Renaissance man: WTJU host Emmett Boaz dies
Ask people how they want to die, and the two most common answers will be in their sleep or doing something they love. Renaissance man and longtime disc jockey Emmett Boaz, 63, has gone the second way–- at the soundboard of radio station WTJU. He had a heart attack shortly after beginning his 6:30am show on Saturday, November 6.
Although best known for his traditional music show, "Leftover Biscuits," which he hosted since 1996, the endeavor just skimmed the surface of Boaz's range of knowledge and skills. In 2003, the Hook ran an issue in which Boaz was quoted in almost every story, with Boazian observations on topics as diverse as development, music, and colonics.
Born in 1947, the Covesville-raised Boaz grew up on his family's apple orchard, and he received a degree in English literature from Marshall University in West Virginia.
He was drafted and served in the Army in Vietnam during that war. Later, he put his James Madison University master's degree into a teaching career, but, as he told the Hook in 2003, "If I'd stayed teaching junior high, I'd have killed somebody."
Boaz–- who seemed to love Elizabethan drama and guns with equal passion–- was also well-known for the 15 years he spent as the manager of the 7-Eleven store at Woodbrook Drive, where he described his duties mostly as "throwing drunks out of the place."
What struck many of his colleagues at WTJU was the depth of his knowledge of traditional music, which encompasses old time, early country, bluegrass, and roots-era music.
"It was his voice that drew me in," says Leftover Biscuits co-host Peter Jones. "Emmett had a deep, Southern accent that would bring you in. He told stories from his childhood, and memories associated with a song.
"He downplayed his knowledge," continues Jones. "He even played up his Southern corn pone."
"Don't let my father's accent fool you," says Emmett Boaz IV, who's here from Fairbanks, Alaska. "He didn't need to speak with an accent. It was an affectation he chose to have. It gave him an advantage over those who assume because you have an accent, you're less adept."
The younger Boaz recalls a childhood that was chaotic, with a loving–- and eccentric–- father. "Not many kids are raised among stacks of books as tall as they are," he says.
"I always enjoyed sitting there listening to his stories," he says. "Tall tales based mostly on fact, but things you couldn't believe possible. Having seen it from the inside, most of them were frighteningly true."
The late storyteller was also known as a cook. "He did simple things well," says his son, mentioning "the world's most excellent cornbread" and collards fried in olive oil.
WTJU friend Bill Adams recalls attending a music festival at which pouring rain sent most of the musicians huddling under tarps trying to stay dry. He set out to find Boaz's campsite back in a wooded area.
"Emmett had a smoker in there," says Adams. "While everyone else was eating cold cuts, Emmett was smoking ham in the rain."
Adams reminds that Boaz, like all the DJs at WTJU, served as a volunteer, and that there's some sacrifice to doing an early Saturday morning show for 15 years.
"At the festival, we'd kid each other about who would get up early to host the show," says Adams. "You're responsible. You'd have to take it easy on Friday night."
On November 13 on WTJU, Peter Jones plans to air Boaz's favorite songs that he played in June, when Boaz resigned during what Jones refers to as "that ruckus," when UVA management tried to change the eclectic station's format. Boaz came back in August, and his Leftover Biscuits will air one more time this Saturday, November 13.
Correction 9:25am November 12: Jones will play the actual show Boaz did in June, not a CD, on Leftover Biscuits on November 13.