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Man From Mars Productions

Jim Nettleton
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Billboard magazine - September 27, 1969

Billboard magazine - September 27, 1969

Q: You had a long run at WFIL before a two-year break at WABC (1969-71). Somewhere in some early CSB material they mentioned that you had a career goal of getting to WABC. Was it all you expected?

A: I have no idea where that came from, although I've heard it many times over the years - most often from George Michael who seemed to take great pleasure in proclaiming that to all who would listen. I had no thought of leaving WFIL until Julian Breen, then Rick Sklar's assistant, contacted me in mid 1969. Even then, I turned down the first offer they made which was for the all night show - at that time, 6 hours. It was only when they came back with an excellent package deal, which included a network show on the Contemporary Network, that I accepted.

My time at ABC and the network was good - and was all that I expected. That was a terrific crew. Amazing that the station covered 40 states at night and could be heard in northern Europe.

Q: In January 1972 you sent me a couple of DRC airchecks; the letterhead was Cantaur Productions Limited, with addresses in Cherry Hill, NJ and NYC. What was that endeavor all about?

Jim Nettleton at WABC - 1969
Jim Nettleton at WABC - 1969

A: It was my production company at the time. I wrote, voiced and produced long form specials for radio that were eventually heard in 24 countries on over 2,000 radio stations around the world. One of the specials was in collaboration with Long John, using his interviews with the Beatles - it was called Beatles: The Echoes And The Dream - it was a 6 hour special examining their development and careers. Another was The Rock Genesis, a 12 hour history of rock. A third was The Rock Years, which was originally a 36 hour affair counting down the top 20 songs of each year beginning in 1955, along with information on fads and fashions of the times, noteable news events and sports news. The fourth was The History Of Country Music; The Sound Of America - a 6 hour sepcial. All contained extensive interviews and lots of music.

Q: After some time in New York at WHN and WPIX FM, you spent some time at CHUM in Toronto; how did that come about?

 
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A: Bob Wood, who was PD at CHUM at the time contacted me. They needed on air help at the time, since they were shorthanded. I spent a year commuting up there doing air work and also did some consultation. Almost went to work for them full time toward the end of my association, but although Toronto is a wonderful city, moving to a new country is a major culture shock. In the end, I decided not to. My stay there was wonderful - some of the nicest people I've ever met and they treated me superbly.

 
 

Q: You later had a long run at several Philadelphia stations. I think you worked with LJW again at WCAU FM. That was an early example of a successful (partially) automated format.

A: Yes, it was - under terribly difficult circumstances. I was doing things with that system that it really wasn't designed to do. There were many workarounds that needed to be literally invented - our chief engineer, Bob Shields, was a pure genius - I'd tell him, "Bob, I need to do this..." and he'd find a way. It was tough, but we made it work. The equipment was truly primitive by today's standards. The main music sources were several of the infamous Instacarts, that had 4 rows of 12 cartridge bays apiece - and each set of 12 cartridge bays was powered by one common capstan - a recipe for disaster, given the high rate of cartridge tear-ups. And tear up, they did - frequently.

Billboard magazine - March 16, 1974
Billboard magazine - March 16, 1974

 
 

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newspaper ad - September 20, 1974
newspaper ad - September 20, 1974

Q: In September 1974 you did a show at the new WRCQ AM 910 (formerly WRCH AM). You were among a handful of Hartford alumni who returned to kick off the big debut. Did you get any negative reaction from Charlie or the DRC brass? After all, you were promoting new competition!

A: Not at all. Charlie and the DRC crew were much bigger than that. It was a fun time interacting with some great people. Lee Manson, who was in charge there at the time had been PD at WAVZ in New Haven during my short time there. He was a very good man - it was a lot of fun doing that weekend.

Jim Nettleton on the WDRC 35th Anniversary Reunion - August 19, 1995 Q: In August 1995 you were part of WDRC FM's 35th Anniversary promotion, joining virtually all of the Friendly Five and Swinging Six for a weekend celebration. Among other things you recalled playing golf with Jim Raynor. Any other memories of that weekend?

A: That was one of the most memorable times of my career. Unfortunately, I had been booked to do a high school reunion long before I learned of that event, so I had to drive up to Hartford in the morning and leave to go back to Philly in the late afternoon. I have always regretted that I didn't have more time to spend that weekend - especially since that was the last time I saw Ron Landry, as I've mentioned before, one of the great talents of the business.

Jim Raynor and I were both passionate about golf and played as much as we could together. We managed to scrape it around pretty good in days gone by. Joe Barbarette would play with us often. One of our frequent companions was Dave Melody, a pro, who used to preside at East Hartford, as I recall, then opened his own course - the name escapes me - where we'd kick it around frequently.

 
 

I wished I could have attended the show on that weekend - I know it would have brought back memories of the great shows we had at the Bushnell Auditorium in years gone by for the Danny Thomas Teenager's March and the Big D Big Shows as well.

Hopefully, there'll be another reunion in the near future.

 
 

Q: As your career developed you developed a reputation as an oldies expert which leads me to today - your on-line oldies station. Tell us about that.

A: It's as much a labor of love as anything else. It was born to a great extent by extreme frustration over the state of oldies programming on radio today. Also playing a part was the one year debacle at WPEN - an oldies format that couldn't possibly have been done in a more disastrous manner. I wanted to develop a format that not only played great music that has been unceremoniously shoved to the back shelf by today's broadcasters, but that also had a strong Philly flavor. More than 64 name artists were born and brought up in a 16 square block of South Philly - and no one, even in Philly, plays more than a token sampling of their music. Thus, the internet radio station was born. So far, reaction has been excellent and the numbers keep rising. We have a few sponsors and expect to do better in that regard shortly. There will never be a lot of ads - the overhead is fairly low, so there don't have to be. I've got 3 other well-known Philly personalities on air in Charlie Bennett, Kim Martin and Christy Springfield. I'll be getting into special shows of different varieties in the near future.


Jim Nettleton in 2003

 
 

Q: The days of music personalities on the radio seem gone forever. Or do you think the pendulum might swing at some point and a whole new generation will discover what personality radio in the 1960s was all about?

A: I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think so. With the proliferation of personal music delivery systems, the future is probably going to be dominated by those devices and not commercial radio. Commercial radio has only itself to blame for what I think will be its ultimate demise. You can drive coast to coast and hear exactly the same formats, liners, station nicknames, etc. It's all research driven and presided over by a bunch of no-soul-suits whose first mission in professional life is safety, not imagination and invention. There's nobody out there anymore with the courage to deviate or the intellectual capacity and curiosity to experiment. As I said, I hope I'm wrong.

 
Jim Nettleton passed away October 4, 2009 at the age of 69.
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