On his own podcast earlier this month, Nate Chinen, the director of editorial content at WBGO, called Mr. Porter “a Mount Rushmore figure when it comes to Newark public radio — someone who was on the air, really, from Day 1.”
Robert Sherwin Porter was born in Wellesley, Mass., on June 20, 1940, to David Porter, who ran the financial advisory firm David L. Babson & Company, and Constance (Kavanaugh) Porter, a homemaker. The eldest of four siblings, Bob attended Whittier College in California, where he studied English before serving in the Army, stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his brothers, John and William Porter; a sister, Linda (Porter) Owens; a son from a previous marriage, David Porter; two stepsons, Michael and Rick Tombari; and a granddaughter.
After his military service, he returned to Whittier to complete his degree. While still in school he began contributing to DownBeat magazine. His articles caught the attention of Bob Weinstock, the head of Prestige, who was impressed by Mr. Porter’s erudition and offered him a job with the label.
Mr. Porter’s passion for the artistic and cultural history of African-American music stretched back to its earliest known recordings, and he was deeply knowledgeable about blues as well as jazz.
He received awards from various music societies and foundations. In addition to his two Grammys, those included a 1986 W.C. Handy Award (now known as the Blues Music Award) from the Blues Foundation and a 2003 Community Service Award from the Bergen County chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. In 2009, he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.