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).
LONG LIVE JIM DANDY! AND, LONG LIVE WDGY AM 1130!
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