An Austin icon has passed away. Longtime KUT and KUTX radio personality John Aielli died on Sunday, July 31 at the age of 76.
“John was an Austin treasure and an indelible part of so many lives here in Austin. His unique perspective on the world made being with John a joy,” said KUTX 98.9 program director Matt Reilly in a releases. “Our lives are less interesting with him gone. God speed, we love you John, and we’ll remember you always with a smile on our faces.”
Aielli boasted more than half a century on the air, starting out at KUT 90.5 in September 1966. His first role was a part-time announcer between classical pieces, but his extensive knowledge of classic music soon led to him programming the music himself. Within just four years, he had his own time slot, “Eklektikos,” inspired by the Greek word eklektos, which means "chosen from the best."
The station marked Aielli’s 50th anniversary on the air with year-long festivities in 2016, including a community concert and a special John Aielli bobble head thank-you gift during membership drives. During the celebration, Aielli said, “I’m curious by nature. I enjoy talking to people and observing things about life, so radio is a wonderful medium to be in. And to be the guy that gets to talk behind the microphone – it’s a privilege and a challenge.”
Aielli was the inspiration behind a popular hashtag #ShitJohnAielliSays, which collected his famous one-liners, as well as a tribute Twitter handle @ShitJohnAielliSays.
Both “Eklektikos” and Aielli won 15 “Best of” awards from Austin Chronicle since 1990. Over the years, Aielli's interviews included a veritable hall of fame of musicians, writers, actors, and local community leaders, including Joan Baez, Rufus Wainwright, soprano Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Michael Chabon, Alan Furst, Dan Rather, Matthew McConaughey, and yoga master Swami Satchidananda.
Until 2013, KUT was a dual service, programming both news and music, spinning tunes through KUTX 98.9. For more than 30 years, Aielli led KUT and KUTX's biggest public event, the annual Holiday Sing Along, conducting huge crowds in singing songs of the season.
"He was such a joy to work with, and so important to what the stations have become," KUT and KUTX general manager Debbie Hiott said in a message to staff.
Listeners are invited to share their memories of Aielli on KUTX's social media channels.