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Jim Nettleton
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What's Doing 'Round Connecticut column - August 27, 1963
What's Doing 'Round Connecticut column - August 27, 1963

On October 4, 2009, lung cancer claimed the life of one of Big D's most popular radio personalities, Jim Nettleton; he was 69.

Jim Nettleton signature

Diamond Jim held forth each midday on WDRC AM/FM from April 1963 to August 1966.

Jim Nettleton in 2009
Jim Nettleton in 2009
 
 

Q: Tell us a bit about your early days. Where was home and who were some of the influences that made you decide to make radio your career?

A: Home originally was Boston. We lived at several places around the city - I was born in Jamaica Plain, and we later lived in Arlington and Somerville. I attended my first year of high school at Somerville High and the summer following it we moved to North Jersey - Bloomfield. My last 2 years were at Bloomfield High where I graduated in 1958. I enrolled at Rutgers as a Journalism major (New Brunswick) and commuted daily from my folks house. By then they'd bought a place in Clifton. I had always enjoyed listening to radio, but never gave it a thought as a career. At Rutgers a friend of mine who was an engineer at the college station, WRSU, talked me into auditioning for an opening that had just come up doing a weekend show called Knightlife, named after the Scarlet Knight Rutgers mascot. I auditioned, got the spot, and immediately fell in love with the business. I left college after 3 months and took some odd jobs while I concentrated on getting into the business. Finally I was hired at WPAZ in Pottstown, PA where I did the morning show. After 6 months I moved on to WHTG in Eatontown, NJ and 6 months later to WATR in Waterbury. Major influences in the early days were Peter Tripp, Alan Freed, and many others.

audio: WAVZ/WDRC jingle comparison #1 audio: WAVZ/WDRC jingle comparison #2 audio: WAVZ/WDRC jingle comparison #3 Q: In the early 1960s WAVZ had the same Roy Ross jingle package that WDRC used. Were they using that on WAVZ when you were there? What shift were you doing?

A: I believe that's right, as I recall. I first did 10PM to 2AM, then after about a month they moved me to 10AM to 3PM. After around 6 months, the WDRC opening came up.

Q: How did your hiring at DRC come about; were you recruited or did you apply? Any memories of the audition process?

A: I had been in touch with Charlie Parker on a fairly regular basis since my Waterbury days. He liked my work and had said several times that he'd like to see me on staff. When Kurt Russell left, he called and offered me the shift. I thought about it for roughly 2 milliseconds and accepted.

Q: I believe you were the last hire under the Friendly Five moniker (Ron Landry 5-10AM, Jerry Bishop doing a split from 10A-noon and 3-6PM; you from noon till 3 and 6-8PM; then Jim Raynor from 8PM-1AM).

A: Yes, I was. The Swinging Six came along shortly after.

 
 

Jim Nettleton promo for WDRC's New Year's Eve 1963 Swinging 60 Countdown Q: Was the "Diamond Jim" nickname something you started at DRC or did that come with you from New Haven?

A: I believe it was Charlie's idea - he was fascinated with that great character of the early 1900s, Diamond Jim Brady. So I started using it and it stuck.

Q: People have always wondered...are you related to actress Lois Nettleton?

A: Not that I know of - but it's an uncommon enough name that there might be some remote connection.

Q:By early 1964 the lineup was known as the Swinging Six (Landry 5-10AM, Dick Pace 10A-1PM, you from 1-4, LJW from 4-8, Raynor till signoff, and Chip Thompson on weekends).

A: Correct - frankly, I'm trying to remember if I was doing 10AM - 1PM before or after that - I think it must have been after.

WDRC lineup - August 14, 1964
WDRC lineup - August 14, 1964

What's Doing 'Round Connecticut column - December 1, 1963
What's Doing 'Round Connecticut column
- December 1, 1963

 

 

Q: By May 1964 you tied with Ken Griffin (WPOP) as the third most popular DJ in Hartford in a Billboard poll. That was pretty remarkable since you were on during daylight and Griffin had a huge teen audience at night.

A: Now there is something I never knew - I had only been there 8 or 9 months at the time. Maybe they didn't want anyone asking for a raise.

Jerry Bishop production on WDRC, early 1960s Jim Nettleton production on WDRC, early 1960s Q: Much of what we now call imaging (station liners, promos, etc.) in the early 1960s was voiced by Jerry Bishop, a role you inherited after his departure for the West Coast. Was Charlie Parker ahead of his time in that respect?

Billboard magazine Hartford DJ poll - May 16, 1964
Billboard magazine DJ poll - May 16, 1964

 
  Jim Nettleton promo for WDRC Valentine's Day contest - February 1964 A: Absolutely. Charlie Parker was ahead of his time in many, many respects. He was the single most innovative programmer I've ever known. I had enormous respect for that man, as, I believe, all who worked for him did.  
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