Man From Mars
Bertha Porter in 1945
heard on the air, the influence of Bertha G. Porter was widely
felt off the air at WDRC for almost a quarter
Born in Springfield,
MA on July 24, 1915, Bertha joined WDRC on June 4, 1945 helping
out in bookkeeping and on the telephone switchboard. It was the
heyday of network radio so local stations didn't play much recorded
music. But Bertha was put in charge of WDRC's collection
of 30,000 records. As record librarian, and later music director,
her ears were keenly attuned to the tastes of contemporary America
(her own favorite performer was the late Buddy Clark). Bertha segued
easily from the middle-of-the-road music aired during the station's
CBS affiliation into rock and roll.
Bertha Porter in 1964
For years Bertha
had a weekly chore every Thursday - telephoning some three dozen
Connecticut record retailers to collect the sales data she depended
on to formulate the Big
D Swinging Sixty Survey. The What's Doing 'Round Connecticut
column on October 22, 1963 said of Bertha:
radio bug bit Bertha in the days of the crystal set and earphones.
Her first taste of the record business came when she worked Saturdays
at a record store in Springfield, Massachusetts. Instead of getting
paid in dollars Bertha asked to be paid in records and the owner
of the shop agreed. Even in those years Bertha was a Big "D"
listener. Saturday nights she'd drop into the station to talk
with the announcer on duty. One day the program manager called
up asking if she would like to work for the station as record
Cleveland were secondary markets with reputations for being good
places to test new record product, so a few minutes with Bertha
was a coveted prize for promoters from labels large and small. Her
choices of music resulted in national recognition and at least 15
gold records for being the first to play singles that went on to
become national hits.
Porter was held
in very high esteem by longtime Billboard Magazine radio editor
Claude Hall. In the November 23, 1968 issue he called her the "queen
of music directors," quoting Bertha's philosophy for picking
I like the record or I don't. But I'm not so stubborn that if
a record becomes a hit anyway I'll ignore it. There have been
records that I didn't like that became hits...but before they
did, we were playing them."
Porter in the WDRC record library
music director Bertha Porter receives
a gold record from Al Khoury of Capitol Records for her efforts in
Martino's I Love You Because, a national
hit (Billboard Magazine, August 3, 1963)
Among the awards
gold record for Al Martino's "I Love You Because"
- winner of the 1963 Music Director of the Year award from
the trade magazine, the Gavin Report
November 1964 -gold record for J. Frank Wilson's "Last Kiss"
for the third consecutive year, winner of Music Director of the
Year from the Gavin Report
March 1966 -
gold record (#5) for The Wonder Who's "Don't Think Twice"
gold record (#6) for The Happenings "See You In September"
1966 & 1967
- successive Music Director of the Year from the Gavin Award
- gold record (#7) for Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves
- gold record (#8) for the Young Rascals "Good Lovin'"
- gold record (#9) for Tommy James & The Shondells' "Hanky
July 1967 - gold record (#10)
for the Easy Beats' "Friday On My Mind"
June 1968 -
gold record for Gene & Debbie's "Playboy"
1967 - Bertha with WDRC's Don
Wade (left) and WABC's Bob Lewis (right)
Charlie Parker and Bertha Porter receive a public service
award from the March of Dimes
In her 2001
book, Invisible Stars: A Social History of Women in American
Broadcasting, historian Donna
L. Halper quoted WDRC program director Charlie
Parker on Bertha's work ethic:
planned out every announcer's show...she wrote it out on a yellow
legal pad. Every day she would plot out every show - how many
male vocalists, how many females, how many instrumentals; nothing
got played at WDRC unless Bertha Porter said so."
(used with permission)
Bertha was such
a fixture at WDRC that many people were shocked when she
quit. Cash Box Magazine reported:
Porter, one of the most influential people in rock radio programming,
resigned from WDRC-Hartford, Conn., on Friday, June 27. She has
gone on vacation following her resignation, her future plans were
undisclosed at press time."
On August 6,
1969, radio and record industry luminaries gathered in the Hartford
Hilton's Terrace Room to honor Bertha at a retirement party after
24 years at Big D.
Her final years
were quite sad. For a time Bertha moved to Boston and worked as
a singles buyer for a record company. She later worked for a toy
manufacturer in the Boston area. One day her subscription to The
Rudman Report, a weekly record sheet, was returned marked "deceased."
Kal Rudman called Atlantic Records executives Bob and Jerry Greenberg
who tracked down the story. Bertha G. Porter died on January 14,
1978, at the age of 63, having spent three years at the Municipal
State Hospital in Springfield with heart trouble. There was no public
funeral and no one at WDRC knew of her death until after
she was buried.
WINF's Uncle Jay Edwards, WDRC's
Jim Jeffrey, Joey Reynolds, Bertha
Porter, Dick Robinson & Ken Griffin review Connecticut School
of Broadcasting newsletter, 1969
English & Charlie Parker pose with WDRC's gold record for R.B.
Greaves' "Take A Letter Maria"
in January, 1970
succeeded Bertha as WDRC's music director. He was a local
who had been in the first graduating class of Dick
Robinson's Connecticut School of Broadcasting in 1965 (along
with classmate Frank
Holler). After graduation he went on to accounting school before
pursuing radio employment.
at Big D in September 1968, working in the Traffic Department. In
June 1969 Charlie Parker told him he would be replacing a living
Jim had exactly
one week to learn how the music library functioned. It was a daunting
task for him to learn the names of all the record promoters Bertha
had been meeting with for so many years. He also had to quickly
learn how to do the callout research necessary for the Big
D Big Sound Survey.
Bertha's sudden retirement was not her own choice.
thing Bertha did on her way out the door of 750 Main Street was
to add "Honky Tonk Women," by the Rolling Stones,
as a hit-to-be. Talk about going out a winner!
the tradition of collecting gold records. In his years as music
director he racked up a couple of dozen including:
- R.B. Greaves'
"Take A Letter Maria"
- The Cuff
- Steam's "Na
Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye"
- Cashman &
West's "American City Suite"
- Billy Preston's
- Mungo Jerry's
"In The Summertime"
- Harry Nilsson's
- Helen Reddy's
"I Don't Know How To Love Him"
- Paul Simon's
"American City Suite" goes gold in
1972 on ABC/Dunhill. (Front l-r:) Dunhill's
Dick Lempke and Tom West. (Back l-r:)
Program director Charlie Parker,
music director Jim English, overnight host Barry
Grant, Terry Cashman and 7PM-midnight
host Gary DeGraide
spent 12 years at WDRC. The radio industry was changing and
he could see his days as an off-air music director were limited.
In October 1980 the ax fell and Jim was one of several staffers
let go in an economic cutback.
He took the
civil service test, intending to work at the Post Office, but instead
latched on to a new venture called Enterprise Radio, a national
talk & sports venture based in Avon. Jim left after nine months
and Enterprise Radio ultimately failed (to be replaced shortly after
In April 1982
he went to work at the Aetna Insurance Company and is still there
in 2010. Jim English lives in Wethersfield