Jim Jeffries

By Scott Westerman – Curator Keener13.com
JimJeffries2009He had the job we all wanted, the foot in the door at the greatest radio station in town. In the world that was radio back in the 1960s, the overnight shift was the proving ground, the place where the program director tested new talent, and the assignment from whence stars were often born.

Some loved the lifestyle and made overnights their brand. WJR’s Jay Roberts was one of the most famous, helping us drift off to sleep for over two decades as the captain of “Nightflight 760”.

Jim Jeffries had a different idea. When he came to Detroit from Keener’s Battle Creek sister station, Jim knew that even with WKNR’s highly directional nighttime signal, there were thousands of people out there who depended on the overnight guy to keep them awake and entertained.

These were the night owls who worked the third shift at Ford, patrolled Dearborn’s streets from behind the wheel of American made police cruisers, baked Silvercup Bread and brewed Stroh’s beer. These were the countless security guards who kept watch over Hudson’s, Federal’s, Cobo Hall and Olympia, and the union jacks who delivered Motown’s newspapers from the presses to the hundreds of street corners where young boys and girls piled them onto bicycles to prepare a slowly awakening Motor City for the new day.

This was Jim Jeffries domain. For the bulk of WKNR’s brief prime, he sat behind the controls, the solitary human presence at 15001 Michigan Avenue, and entertained his unique and demanding audience.

The show was, of course, different than what we heard during other day parts. The intensity was turned down a notch, and you’d hear a bit larger swath of music than was typically found on the tight 31 song WKNR Music Guide.

But all the rest of the Keener magic was there. The contests, the promos, and the personal relationship that still puts WKNR in a special place in our memory.

“Even though our shifts and schedules only allowed for minimal day to day contact (beyond regular DJ meetings) , Jim was one of a very tight fraternity,” remembers long time WKNR program director Bob Green, “And whether you happened to be a listener or an insider, there was no question that Jim enjoyed what he did. That element of ‘fun’, so much a part of what made Keener special, was highly evident… from the man and from his on air presence.”

Jim finally moved on, he was too good to stay on overnights in Detroit. He continued to polish his game at WQXI in Atlanta and then, like many others in the trade, became a promoter for the record companies that plied their product to music directors in a hundred different markets.

“He was head of Epic and Associated Labels Promotion in the mid 70’s,” recalls former CBS Records exec Mark Westcott. “He had hits with Dan Fogelberg ‘Part Of The Plan’, Minnie Riperton ‘Loving You’, Michael Murphey ‘Wildfire’, Lou Rawls ‘You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine’ and the Isley Brothers’ ‘Who’s That Lady’. Jim also contributed to the success of Philadelphia International artists like the O’Jays and Harold Melvin and The Bluenotes success.”

Keener’s Scott Regen remembers Jim as a kind heart. He wrote me recently saying, “I was just thinking, radio made each of us, the station staff and the audience, a family. It happened in a way that did not, could not exist before the electronic age. We were the players on that electronic stage. That, I think, was and still is what radio can do best: bring people together in a common purpose .”

To Jim Jeffries, family was the most important dimension of life. The itinerant broadcasting road game often made it hard to sustain a long term relationship. Not so for Jim Jeffries. He found true love with Debbie and together, they built a family over a 32 year marriage that ended only when he left us suddenly, at age 66, on November 17th.

Jim Jeffries will always be remembered, along with Dick Purtain, Mort Crowly, Swingin Sweeney, Ted Clark, Jerry Goodwin, Bob Green, Gary Stevens, Scott Regen and J. Michael Wilson as the greatest of the Keener Key Men of Music.

The guy all us aspiring DJs wanted to be.

Aircheck: Jim Jeffries 5/31/65

Nov 18th, 2009 | Posted in Keener
  1. Mike Bone
    Nov 19th, 2009 at 19:12 | #1

    Mr. Westerman, I do not know who you are but you pegged Jim Jefferies. He was a GREAT guy. He taught me the record business. I owe everything I have to that man. The world today is not what it was when JJ was still around.

    Mike Bone

  2. Nov 25th, 2009 at 10:27 | #2

    I worked at WKNR in 1978, after it became WNIC, and thus long after Jim had moved on. But like so many others, I knew of him, and his contributions to Detroit radio history. Scott, thanks for a thoughtful, thorough and moving tribute to one more legend–gone, but whose voice and warmth and personality lives on.

    David Moore, Morning News Anchor, WGVU, Grand Rapids Michigan

  3. Patrick MacKercher
    Dec 9th, 2009 at 15:31 | #3

    Thank you for the update on Jim, I am sorry for his passing. My relationship with Jim goes back to the days of the ” Keener Komets ” hockey team with which my older brothers skated on. Many times over the years people have asked about him and nobody knew what became of him. This will answer many questions.

  4. Michael McDowell/Blitz Magazine
    Jan 14th, 2010 at 18:22 | #4

    We have been remarkably blessed in that the vast majority of that beloved WKNR air staff is still with us. As such, the passing of Jim Jeffries is indeed a major loss to not only the Keener fraternity, but to the world of rock and roll at large. Those of us who were privileged to have benefitted from and/or inspired by his immeasurable gifts remain grateful.

  5. Phillip B. Washington
    Jul 23rd, 2010 at 09:14 | #5

    I was a 16 year old high school student working afterschool at Epic Records in NYC when I met Jim Jeffries. hat I remember is a big,swqeet guy who loved his music,and did his job passion. I particularly remember times he wore his Detroit Red Wing jersey to work,and his hockey stick in the corner of his office. He was always nice to me,and I’m sorry to hear he has passed on.

Comments are closed.