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Jim Nettleton
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JimNettleton-WDRC Hartford, December 1964 - Secret Sound contest Q: A signature promotion for WDRC in the 1960s was the Secret Sound contest. People used to paralyze the SNETELCo phone lines trying to identify the mystery sound but the jackpot was usually 20 bucks or something small. Were some of the guesses pretty much from left field?

A: Yes, that was a beauty. I remember recording the sound of a golf club striking a ball out in back of the building for one of the contests. Many of the guesses provided some of the funniest material we ever had. The entire series of contests that Charlie developed were ear-catching - Fun Dial, Fun Word, etc. They were all classics. And even though the payouts were relatively small, 20 or 30 bucks in those days was a decent amount of coin.

Q: You were probably on the air the day JFK was assassinated. What do you remember about that chaotic weekend? I know you narrated a special tribute to the President written by Charlie Parker.

Jim Nettleton reads cancellations on WDRC Hartford following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 A: Yes, I was - a day and a moment I'll never forget. There was no one around except me, Joe Barbarette in the newsroom and my engineer, so I took it upon myself to go off format and play soft music. Nearly the entire staff was called in and we worked until the wee hours collecting and delivering news. I remember that tribute well. Charlie was, in addition to all things mentioned earlier, an extremely moving writer.

WDRC's Ron Landry, Jim Nettleton, Sandy Beach, Long John Wade and Dick Robinson

WDRC's Ron Landry, Jim Nettleton, Sandy Beach, Long John Wade and Dick Robinson

Q: It's hard to imagine today that FM was still the weak sister. To your recollection was everything on DRC simulcast during your stay, or did they ever split special programs on the FM?

A: I believe so - I don't recall any special shows on the FM. But then again, FM was such an after thought in those days that we never paid much attention to it.

Q: DRC had a huge playlist by today's standards (The Swinging Sixty). How much input did the air personalities have?

A: A bit, but not a lot. Bertha and Charlie made the decisions.

Q: Tell us something we don't know about Bertha Porter.

A: Since I don't know what you do know about Bertha, that's a tough one. Aside from being one of the most respected Music Directors in the country, she was a real friend to us all. It was she who carefully made up our record boxes for the hops and helped us in every way she could. One interesting item is that Bertha was very tight with some of Philadelphia's prime music movers and shakers, like Tony Mammarella at Swan, Harold Lipsius at Universal Distributors and others - so we played at lot of Philly hits in those days that became Hartford and subsequently New England hits. One result was that when I went to Philly I already knew a lot about Philly music.

Q: In those days I don't think stations did the amount of remote broadcasts that are common today. Personalities had another vehicle to become known to the listener - record hops.

A: There were some great hops in those days. I remember doing one for quite awhile in Coventry and another at the Middletown Armory. Those things really drew crowds in those days. We almost always had a band with us. As I recall, the rate when I first went to DRC was a princely $50. But of course, the dollar went a lot farther back then. Remotes were awkward, given the bulkness of equipment in those days. I remember doing live broadcasts back in Waterbury - we did the Sacred Heart High School basketball games. Al Vestro was the play by play guy and I did the engineering, color commentary and commercials. All this while balancing a huge Collins combo amp on my lap in the middle of the stands - no broadcast booths then. By the end of each game I thought I'd lost my lap - total numbness. That damn thing must have weighed 50 or 60 pounds.

Q: In September 1964 Dick Robinson opened the Connecticut School of Broadcasting at the Hotel America. If I recall, you and Long John took over much of the early load because Dickie was on the bench with throat problems.

A: Yes, Dick had a very severe bout with strep throat at the time, so we taught the first class.

 
 

Jim Nettleton at WFIL
Jim Nettleton at WFIL

Q: Later, in Philadelphia, you and Long John worked together at WFIL. Did you play any role in his broadcasting school?

A: No, I wasn't involved in that one.

Q: What do you remember about 869 Blue Hills Avenue? The studios certainly weren't as palatial as the later digs at 750 Main Street.

A: That it was mighty crowded. Fortunately all of us were pretty slim in those days or we wouldn't have been able to fit in the recording booth. But I was just thrilled to be there at a station that I considered one of the top 3 or 4 Top 40s in the country.

 

 

Q: January 1965 marked the arrival of Sandy Beach in you 1-4PM time slot; you took over 10AM-1PM.

A: That was a pretty strong lineup. You just answered what I was wondering about earlier about 10AM-1PM. Yeah, Sandy was a funny man - always a lot of laughs with him around. And what can you say about Ron Landry? One of the very best morning men ever.

Jim Nettleton-WDRC UFO Hotseat special - April 24, 1966 Q: In April 1966 you wrote, edited and hosted two consecutive Sunday night WDRC Hotseat specials on UFOs. How did that come about? The WDRC column on the previous page indicated you had early thoughts of a journalism career; was this an example of scratching an old itch?

A: I actually did a lot of that kind of thing for the station, including writing and delivering many editorials. I've always written over the years. I've written 3 books and a ton of articles for the entertainment sections of a few newspapers. In the case of the UFO documentary, it is a subject about which I've long been fascinated and I am to this day totally convinced that we have never been told the truth.

 
  Jim Nettleton at WFIL - April 19, 1976
Jim Nettleton at WFIL
- April 1976

Q: In 1966 you departed Hartford for WFIL. I believe you were on their inaugural staff as the station switched to a pop music format. Again, were you recruited or did you apply? Did Buckley own WIBG in Philadelphia at that point; if so, was there any thought of transferring there instead of WFIL?

A: I think it was Sandy Beach who mentioned the coming change in Philadelphia to me. I sent an aircheck and they called me within a week. Within the month I was in Philly as part of the original staff. Ironically, at the same time I received an offer from WMEX in Boston, my home town. The urge to take it was strong, naturally, but I felt that WFIL was going to accomplish big things. Good decision. Buckley bought WIBG sometime later. At the time, WIBG was owned by Storer.

Q: A few months later Long John also jumped ship for WFIL. Did you put in a good word for him?

A: Absolutely. Frank Kingston Smith was leaving and I told Jim Hilliard, our PD, that he needed to take a look at Long John, that he'd be a perfect fit.

 
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