When Steve Bauer calls himself a “cradle Catholic,” he’s not exaggerating.
“My doctor baptized me almost as soon as I was born because he didn’t think I was going to make it.”
Bauer proved the doctor wrong, although he’s faced plenty of additional challenges while establishing himself as a mainstay on Wichita’s radio waves.
Bauer had limited vision growing up, learning braille in the second grade, and has been blind since his days as a student at Wichita State University.
He became captivated by radio while a middle schooler.
“My dad brought home some old tape recorders and mics from Boeing’s training department. I played DJ in my bedroom.”
He first landed on the air with KMUW as a high school junior. In the 1970s, he manned the mid-day and afternoon drive-time slots for a country music station. He worked in radio full time before going to work for Intrust Bank in 1977. Bauer spent 38 years working for Intrust in human resources and technology before retiring in 2012.
During much of that time, he worked part-time in radio as well. He remembers discovering his favorite genre of music — smooth jazz — while traveling in 1992.
“I ran across a smooth jazz station and thought ‘I love this music.’”
Bauer hosted a Sunday jazz brunch on B98 for nearly 20 years, building up a music library of some 40,000 tracks, before the station pulled the show in October. He reached out to other stations and recently found a new home for his show on KSGL, AM-900 and FM- 105.7. It airs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.
“The show features mainly smooth or contemporary jazz, along with a little bit of stuff from the Great American Songbook,” Bauer said. “I feature a lot of new releases along with some classic smooth jazz tracks.”
The show also includes news about the genre and a segment called “Sinatra and Friends,” with a song from the legendary crooner or other members of the Rat Pack. Occasionally, Bauer interviews artists about new releases. And he notes that, unlike many radio personalities today, he picks up the phone when somebody calls the number he gives out over the air — 316-858-0098.
The show can also be found on Bauer’s website, jazznotes.net.
Bauer served as emcee of the popular Bradley Fair summer jazz concert series from 2007 until its move to a different format this year. His wife of 43 years, Michaelene, died three years ago but he remains active in their church, Lady of Perpetual Help, promoting its annual Lenten dinners and doing readings at its Saturday Mass.