Tuesday, March 1, 2011

WDGY'S JIM DANDY (1942-2010)

James Brian Everts (aka "Diamond Jim Dandy") February 24, 1942-October 20, 2010, R. I. P.

To my utter dismay, I found out last week that I had lost my boyhood idol, a radio DJ who used to broadcast from the now-defunct Twin Cities radio station WDGY, AM 1130. I am saddened that I didn't have the chance to speak with him one last time, or to thank him once again for the countless hours of enjoyment his show provided for me from early 1966-spring 1968, and again briefly in the spring of 1969. So I'll just have to do so here in this memorial post I now dedicate to him in his honor.

During the 1960s, WDGY (or "Weegee" as we locals referred to it) was THE most listened to, most popular radio station. It was a powerful 50,000 watt directional station, and it vied for no.1 with WCCO-AM as the most listened-to station in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market. Whereas 'CCO was mostly a talk/sports/easy listening type of format, WDGY played all the current pop-rock top 40 hits of that time, and was an absolute staple among pre-teens to young adults of the day (circa 1964-1973 or so). FM radio was still in its infancy at that time and a suitable FM rock station didn't emerge here until about 1969 or so, so our main choice was always WDGY. It was where we first heard The Beatles, the Stones, the Dave Clark Five, the Supremes, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Johnny Rivers, Petula Clark, Lesley Gore, the Lovin' Spoonful, the Left Banke, Sam and Dave, Simon and Garfunkel, the Byrds, the Four Seasons, and scores upon scores of other classic sixties groups and singers. And the king of Weegee was Jim Dandy.

Diamond Jim Dandy was a true radio personality, not your tired, safe, benign radio DJ of today. He was very lively, fast talking, and slightly irreverent. He didn't have what you would call a deep or resonant radio voice, but he held his listeners quite well with his quick wit and conversational, uplifting personality. His Monday-Saturday 7 PM-12 midnight slot constantly outdrew main rival 'CCO in the Arbitron ratings. Back in those days, it was customary for most stations to play two or at most three selections and then run several commercials or do a short news break. Not Jim Dandy, though: sometime in 1966, he began to call for what he termed "a six pack." He mentioned that if 6 people would call him and DARE him to play six records in a row without a commercial break, not only would he play the records continuously, he would even mention the callers' names and cities on the air! He ended up doing this several times a night, and each time he'd have all of us scrambling to call in and get our names mentioned. I can remember furiously dialing 827-9999 on our old rotary phone over and over, until I finally got through without a busy signal, and most nights I succeeded. As a matter of fact, it got to the point where I would say, "Jim, I'd like to dare ya for a six-pack" and he would say "OK, Jack, you're in. How ya doin' tonight?" I was tickled pink that he recognized my voice, so, naturally, I just kept on listening and calling nearly every night. Homework was ALWAYS done in the kitchen in front of the transistor radio and close to the phone. It got to the point where I swear I was one of three or four callers who most often got his name read on the air. (I remember my fellow "rivals" at the time as being a Bruce Ness of Minneapolis and a Diane Eid of Richfield - funny how, 42+ years later, I can still remember those names)! As time went on, sometimes Jim would ask for dares for a 12-pack, something that was truly unheard of in AM radio of the time. That, of course, was 12 records played in a row without commercials and 12 listeners' names being read on the air. He also asked for people to call in to dedicate songs to their particular girl or boy friend of the moment, and I did that quite a few times too.

Saturday, July 15, 1967, is a date I'll always remember. My uncle had previously provided me with two good box seat tickets for the Minnesota Twins-Kansas City Athletics baseball game. I asked Jim Dandy if he'd like to go with me to the game, and he accepted. He actually pre-recorded his show for that night on tape so he could be at the game! He came by at the appointed time and picked me up in his flashy red 1965 Chevy convertible, and away we went! The Twins didn't play particularly well that day, and K.C. really stunk, so we barely eked out a 3-2 win. Jim asked me if I would like to visit him and get a guided tour at the radio station in a week or so, and I said "YES!" very enthusiastically! So about a week and a half later my mom drove me out to the station (I was only 13 at the time) and in I went, all wide-eyed with wonderment! He took me into the broadcast booth where later that night he'd be broadcating from, mentioning that we must be very quiet so as not to disturb Scott Burton, who preceded him in the rotation. We crept in quietly and I was all eyes! Later he took me into the basement, where they stored past hit records and did production. Their collection of 45 rpm records was incredible.

Jim Dandy left the station the following May and didn't return until a brief stint the following year. Then, all of a sudden, he was gone without an explanation. It took me nearly 40 years, but I finally tracked him down through an email address I saw somewhere. I wrote him about much of what you see here and asked if he remembered me. I didn't hear back for quite some time. But finally, one day, I got a phone call. I didn't recognize the voice on the other end. It was hoarser and gruffer than I remembered. But then the caller idebtified himself as JIM DANDY! I damn near dropped the phone! He mentioned that he was in Minneapolis, and asked if I'd like to join him for a drink. "You're on!" I hurriedly replied. So we met for SEVERAL drinks and had a wonderful time reminiscing about 1960s radio and WDGY in particular.

Jim Dandy in the broadcast booth during his brief return stint at WDGY in 1969.

I asked him what had brought him back to town, and he told me he had always liked Minneapolis and remembered his stay here fondly, and that he wanted to retire here. I was delighted to have him back in my life after so many years, but I was concerned about his health. He didn't look that good, having become very heavy set. He smoked like a chimney, and his voice had gotten noticeably deeper and hoarser. It was also obvious that he was drinking quite a bit, judging from the 4 or 5 vodka tonics he consumed during our visit that afternoon together. We decided to keep in touch, and he did call me from time to time, and I him. One day, though, he called and told me he was now in a nursing home. He had fallen and couldn't get up, and was taken to the hospital by paramedics with a severely bruised arm. I visited him at the nursing home in the spring of 2009. That was the last time I saw him alive. I called him and wished him a happy birthday last year, and we talked one time after that as well. I had been preoccupied with my own mother's poor health most of last spring, and she died at the end of May. 5 months later, my buddy Jim Dandy died too, and I didn't even know until I called for him again last week. I don't know a cause of death, but I would almost bet it was lung cancer or emphysema, or perhaps a heart attack...

Jim Dandy was the type of guy who never held back and said whatever was on his mind. He wasn't as offensive as Rush Limbaugh in that regard, but he sure wasn't shy. For some reason, he never cared that much for British sixties singer Petula Clark. Clark was 32, and already married with two children by the time her no. 1 monster hit "Downtown" entered American charts very late in 1964. Jim objected to the goody-goody, British schoolgirl image which had been created for her by record executives. To give you an idea of his irreverence, he once said of her, "she had more fingerprints on her than the front door of Duff's" (a popular Twin Cities lounge of that era). I laughed like hell at that one. Another time, he quipped, "somebody said that I could get rid of gas by eating pineapples. So I did that, and now I can't stop doing the hula and singin' "Tiny Bubbles." He always used to end his show by saying, "love is love, and fun is fun, but isn't it quiet when the goldfish die---goodbyyyeee..."

It IS quiet now, Jim, and I'm heartsick about it.

Thank you, Jim Dandy, for the thousands of hours of enjoyment you provided a young teenage boy back in those glory days of 1960s radio. I will NEVER forget you!

For an aircheck of what Jim Dandy actually sounded like, go to http://www.radiotapes.com/WDGY.html. Scroll down until you see 5/25/68 Diamond Jim Dandy, and click on it. It's not one of his better airchecks, but it does give you some idea of how he sounded. (Regrettably, this is not hyperlinked, so you'll just have to enter the address yourself).



Max's Dad said...

Love the old radio stories, Jack. Those 60's radio guys inspired me to go into radio for a period of time in my life (until I realized you couldn't make a living at it). He sounds like he was a lot of fun. Those were the days. Not like now when certain FM juggernauts in your area tell racist jokes and toe the Republican line. RIP, Jim Dandy!

Jack Jodell said...

Thanks, Max's Dad. Jim Dandy WAS a lot of fun, and I'll miss him terribly!

Marc McDonald said...

Thanks for this touching article. I'd never heard of Jim Dandy, but he sounds like he hosted a wonderful radio show during the Golden Era of rock'n'roll.

For me, growing up, I guess KLIF here in Dallas was the top station. The early 70s was no match for the classics of the 60s.

But it was still a fun era and it towers over the utter dreck of today's Top 40. I haven't listened to KLIF in years, but I believe it is now a talk radio wasteland. In Dallas, we have several hate-radio stations, and, of course nothing for progressives. So much for the "free market."

I mean, sure Dallas is a pretty conservative city. But I'd bet at least 30 or 40 percent of the population would lean Left. Where is our talk station?

The situation, of course, is even more outrageous is famously Liberal cities like San Francisco and NYC. Even in those cities, incredibly, wingnut radio dominates the airwaves.

It's crazy: the "free market" has nothing to do with this. It's corporations who will fund ONLY the likes of hatemongers and corporate shills like Limbaugh and Beck.

Ed said...

Oh, what a good story. Bittersweet.
Aren't many of life's good stories that way? Thanks for sharing it with us, Jack.
It just proves how fleeting life can be. And to let those who mean so much to us, how important it is to tell them so, while they are here.
Wishing you the best, Jack.

Jack Jodell said...

You raise a great point about the lack of a left-leaning radio network in this country. Air America tried, but failed. Radio as a medium has really deteriorated since the 1960s. The conglomeration of media into but a few major players (notably Clear Channel as a big example) has led to a very, very stale format overall and has loaded up our airwaves with trash, racism, and utter stagnation. A guy like Jim Dandy would never make it on AM today, and it's a real shame!
Thank you for your visit and nice comment. Glad you liked it!

Anonymous said...

I never had the pleasure of meeting Jim Dandy, other than a couple of e-mail correspondences about five years ago. I listened to him all the time on WDGY and I, too, treasure the memories. He also helped inpsire me to go into radio for awhile until I realized the fun had vanished with the consultants and corporations. Great baseball story, Jack! I bet it was a great night at the Met!


Jack Jodell said...

It WAS a great game at the old Met (ANOTHER thing I'll always remember and miss, too). And yes, the state of radio today proves that all things do not necessarily improve with age! Oh, for a station like WDGY again! WWTC came close for awhile in the 1980s, but now even it is gone. I called KQQL FM about 5 years ago and requested "Yellow Balloon" by the Yellow Ballooon. The 25 year old DJ didn't have a clue about what I was talking about. I guess oldies stations of now will hire any fool to spin the tunes. Though not a huge hit, it DID reach the top 10 here in town in the spring of 1967, but this kid had never heard of it. "That's not on our approved play list" he told me. I guess that's what happens when the Minneapolis oldies playlist is put together off in Atlanta or some other far off place, and consists only of the top 5 national songs of any year...

Engineer of Knowledge said...

Hello Jack,
Just as the passing of Bob Dylan’s ex-girlfriend featured on the “Free Wheeling” album cover this past week, sex symbol Jane Russell, and your own Jim Dandy, these icons of our youth remind us of our own mortality and we will miss them. When these great memories of our youth are no longer being added onto we feel the personal loss and miss the developments of the next chapters.

I glad you did this post honoring your memory of this man from your youth. Good Job.

Jack Jodell said...

Thank you, Engineer of Knowledge. You exoressed, as always, a common sense and empathy many lack today.

Anonymous said...

Jim Dandy sounds like he was a cool guy and I wish I could've heard him back in the day.
However, after reading your article, I kind of wish Jim had picked on someone besides Petula Clark. I'm not sure her "goody-goody" image was just a creation of the record company. She married her first love, had three kids, and is happily married to the same man to this day. Compare that to the likes of today's shallow pop stars.
Clark was hardly a slut (or, for that matter, a vapid empty pop star like Britney Spears---who, let's not forget, was an outspoken supporter of George W. Bush and the Iraq War).
Also, while it's forgotten today, Clark had her own footnote in progressive history. I quote from Wikipedia:

"In 1968, NBC-TV invited Clark to host her own special in the U.S., and in doing so she inadvertently made television history. While singing a duet of "On the Path of Glory," an anti-war song that she had composed, with guest Harry Belafonte, she took hold of his arm, to the dismay of a representative from the Chrysler Corporation, the show's sponsor, who feared that the moment would incur the racist bigotry of Southern viewers. When he insisted that they substitute a different take, with Clark and Belafonte standing well away from one another, Clark and the executive producer of the show — her husband, Wolff — refused, destroyed all other takes of the song and delivered the finished program to NBC with the touch intact. The program aired on 8 April 1968, with high ratings and critical acclaim."

Jack Jodell said...

Thank you for presenting the info on Petula Clark. She was indeed a great singer and fine person. I think Dandy objected primarily to her having been packaged here as a teenager, when, in reality, she was rapidly approaching middle age. Remember, Dandy spoke from a time when it wasn't "cool" to trust anyone over 30 and the youth culture was running supreme.

By the way, "I Couldn't Live Without Your Love" remains one of my all-time favorite songs. So thanks again for the info on Petula. ;-)

Engineer of Knowledge said...

Hello Jack,
I think we all need a little cheering up so I will pass on this thought I had today from my own introspection and Masonic training.

I am here to tell you, “Count your blessings where you can find them, take a deep breath lung full of fresh air and enjoy the day…..Spring will soon be here my friend, we will be recharged, and we will tackle the insanity of the world once again soon enough.”

In the mean time I will pass on a quote from William Shakespeare. I know the time for those INSANE minds that drive the Ultra Conservative Right in the U.S. like the Governors of Wisconsin, Ohio, and now Rhode Island; those no different than current events of Moammar Gadaffi and others in the Middle East, all will implode and die a slow agonizing political death…. I give you….

Shakespeare's Richard II Speech Segment Quote:

For God’s sake let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings -
How some have been deposed, some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed,
Some poisoned by their wives, some sleeping killed;
All murdered. For within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court, and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be feared, and kill with looks,
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,

Man it just doesn’t get better than that does it!!

Now an Engineer Of Knowledge Quote:
The Progressive Arts will out last Political Power that tries to hold down, stifles progresses; that which rules through lies and fears!!! Revolutions are not caused by revolutionaries, it is the demographic, economic, social, and political forces that create a revolutionary environment that anoint and propel someone to the status of revolutionary, or some may call radical liberals depending on their prospective. Either way, the progressive viewpoints of man will win….that is why it is call “Progress.”

Anonymous said...

>>>By the way, "I Couldn't Live
>>>Without Your Love" remains one
>>>of my all-time favorite songs

I agree. BTW, here is a YouTube video of Petula performing this song last year (at age 77). She still has an excellent voice and looks and acts amazingly youthful:


Jack Jodell said...

Engineer of Knowledge,
Thank you for another set of uplifting ideas and quotes. Progress will ALWAYS trump regression. Sometimes, depending on the circumstances, it just takes a while.
Thanks for the link---I'll be sure to check it out!

Jack Jodell said...

That was a great clip and she proved beyond all shadow of a doubt she still has it! She did a nice job at that same venue with her "Don't Sleep In The Subway", another of her hits I enjoyed too...

Tom Harper said...

Nice tribute. I hadn't heard of him, but he reminds me of some of the DJs from my own youth: Murray the K (WINS New York), Bruce "Cousin Brucie" Morrow, Scott Muni, Dan Ingram ("Big Dan Ingram on the Ingram Flingram") -- all from WABC New York.

Nowadays, whenever I turn on the radio I remember why I don't bother with it any more. No matter what these stations call their format, it's the same 8 songs over and over and over.

Jack Jodell said...

Thanks for stopping by, and I know exactly what you mean. Incidentally, it may interest you to know that Jim Dandy was born and raised in Buffalo, NY---a bit upstate, but New York nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind article about
Jim Dandy. Everts and I worked
together for a few years when I was
at WDGY (1966-1977). A kind and
loyal person and extremely funny.
He will be missed by many, that's
for sure.

Johnny Canton

Anonymous said...

Very sad to learn that Jim Dandy passed away, as he was known by his listeners in those days. I too grew up listening to WDGY and KDWB as a teenager. I remember all his rants about people who wore white socks and being self concious about wearing them in public because of him. Pretty funny in retrospect. He really had a command of the local airways back then and was fun to listen to, kind of like Don Rickles at the national level. Enjoyed your tribute to Jim Everts.

Don Sundeen said...

What a shock. Jim Everts and I attended college together and both
went into TOP 40. He dropped off my radar years ago and I've looked for him ever since, then I found your blog. He was a heavy smoker from his teen years in Buffalo and I've always suspected he might have died from a lung ailment or other smoking related illness. We were like brothers, and both dropped out of college to go into radio. I remember the exact night when he said, 'I've got my name, Jim Dandy,' don't tell anyone. I'm so sad that we never had a chance to talk before he passed. He was a funny and smart guy. Bless his soul. Don Sundeen, Dallas (donnie dare)

Anonymous said...

Always enjoyed phone visits with Jim Dandy. Loved his show! I'd decided to "chew gum for 31 days"...and Jim, being the fun guy he was, had me call in during the 31 days of gum chewing. It was a good bit and I think Jim had as much fun with it as I did. I feel sorry for those who never had a radio star "Jim Dandy" in their life. He was indeed a jim-dandy!

Jerry H.