Donald Wright Selzer Jr. amassed a vast collection of jazz, blues and soul albums that filled the library of his home — and he had an encyclopedic knowledge to match.
Selzer, known by many as Brother Tad, shared his expertise and insight as he highlighted lesser-known groups and underplayed artists from the Swing Era to today as co-host of “The Rockhouse,” a weekly program that ran on KFAI-FM for more than 25 years.
The show had an avid following, and many listeners named it during pledge drives as the reason they donated to the all-volunteer community radio station that broadcasts at 90.3 FM in Minneapolis and 106.7 FM in St. Paul. One of the longest-running programs in the station’s history, “The Rockhouse” aired on Thursday mornings at its outset and most recently on Wednesday afternoons. The show signed off from Studio 4 after Selzer unexpectedly died of sepsis July 4 while at the University of Minnesota medical center. He was 65.
“He was always upbeat and excited about the music he played,” said Mason Butler, the station’s head of sponsorship and underwriting. “He will be sorely missed by us and definitely by the listeners.”
By day, Selzer was a labor lawyer, a field that drew his interest when he was active in debate as an undergraduate at the University of Kansas.
“He was a thoughtful person who liked to see many angles,” said his wife of 26 years, Kathy Conover, of Minneapolis.
He started his career in the late 1970s with the Oppenheimer law firm after earning a law degree from the University of Minnesota. In 1998, he teamed with Marko Mrkonich to open the Twin Cities branch of Littler, a national firm based in San Francisco. He tackled labor and employment issues, and his passion for the legal profession helped win results for his clients, ranging from the Metropolitan Airports Commission to small businesses, Mrkonich said.
“He was an excellent lawyer with terrific integrity and legal skills,” Mrkonich said. “He brought positive energy to everything he did.”
Well prepared for his legal cases, Selzer was just as meticulous when it came to getting ready for his broadcasts. He armed himself with records that made it onto the turntable and new information about obscure to contemporary artists gleaned from books he read and gigs he had seen, said his longtime co-host Sara Oxton, aka “Miss Sara.”
“He kept the show fresh for our audience, and they kept hearing new things,” said Oxton, who did the show solo until Selzer joined her in 1992. “We had great rapport and banter. The show lasted as long as it did because he joined me on the air and kept it interesting.”
Selzer had diabetes for most of his adult life and underwent kidney and pancreas transplants in the 2000s as the disease took its toll. But his commitment to “The Rockhouse” and promoting musicians never waned. He even phoned the station from the hospital while recovering from his pancreas transplant to share a message of gratitude with listeners, Oxton said.
“Even with health challenges, he made being a DJ a priority,” she said. “He believed music sustained people.”
Selzer served on the board of the regional blood services committee of the American Red Cross and was board chairman of Providers Choice, a program that supports child-care professionals. Selzer was also an avid fan of the Minnesota Twins and the Kansas Jayhawks.
Besides his wife, Selzer is survived by a stepdaughter, Keri Echo Kranz, of Minneapolis; sisters J. Ann Selzer, of Des Moines, Iowa, Claire Whiteman, of State College, Pa., and Kitty Swan, of Denver; and a brother, John Selzer, of Overland Park, Kan. A celebration of life will be held at 2 p.m. July 28 at the Turf Club, 1601 University Av., St. Paul.