By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Westborough – Rick McCarthy met several musicians who are now longtime friends while he was attending Westborough High School (WHS), where he graduated in 1970. Now, he hosts “Morning Jazz” (formerly “A Tasteful Blend”) on Thursdays and Fridays from 6 to 9 a.m., on WICN Public Radio, 90.5 FM, and streaming at WICN.org.
McCarthy’s interest in music began as a teen when his family moved from Maryland to Westborough. He was a new student at WHS midway through his sophomore year.
“I didn’t have any friends and I was lonely,” he acknowledged. “But then I started meeting musicians and playing music. At that point, I made lots of really good friends.”
They formed a rock band called Fast Passing with McCarthy on drums and performed around town including a couple of WHS dances. Decades later, he has continued discovering other musical styles with some of the same buddies.
“There’s a number of Westborough musicians with whom I’m still in touch and play with on occasion,” he noted. “They’re lifelong friends.”
Some of them performed in the jazz band known as the Black Cats. Joining McCarthy were David Kenney, Joe Lemanski, Henry Nigro and Chip “Taylor” Smith. Their bond deepened in a recording studio when Kenney was diagnosed with lung cancer.
“We recorded a CD so that he would have it before he passed away,” McCarthy explained.
Their self-titled CD was released just weeks before Kenney died Feb. 26, 2008.
More recently, McCarthy and Smith played with David Addison Small and the Borderline Saints along with David Yates. Among the venues they regularly appeared was the former Mulligan’s Taverne at the Westborough Country Club. The title song of their album “A Mile Outside of Town” is inspired by Westborough’s musically talented residents.
“There were so many good musicians from Westborough from that era,” McCarthy noted.
His musical interest broadened to include jazz in his 20s when he heard a radio deejay play “Li’l Darlin’” by the Count Basie Orchestra.
“The orchestra had horns and I liked hearing that sound,” he said. “I even liked rock bands that had horns. I bought a Count Basie album and fell in love with it.”
That purchase began an album collection of jazz artists such as the Weather Report and the Pat Metheny Group.
“I got the greatest excitement out of buying a record album – opening it up, putting it on, listening to the music, and not knowing what I was going to hear,” he recalled. “There was this sense of discovery.”
In the late 1980s and early ‘90s he discovered WICN programs including “Jazz Matinee” and the formerly named “A Tasteful Blend.”
“I always had a dream of being on the radio, playing great music and turning people onto it,” he said.
His dream became a reality several years ago when he volunteered as a substitute host of “A Tasteful Blend.” In 2011, the job became available and McCarthy was hired. Some songs that he now plays bring back memories of his early musical interests.
“There are artists who are now taking the music that I listened to in the ‘70s and turning into jazz – really good jazz,” he said.
Currently living in Leicester, McCarthy is performing blues and rock with the Lester Rawson Band at Worcester venues. Also a singer and guitarist, he’s recording a CD of original songs to be titled “Message of the Muse.”
Waking up early and reporting to WICN at 4:30 a.m. isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it for McCarthy.
“I still have an excitement about doing this,” he said. “Once I’m in the studio, I’m still so psyched.”