Sunday, February 27, 2011

JIM DANDY, (1942-2010), R. I. P.

James Brian Everts (aka "Diamond Jim Dandy")Feb. 24, 1942-Oct. 20, 2010

To my 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 one last time for the countless hours of enjoyment his show provided for me from winter 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 dedicate 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 popular station in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market. Whereas 'CCO was mostly a talk/sports/easwy listening format, WDGY played all the current pop-rock top 40 hits of the day, 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 rock station didn't emerge here until about 1969 or so, so our main choice was always WDGY. And the king of Weegee was Jim Dandy.

Diamond Jim Dandy was a true radio personality, not your tired, safe 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. His M-Sat 7 PM-12 midnight slot outdrew rival 'CCO constantly. Back in those days, it was customary for most stations to play two or at most three selections and then run several commercials. Not Jim Dandy, though: sometime in 1966, he began to calls for "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 get our names on the air. I can remember dialing 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 calling nearly every night. 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 that). As time went on, sometimes he 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 with 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. So he came by that day and picked me up in his flashy 1965 Chevy convertible, and away we went! The Twins didn't play particularly well that day and K.C. really stunk, so we eked out a 3-2 win. Jim asked me if I would like to visit him 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. I 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.

This was the actual broadcast booth my pal Jim Dandy used to broadcast from, although this picture dates from 1970, a year after he had left the station for good.

I asked him what had brought him back to town, and he told me he had always liked and remembered his stay in Minneapolis 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 was very heavy set, smoked like a chimney, and his voice had gotten noticeably deeper and hoarser. We decided to keep in touch, and he did call me from time to time, and I him. One day, 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. 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. I don't know a cause of death, but I would almost bet it was lung cancer or emphysema...

Jim Dandy was the type of guy who never held back and said whatever was on his mind. For some reason, he never cared that much for British sixties singer Petula Clark. 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.

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 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.



  1. How nice that you got to meet your idol, Jim Dandy, and had continuing contact with him. Your tribute to him was touching.

    My husband worked for radio stations for many years and we even owned one at one time. I know the rivalries between deejays and the fight for ratings. It can be a cut throat industry, but is fascinating.