SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Mal Sharpe, jazz bandleader, Emmy-award winning TV and radio personality, comedian and larger-than-life San Francisco legend, has died. He was 83.
Sharpe passed away Tuesday, March 10, at his home in Berkeley, surrounded by family.
“He had a heart surgery that he never really quite recovered from,” said his daughter, Jennifer Sharpe.
In recent years, Sharpe was the leader of Mal Sharpe’s Big Money in Jazz Band, a dixieland ensemble that played around San Francisco clubs.
A prominent member of the jazz scene for decades, he became famous in the Bay Area in the 1960’s as a comic, acting in a series of radio and television stints as the “man on the street” reporter.
“We had a very tender, lovely morning together,” said his wife, Sandra. “Our daughter came up and played the ukelele and sang through tears the song, ‘It had to be you,’ which was one of his favorite songs. He passed away soon after that.”
In his early years, Sharpe was part of a comedy duo with Jim Coyle. Their show featured a hidden microphone, which led to two albums and a show on KGO “Coyle & Sharpe on the Loose” in the early 1960s.
He developed a “man on the street” character, which landed him a series of roles on radio and TV, including a stint as a reporter on Evening Magazine on KPIX-TV in the 1980s.
“The word ‘joy’ comes into mind when Mal Sharpe comes into a room. He was always positive, fun, quick with a joke,” said Jan Yanehiro, the co-host of Evening Magazine. “Nothing negative, everything positive. The world was fun and full of joy for Mal Sharpe. And that’s what I think made him such a good personality on TV.”
Sharpe hosted an entertainment show on KQED-TV called “Mal Sharpe’s San Francisco.”
In the early 2000’s, Jennifer and her father co-hosted a segment on an NPR show called “Day to Day” which featured photo walls of businesses, exploring the stories behind the photos.
He was a long time host of a radio jazz show in the Bay Area, called “Basin Street Blues,” on KCSM.
Sharpe played trombone in his big band and often engaged the crowd with a quip, a funny story, or just a silly face. His longstanding gigs at Enrico’s, Savoy Tivoli’s and Fior d’ Italia in North Beach gained fans across generations.
“He was easygoing and funny and had a way of talking to the crowd that drew people in,” said Ned Boynton, a longtime San Francisco guitarist who often booked Sharpe’s band at Enrico’s and sat in with the group. “The crowd wanted to participate, they wanted to see what the band was going to do next.
“A tree has fallen,” Jennifer Sharpe said. “He was a life force.”