By Ed Karvoski Jr., Culture Editor
Region – Jimmy Jay of Weymouth began his radio career at Fitchburg’s WEIM-AM on his 19th birthday, Jan. 11, 1969. Since then, he has worked at several New England stations, hosts a weekly internationally-syndicated show and continues to interview numerous musical legends.
Additionally, Jay now broadcasts on a favorite station since his youth: WMEX-AM 1510. He’s deejaying on the relaunched station Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“Back in 1969, I was young and having fun,” he recalled. “In 2020, I’m now part of the new WMEX and feel like I’m a kid again.”
As a child growing up in Quincy, his parents would bring him to the WMEX station. There, Jay peered through a window to see deejays who he’d ultimately emulate: Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg, Melvin X. Melvin, and Fenway.
“I’d watch these guys for hours,” he relayed. “I saw Arnie Ginsburg having a blast – blowing horns and tooting whistles.”
While working at Orange’s WCAT-AM, Jay covered the summer of 1969’s Woodstock music festival. It was a productive gig for the teenage broadcaster. However, he was faced with challenges in the pre-digital camera era.
“I brought my recorder, but figured I’d get film and batteries for my camera when I got there,” he said. “Obviously, I never got film or batteries. I got no pictures, but lots of memories and interviews with tons of stars.”
Among his Woodstock interviewees were Jimi Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Sly and the Family Stone, Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, and Sha Na Na.
From the early- to mid-1970s, Jay rocked Gardner’s WGAW-AM, where he replaced country deejay Doc Snow. On Jay’s first night, he played Three Dog Night’s “Try A Little Tenderness.”
“The manager called me and goes, ‘Jimmy, we don’t play that kind of music at WGAW,’” Jay recounted. “I said, ‘You do now’ – and hung up.”
His subsequent stints were at WJOY-FM in Burlington, Vt., and Boston’s WEZE-AM and WILD-AM. While at WILD, he secured a backstage pass in the 1980s for Oldies 103.3 Summer Concert Series at Boston’s City Hall Plaza to meet 1960s teen idol Bobby Vee (“Take Good Care of My Baby”).
“I always thought that if I could meet Bobby Vee, we’d become friends,” he explained.
Close friend Vee introduced Jay to showbiz luminaries, many of whom became guests on his next project. About 15 years ago, Jay officially launched his one-hour, weekly, internationally-syndicated “Rewind” show, featuring interviews with classic musical artists along with their hit songs.
Repeat guests on “Rewind” have included Jay’s longtime friends Vee, Chubby Checker and the Diamonds’ lead singer Dave Somerville. Others include musicians who Jay befriended while covering Woodstock.
“Even though we’re friends, they still have new stories to tell when I interview them,” Jay noted.
Vee also introduced Jay to pop culture icon Dick Clark. The meeting led to Jay deejaying for special occasions in a pink Cadillac parked in the lobby of Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater in Branson, Miss.
On Thanksgiving weekend 2007, Jay broadcast two live “Rewind” shows from Clark’s theater. In addition to Vee, guests included singer-actor Fabian, the Righteous Brothers’ Bill Medley, the Chiffons’ Judy Craig Mann, Paul Revere (the Raiders), Gary Lewis (the Playboys), Marshall Lytle (Bill Haley & His Comets), Chris Montez (“Let’s Dance”) and Brian Hyland (“Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini”).’
An opportunity that Jay describes as “a lifelong dream” came true when WMEX hired him in 2015. The station went off the airwaves in June 2017. WMEX was purchased in March 2018 by Ed Perry, owner of Marshfield Broadcasting and WATD-FM 95.9.
“For a long time when you went onto WMEX, you’d hear WATD,” Jay said of the simulcast. “There was a method to the madness because they were fine-tuning the sound and quality. Ed Perry is a great engineer and wanted everything to be totally perfect.”
This past May 18, Perry relaunched WMEX, originating its own programming with 1950s to 1980s music and familiar on-air personalities including Jay. WMEX’s new Marshfield studio broadcasts daytime from a Quincy tower.
Among Jay’s first guests since the relaunch were five-time Grammy Award winner B.J. Thomas, the Beach Boys’ Al Jardine, the Association’s Jim Yester, and Gary Puckett of the Union Gap.
“I’m doing interviews, so it’s pretty much like ‘Rewind,” Jay noted. “There’s such a good feeling about the new WMEX. It’s exciting to bring people back to their youth.”
Find more information about Jimmy Jay and a link to stream WMEX at rewindshow.com.