service and plans to have a celebration of Campbell's life in the near future. Barnes Funeral Home of Eaton, www.barnesfuneralhome.com is handling arrangements.

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