Jim Nelly-radio legend of the Northwest and beyond. Here are some true stories of one of the craziest guys radio has ever produced. The cherished Pat O'Day/Nelly story at the bottom of this page, a classic Nelly.
1st from Burl B:new Nelly Stories coming in every day at the bottom. Latest posted 5/2/03
When I moved to Walla Walla
in 1980, Nelly was owner of KUJ-AM -- a5,000 watt am rocker.
He took me to dinner at the Black Angus and outlined his plan to sell
it for over a million $ -- he was getting a cp for an FM and figured
he could pull off the financial coup of the decade. What did that have
to do with me? He wanted me to take over the programming, cut liners,
advise the jocks, and -- anytime he called, I was to run out to the
station, take over the board, and make it "sound like Seattle" We madea deal, and I did what he requested. One of the kids on the air was
not allowed to talk. I told him to read a weather forcast on the air,
and he sounded fine! So, I said -- you sound swell, Tom, keep that
mike up and play the hits! He did. His name is Tom Hodgins and he nowOWNS KUJ-AM & FM, and has owned, operated, and sold several otherstations in Eastern Washington. In fact, Tom and I have a cp (for saleof course) for an FM in Natches that will blast into Yakima. As for
Nelly, he sold KUJ -- the divorce gave half the loot to his ex-wife --
and the cp to an absentee owner in SF. Tom wound up with it years
later. Yes, Nelly got his $million, plus. Last I heard he was sued for
making his trafic lady in Eureka (where once again I did the liners
for him) give him a blow job. He stopped drinking - for obvious
reasons of manifest insanity, and started smoking pot instead. I have
not seen him for several years. I think Jim Jr. is playing the hits
in Lewiston or someplace. Tom Hodgins would know more.
In the early stages of my
broadcast career, I was reminded by the
seasoned veterans of the necessity to "pay your dues." Nelly was the
sales manager when I was at KMO (Tacoma) in 1966. If there is hell on
Earth, it is working at a radio station where the GM is Jim Baine and
the sales manager is Jim Nelly. Other than gasoline and open flame,
there is no more volatile and combustible combination known to man.
They instilled in me an overwhelming need to be as far away from this
duplicitous duo as possible. My next stop was KJNO in Juneau.
I'm always reminded of the
time he poured a HOT cup of coffee into his
lap and asked the KTAC secretary what she thought of that!!! She was
speechless......and so am I!
When I was in Honolulu
working for KKUA I
got a call one day from "The Nell". He asked me to go to lunch and
proposed that I take over programming and do mornings at KORL where hehad just been made gm. Now I had never heard any of the Nelly Legendsbut was soon to be eyewitness to the birth of some new legends of theNell.
One night I got a call from my evening jock telling me what The Nell
had done that night: Jim (the jock) was doing his how when The Nell
sneaked into the building and crawled into the control room. Just as
the jock started to do a break up jumpped The Nell and said, "boo".
Scared the hell out of the guy but that was just the beginning. He
orderd the jock to stay in the back of the control room while he
brought this Hotel Street hooker into the studio. He then instructed
her how to do a station break and let her make one after every second
record for thirty minutes. When the jock called me about what was
going on I told him to put The Nell on the phone. I then told Big Jim
Nelly to get the F**k out of the station immediately and I would talk
to him the next day. He did. Next day he acted like nothing had
happened. Of cours The Nell was drunk at the time.
(fade out fade in)...Those
of you who remember my beach house under
Diamond Head know how the house faced the street on Kalakaua Ave withthe garage connected to the house. Now three years later, long after
The Nell had left the island, I heard something in the garage and went
outside to check it out. Low and behold there was The Nell going
through my garbage. I said, "Gunner, what in the hell are you doing".
With out missing a beat he said, "Oh, I'm just out jogging, see
ya"......and left. That's the last time I ever saw...The Nell. More
stories to come....I loved the one about the time he got fired from
KTAC in Tacoma...now that was a classic tale. And the one where The
Nell got mad at the Elks Club in Walla Walla, went out to his car,
brought back a gun and shot up the club. A real character who was
totally fricking nuts.
Story Number 1
My friend Steve Larson who I
worked with at KZOK, at one time did overnites
at KTAC when Jim was the GM. Along with the overnight shift, he was in
the process of putting on and was going to be the pd of KTAC-FM when it
went on the air as an AOR but it never did. Steve said one night he got to
work and Jim along with his daughter and boyfriend where there. Jim called
Steve in his office and handed him a final pay check and told him that his
daughter's boyfriend just graduated from broadcasting school and he was
giving Steve's job to him.
Another friend Paul Weston
got his start in the business from Jim in Walla
Walla at KUJ.and the first thing he did was tell Paul to change his air
name to Max Imput, give me a break me and some buddies died laughing when
told this. But one thing I was told and I don't know how true it is but
Paul had told us that Jim didn't write many letters of recomendation but he
had one when I have seen.
In addition I have met Jim
Jr. he is the PD of KMOK in Lewiston ID. and
he still does some of the crazy things that his dad did like crazy air
names with his staff. Part of his morning team is a lady named Kelly Wayne
so who ever is her morning partner is John or Duke you know the John Wayne
Morning show. I had to laugh but the station is very sucessfull. Jim jr
and his wife have been in Lewiston for five or six years and just had a
Burl had mentioned how Jim
was going to sell KUJ and a fm cp for over a
million well he did and Pat Prout just signed papers to sell KNLT the
station I am on to New Northwest he won't be making and money off the sale
he will just be getting out of the note and Jim will get his money if there
is any left after the IRS I am told. I have also heard some wild stories
about Jim when he owned the Walla Walla baseball team when it was part of
the Northwest League. I'll email a friend of mine who knows more about it
than I do and I'll try to get him to tell you; it is really funny.
(The Following wishes to remain anonymous)
WHEN I WORKED AT ONE OF
STATIONS I'D USUALLY TAKE CALLS FROM LISTENERS (OFF AIR)
WHILE ON THE BOARD--AND SOMETIMES A GIRLFRIEND OR
GROUPIE WOULD ENGAGE ME IN VIVID SEXY TALK-ONE ESPECIALLY
FORWARD 15 YEAR OLD GIRL WAS CALLING ME FOR MONTHS
OFFERING TO DO THINGS I DIDNT THINK 15 YEAR OLD GIRLS EVEN KNEW
ABOUT--ACTUALLY--SHE EVEN ASKED ME IF I WANTED TO DO SOMETHING
THAT WAS ILLEGAL IN THAT STATE--AND OF COURSE HER AGE ALONE
WAS ANO NO---SO I LET HER KNOW THAT I LOVED THE PROSPECT BUT
WOULDNT CHANCE IT --BETWEEN HER AND MY CURRENT FLAME SOME
PRETTY DESCRIPTIVE TALK WAS HAPPENING ON THAT LINE---SO ONE
DAY AFTER MANY MONTHS OF GUNNERS AND KAHUNA'S AND HUH HUH
HUH?S FROM THE NELL MAN---HE TAKES ME ASIDE AND SAYS--HEY--GOOD
LUCK WITH (GIRLFRIEND) AND DONT GET CAUGHT DOIN IT STANDING UP IN THE BATHROOM ( THE GIRL AND I HAD TALKED ABOUT THE TIME WE DID THAT --ON =THE PHONE) AND AS FOR ( GROUPIE 15 YEAR OLDS--NAME) GO FOR IT BIG GUY--HA HA HAH----he'd been listening to my version of the
penthouse =forum live -for months---fone tap----THEN WHEN I LEARNED
FROM A NOTORIUS GROUPIE THAT I WAS BEING REPLACED BY THE GUY WHO PREVIOUSLY HAD MY SHOW--i had an attitude problem--and p.d.--ignored
my huge ratings (at =the time) to re hire a buddy he could get along
with---THAT TOO WAS ON =THAT LINE--SO AFTER MY SHOW--NELLY GRABS ME FROM BEHIND AND DOES SOME MOCK HUMPING OF ME --AND SAYS SO YOU KNOW WHAT WE'RE DOIN TO YA AT THIS STATION HUH GUNNER?--HUMP -HUMP--AND I CALLED HIM CRAZIER THAN HELL--AND WORKED OUT MY TIME SOUNDING BETTER THAN I EVER HAD JUST TO PISS EM OFF----THEY WERE REALLY CONFUSED BY THEN AS TO WHETHER I SHOULD GO OR NOT-----as the improvement in my show was amazing--NEEDLESS TO SAY I ALWAYS FACED NELLY WHEN I CAME OUT OF AN OFFICE OR CONTROL ROOM FROM THEN ON----
From a Washington State broadcaster, Cokeyman:
When I read Burl Barer's
comments - which included his thoughts about Jim
Nelly .... I howled.
In the mid 1970's - WSAB
held it's annual conference at the small resort town
of Rasario, in typical Jim Murphy ( WSAB legal counsel and President ) fashion.
It was a usual Jim Murphy class event.... except for one small incident...
Jim Nelly got into some kind a major altercation in the bar - and was thrown
The Rosario Police Dept ( all 2 of them ) responded and it was all they
could do to hold him down.
Pat O'Day was ready to help whenever he could - as long as Nelly had his
It may be that Nelly and O'Day were the fighters that instigated the
Anyone who remembers the details of this incident better should let us
It's a piece of Washington Broadcast History that should not be forgotten.
By the way - this event with
Nelly may have happened the result of Nelly
expressing his anger at O'Daywho was responsible for the guest speaker at a WSAB conference at Rosariotwo years before.
O'Day had booked some Mr Wizzard guy for the finale night banquet;
He was some kind of magician or genius....
A George Frese or Einstien.
As this fellow spoke to the crowd of you could just feel the restlessness...
Pretty soon people began to jeer and rattle their plates, and talk , and
finally got up and left.His honor, Jim Murphy, was left speechless ( which seldom happened to Jim )
And Mr Wizzard was left to conclude his presentation to a mostly empty room.
I never really did figure out what either of these two infamous events of
WSAB werereally all about. Maybe someone out there can enlighten me about these...
PS - since we are exploring
the interesting characters of broadcasting ...
Does anyone know the story of Frank DelVecchio, owner of the station in
Grand Coulee ( KFDR ) for a few years in the 70's.
DelVecchio was found guilty of blowing up his own radio station - and I
believe spent time in the pen.
The current owner, Veryl Wheeler ( and current outgoing WSAB President),
bought someroom deoderizer, and changed the call sign - to try to cover up the past.
Whenever I go there - I can still smell the gun powder though.
Here is a Nelly story for your collection.
So it's long after Honolulu. Nelly is running his radio station/used
car lot in Walla Walla and naturally comes to the State Association of
Broadcasters meeting which was held at Rosario on Orcas Island. I had
seen Jim in the meetings and said Hi to him. So it's the cocktail
party before the big dinner and Jim is doing some quality drinking.
The cocktail party is in a big room where there are folding doors open
into the bar area. Jim comes up to me and says he has really looked
forward to kicking the shit out of me and asks if I have the guts to
step outside with him. I am standing with a group at the time and they
all tell Jim he should probably get some coffee or just go to his
room. Jim withdraws to the bar where he sits down in a corner booth.
Soon he is screaming at the Bartender to get him another fucking
The bartender ignores him and soon he stands up and pegs an empty
glass at the bartender. He sits there in the corner shouting insults
at the bartender until, (this should be no surprise) the Sheriffs
arrive. They walked to Nelly's booth and asked him to peacefully come
with them. Jim told them to go fuck themselves and if anyone tried to
lay a hand on him he would kick the shit out of all. What then
happened was a thing of real beauty. The Sheriffs grabbed the table
and yanked it out of the way and were on good old Jim so fast he
didn't know what hit him. They yanked him to the floor, one sheriffs
kicked him in the stomach while the other stood on his head. The cuffs
were soon on him and they drug him out of the bar, face down, pulling
him by the cuffs which held his arms behind his back.
The exit of the convention center/ dinning room bar, had a set of
about 6 steps down to where the patrol car was parked. They pulled our buddy
Jim down the steps, face first with his head going sort of "bobbity
bob" as it his each step. Then, with the issuance of more threats,
they threw him into the back of the squad car head first. I thought
his head would go clear through the door on the other side.
Jim's was back for the afternoon session the next day. Lots of
tape onhis face, a black eye and looking very hung over. He was just as
peacefull as a little lamb. We all felt very good about the whole
thing. You see, Jim, in those days, was such a classy guy!
Just got turned on to your Jim Nelly page. Worked at KUJ-AM in 1977.
Kent Phillips, now mornings at KPLZ-FM in Seattle, and I were the
weekend guys. We both went to Whitman College. We were the only ones
allowed to use our real names on the station because, Nelly told us,
"You Whitman guys are smart."
The other jocks, if memory serves, were Jockey John in the morning,
Dr. Love middays, Wee Willie Winkle in the afternoon, Mason Dixon at
night and Ivanhoe overnight. No, hey, really, seriously.
Nelly used to come in and say, "Gunner, I'm going to sign the
transmitter log tonight, so don't go directional at sundown." So we'd
blow 5,000 watts non-directional all night long. Even way up the dial
at 1420, this resulted in a great signal and we'd get calls from B.C.,
California, Montana and Seattle. Pretty heady stuff for a 20-year-old.
The transmitter was the size of six refrigerators, circa
1940-something, with vacuum tubes the size of my head. The engineer
was this sickly old guy we'd have to roll in in a wheelchair. "If he
gets it," Nelly would warn us while we watched the guy work from his
wheelchair, half delirious, "don't touch him, or you'll get it, too."
I'm not sure the guy could even see what he was doing. It was my job
to fetch him from the hospital when the transmitter went down. Nelly
was too cheap to buy a new one.
When I was first starting out, he used to call me up all the time, as
he did with everybody. He was actually pretty nice about it, and I
must have really sucked, but he'd say, "Gunner, hey listen, don't talk
so much." And I'd say, "Yeah, sure, OK," and keep talking. He never
got on me about that. I was always amazed at how much he actually
listened to the station.
I think he listened so much because he was obsessed with getting the
hell out of Walla Walla. Everything he did was geared toward making a
fortune and retiring in Hawaii. He bought the station in 1976 for
$160,000 and sold it a few years later for $1.6 million. Not a bad
My favorite story comes from the time Elvis died. As soon as Elvis
died, we had promos on the air. Something like, "KUJ, southeastern
Washington and northeastern Oregon's official hit-music and contest
station" -- we really called ourselves that, with straight faces --
"in memory of Elvis, will have an all-request Elvis weekend."
This promo ran for several days, and we were all wondering what was
going to happen, because we had maybe two Elvis records. I think
"Kentucky Rain" and "In the Ghetto." It was August 1977, and in Walla
Walla, as you probably know, the temperature spikes past 100 degrees
that time of year. About the day before the all-request Elvis weekend
began, a new promo turned up on the air. "Due to the extreme heat,
KUJ's Elvis record collection has been damaged, so we're counting on
you the listeners to bring in your Elvis records ..." You get the
idea. It was Nelly all the way. Within hours we had huge piles of
Elvis records, some of them quite valuable, which we proceeded to
slip-cue on the felt turntables.
I was pretty naive about radio at the time, but I learned fast and it
was a memorable summer. For one thing, Nelly owned the Walla Walla
Padres, the Single-A farm team for San Diego, and they had this
shortstop that year named Ozzie Smith. We all got to go to the games
for free, of course.
Nelly was a caricature of himself and embodied everything
dysfunctional and entrepreneurial and vulgar about the radio business.
I later went into newspapers, and even wrote about TV and radio for a
time. The radio business is still dysfunctional, but it's way too
corporate now to tolerate anyone as nutty as Nelly.
Chuck Taylor, Seattle
Posted May 2, 2003
Just got done reading those Jim Nelly stories, especially the one by Chuck
Taylor, in regards to the KUJ Nelly days . Man alive that was indeed a
crazy time. I was the original "Wee Willie Winkle" and yes Chuck was
correct about those outrageous, but memorable airnames. Crazy as it
sounded, I think there was a method to that twisted madness possesed by
the "Gunner"!!! He gave all the fulltime jocks charactor names so
listeners would remember them if they were to fill out a diary. Never the
less, I was at first reluctant about using the name Wee Willie Winkle. It
was March of 1977, I was a full time student at a community college in
Spokane, Washington and one night at home, my 1st wife and I (been married
4 times now) were scanning the am dial for our CFUN fix, when I suddenly
discover this powerful station called KUJ, featuring a high energy night
jock called Mason Dixon. At first I thought it was a good sounding station
out of California, but low and behold at the top of the hour I hear Mason
saying...."KUJ WALLA WALLA (jingle kuj) It's 10 O'clock at Washington and
Oregon's Official Hit Music and Contest Station.....".(Must've been one of
those 5000 watt non-directional nights, because it was coming in clear as
a bell). Since I was itching to get into radio (especially top 40 and too
green for KJRB), I called this KUJ in Walla Walla and as I was getting all
the info from the receptionist, when suddenly I hear this voice break in
saying> "Hey Gunner how's the weather in Spokane..ah ah... smooth how the
guy just cuts in like that..ah ah...funny how the guy gets carried
away..Anyway who is this calling from Spokane? By the way this is Jim
Nelly"....Needless to say I was taken by surprise and I was only calling
to get the KUJ mailing address and the contact name to send my tape and
resume. I didn't expect to talk to Nelly until after he had the chance to
listen to my aircheck. Nelly told me to produce an aircheck, no more than
2 minutes, with one produced spot, one dry voiced spot and a 3 story
newscast, mail it out tomorrow morning and then call him in a week. Nelly
always had this particular way of telling you to do it like this and then
by the next day, it was a different ballgame. Well a week goes by, I call
the Nell and he wasn't sure where he had the aircheck and instructed me to
call him back at exactly 9:49am the next morning. Okay!!! I'm getting to
think, there's something peculiar about this guy, but damn I sure love
that "big-time" sound from that small Walla Walla radio station. I call
him next morning at 9:49am, he says, "Yeah I heard your tape....and it
fuckin' sounded like shit....(long pause)...ahhhh!!! funny how the guys
goes for the jugular.. No actually your tape was okay...you've got some
potential gunner...let me ask you..would you like to start working here at
KUJ, in lets say around May 15th?" My answer, "Uh Yeah, When Can I come
down and look over the facility?" "Well let me see Gunner.. how about
thefirst week in April,bring a new aircheck with you". The first day I
stepped foot into KUJ, I meet this Jim Nelly who with very little words,
motions me tohandover my new aircheck. After listening to about the first
minute, he takes the tape off and as he walks out of the prod. room, he
tosses it in the garbage. I'm standing there all mortified, when seconds
later he comes back in the room with this insane type of laughter.."Ah
Gunner, kinda funny how the guy gets carried away..Hey the aircheck is
okay..You've got potential and we'll start you in the middle of May at
$600 a month. A week before the week I start at KUJ, Nelly's GSM, Andy
Harle calls me out of a deep sleep (I was at the dentist and coming down
from the novacane) to inform me my airname was Wee Willie Winkle (run that
by again). Then Andy proceeded to tell me that he needed me to voice a
quick promo over the phone that I'm Wee Willie Winkle from Spokane, I'll
be your new afternoon dj from 3-7 this Monday on KUJ The More Music
Station. I about shit bricks because I expected to work the mid-6 shift
for starters...not afternoon drive. Just 2 days shy of my 21st birthday,
I was doing my first fulltime top 40 gig and ofcourse Nelly was apart of
the action, taking over the board, crackin' the mic and suddenly calling
himself Wee Willie Winkle's personal assistant, "Peter Pan from Spokane".
During my 4 years at KUJ, 6 months afternoons and 3 1/2 years mornings,
whenever Jim Nelly went on the air, he always had a different name for
himself. Johnny Rock...Clark Kent...and the all time
favorite..."Ben-Dover". I've worked with many peculiar people in this
business we call radio, but Jim Nelly takes the cake. I look at it this
way, if you could work for Jim Nelly (and his unpredictable disposition)
you could work for anyone in this radio business.