Legend has it that the title was self-titled.
Yes, it’s appropriate to use the word “legend” here, because Lew Carter is a legend in so many circles.
Radio, Boy Scouts and officiating track and field events. He’s always been there.
And at this time of year, he’s always standing on the steps of the State Capitol next to the Baton Rouge Concert Band at its annual Independence Day concert, which will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 4.
Well, he’s always with the concert band at every performance, serving as its moderator. This is why he’s known as the “Voice of the Baton Rouge Concert Band.”
It’s an official title some say Carter gave himself along the way. But that’s legend.
The facts are different, and the real story here is that some of the band members gave Carter the title along the way. Now, that doesn’t make him any less a legend with this group, for he has been the Voice of the Baton Rouge Concert Band since 1988.
And at age 89, the Voice is still strong.
“The Baton Rouge Concert Band was founded by Vernon Taranto Sr., and I was famous as the guy who broadcast Music Makers on WRKF,” Carter said. “Vernon and I made friends, and he is the one who asked me to serve as moderator.”
Now, Carter is no stranger to band instruments. He began playing saxophone at age 10. He’s also played the flute.
“And I’ve played some other instruments, but I’ve never played in the Baton Rouge Concert Band,” Carter said.
He doesn’t say why, but he really doesn’t need to, does he? He’s the Voice, and that title comes with specific obligations, such as entertaining the audience and keeping the program moving at a steady pace.
Carter is used to this, having hosted radio programs for more than 60 years. It’s a career that began on June 9, 1950, at WHWB in Rutland, Vt., then continued at radio stations in Maryland, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida and two other stations in Louisiana.
“In the Baton Rouge market, I ran WXOK for 16 years, then I went down to LaPlace and not only ran WCKW but turned it into the first classic rock radio station,” Carter said.
“We kicked off that format on Super Bowl Sunday, Jan. 26, 1986.”
Carter has since founded and continues to host three shows on WRKF 89.3 AM: Dixieland, which airs 5-6 a.m. Sundays; Big Bands and Old Favorites, 6-7 a.m. Saturdays; and Sunday Baroque, 6-7 a.m. Sundays.
“Tune me in on Sundays,” Carter said.
And tune him in on Wednesday, July 4, on the Capitol steps. It’s where audience members can listen to patriotic favorites while Carter provides a little bit of background behind the songs.
“Mark Courter, who is the chief trumpeter in the trumpet section, emails me notes about the music scheduled for each concert,” Carter said.
“I work the information into a script, then I ad lib from the script.”
And though Carter enjoys the Independence Day Concert, the band’s annual Memorial Day performance is his favorite.
“They play a special march at that concert, and all the veterans stand up when their service song is played,” Carter said.
“And my favorite number is the band’s closer, ‘The Stars and Stripes Forever.’ When the band plays it, they let it all hang out.”
And the band surely will be ready to let loose on John Philip Sousa’s patriotic classic again on July 4.
Backed by the legendary Voice.