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Longtime 'Fresh Air' contributor Dave Davies signs off (sort of)

Dave Davies began covering local politics and government for WHYY in Philadelphia in 1982.
Dave Davies began covering local politics and government for WHYY in Philadelphia in 1982.

After 22 years of interviews, longtime Fresh Air contributor and fill-in host Dave Davies is cutting back on his workload.

For years Davies has contributed at least one interview a week to Fresh Air, and oftentimes more — especially when the topics concern sports, investigative journalism or history. Davies is always thinking about the experience of the listener.

"If ... something isn't clear because the guest is using shorthand for something or it's just not quite working, you have to intervene in some way to make sure the audience stays with it," he says. "The audience is always in your mind."

A native of Lubbock, Texas, Davies grew up in Corpus Christi and moved to Philadelphia in 1975, where he initially worked as a taxi driver and a welder. In 1982, he found his way to the WHYYnewsroom, covering local politics and government. He left in 1986 for stints at KYW Newsradio and the Philadelphia Daily News, but returned to public radio doing free-lance gigs, including Fresh Air interviews, beginning in 2001.

Though Davies occasionally hears a Philly accent creep into his speech, you're unlikely to find a trace of Texas in his voice — either on-air or in real life.

Dave Davies stands outside of the<em> Fresh Air</em> studio in Philadelphia with a collection of press passes from over the years.
Molly Seavy-Nesper / WHYY
Dave Davies stands outside of the Fresh Air studio in Philadelphia with a collection of press passes from over the years.

"I remember in junior high and high school being aware that the people on television, like the newscasters, spoke this standard English," Davies says. "And I kind of I just decided to do that."

Davies is not signing off completely from WHYY. You'll still hear him interviewing guests on Fresh Air -- just less frequently. And, of course, he'll continue to bring his A-game to the listeners.

"The one thing that I've done from the beginning is to really prepare very, very thoroughly for every interview because there's a standard here, right?" he says. "The thorough preparation is really, I think, in some ways one of the things that defines the show."

Click on the audio link above to hear clips of some of Davies' most compelling interviews, including conversations with Frank Calabrese Jr. (2011); novelist Kate Christensen (2013); biographer Robert Caro (2019); and sports announcerJoe Buck(2017).

Heidi Saman and Seth Kelley produced and edited this interview for broadcast, with assistance from Roberta Shorrock. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Beth Novey adapted it for the web.

Copyright 2023 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Combine an intelligent interviewer with a roster of guests that, according to the Chicago Tribune, would be prized by any talk-show host, and you're bound to get an interesting conversation. Fresh Air interviews, though, are in a category by themselves, distinguished by the unique approach of host and executive producer Terry Gross. "A remarkable blend of empathy and warmth, genuine curiosity and sharp intelligence," says the San Francisco Chronicle.

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