This page last updated
Sunday, May 20, 2012
Jack Sanders Page
One of WAKY's
earliest star DJs was afternoon man Jack Sanders. Any
articles, information or photos we can find about Jack will be
posted on this page.
Jack's real name was
James Dale Spence. According to
Jack's former brother-in-law, the Jack Sanders airname was born at KGKO in Dallas in
1956 when the KGKO Program Director told him, "Jim Spence sounds like the
name of the guy who delivers my mail. From now on you are Jack Sanders."
Jack was voted "America's Greatest Disc
Jockey of the Year" by Movie Mirror Magazine (article below).
He was by far the most
listened to deejay in Louisville in his time. A leader in the Louisville
music scene, Sander established several record labels, recording studios,
talent agencies and booking agencies.
After charges that Jack had "carnal
knowledge" with an under-aged girl, Jack left Louisville for Nashville where
he worked as road manager for Hank Williams, Jr. He later owned and operated the Spotland Company, one of Nashville's most successful advertising agencies.
Jack died in February, 1978 in Nashville from liver disease and pneumonia.
|Former WAKY news director Bob (Tom) Watson is collecting
tales about legendary WAKY DJ Jumpin' Jack Sanders for an
upcoming project. They can even be "adult oriented" stories.
Have something to share? E-mail him:
Listen to Jack
Sanders WAKY airchecks here;
enjoy some of his WAKY monster movie commercials
Tom D. Kennedy Remembers Jack Sanders
We asked Tom D.
Kennedy, Jack's ex-brother-in-law, to shed some insight on the man
many regard as one of WAKY's most popular DJs. He sent us this
excellent piece on June 20, 2006.
Much of what has been contributed
relates to Jack's presence in the Louisville market and his
notoriety as part of the WAKY air team. True, he was part of a
talented stable of jocks that McLendon dispatched to "Kentuckiana"
to mark the literal bursting forth of WAKY from the old WGRC and the
first rock and roll thunder on the Ohio. And what followed, plainly,
was a long line of super (hyper) gifted air people of whom Jack
said, "The open-up people Gordon has put here won't be the end of
what WAKY is setting out to do in this market."
So with this as a scene setter for my observations on Jack I thought
I would couch my contribution in terms of where Jack came from and
what his evolution in the business was like. It seems that the
"early years" of a notable talent's development often are
overlooked. Endless information has been published on Jack's
presence at WAKY -- dances on the Belle, promotional campaigns, and
such -- so I will address what he was like and what he did before
Jack Sanders was "born."
Jim Spence, Staff Announcer of KLTI,
waiting for his cue to
make station identification and switch on the next program. (1955)
The KLTI staff; the future Jack Sanders is
the second from the left. (1955)
James Dale Spence in the early 1950s made a rather normal (read that
inauspicious) entry into radio working for one of his relatives in
what still is known as typical small market radio -- horrible hours,
worse pay, and using the out-of-the-way settings to learn the craft
or radio and be able to make mistakes and not be fired for them.
Early airchecks of newscasts he did showed him struggling with
diction and delivery, but, as he would prove time and again, Jack
was a fast learner who profited from his mistakes.
Long story short, still known as Jim Spence he began the inevitable
announcer's trail of market advances winding up along the way in
Longview, Texas, on staff at station KLTI which belonged to a world
famous industrialist. Jim at that time was only 18 or so but already
possessed a commanding on-air presence and a pro-quality voice that
caused everyone to ask him, "Why are you here instead of at some
A young Tom D. Kennedy with Jack Sanders
Truth was he used every air shift as a learning experience and
didn't dream of "someday," although he was ambitious. Jim realized
that he did indeed perhaps have more talent and ability than many,
considering his lack of tenure in the business. But he fully knew
when the time was right and all the factors came into focus, it
It was during his stay in Longview
that he met my sister Carole, and the first time he appeared in our
family living room I remember the windows literally vibrating when
he talked. With Jim it wasn't a put on, that was the way he talked.
Even my parents who were impressed by little, took note.
The future Jack Sanders with wife Carole
on their honeymoon in March 1956
Cutting further to the chase, he and my sister married shortly
thereafter and Jim Spence established a notable presence at stations
in Lufkin, Texas, Waco, Texas, and Amarillo, Texas. At each stop
people around him acknowledged that he wouldn't be there long, that
bigger and better opportunities awaited him. The amazing fact about
his professional growth was that Jim consciously learned from
everyone who surrounded him in those early years. He thoroughly
enjoyed radio and everyday behind the microphone was an adventure
One day in 1956 he received a call in Amarillo from the PD at Dallas
station KGKO, an early-on competitor to Gordon McLendon's legendary
KLIF. (KGKO would later become KBOX) and continue doing battle with
KLIF until its owners gave up the run and switched to a country
format. But it was at then KGKO that the PD told Jim Spence his
named lacked pizzazz and didn't sound "flashy" enough and that he
needed a new air name. Accounts vary as to exactly how the name
"Jack Sanders" was chosen but he adopted it minutes before going
on-air at KGKO, and the name stuck.
McLendon and his national PD kept
close tabs on the competition at the group's stations all over the
country, so when Jack Sanders began stealing some of KLIF 's
notoriety (or thunder), McLendon used a much-relied-upon ploy and
moved to relocate him out of the Dallas market. McLendon in 1957 had
purchased an existing station in Shreveport, Louisiana, and gave it
the call letters KEEL. Jack soon heard from McLendon as he was
putting together a top-flight open up team to go into Shreveport and
set the up until then rather sleepy radio town on its ear.
Shreveport was at that time best known for station KWKH and its
Louisiana Hayride but not much else in terms of radio. Jack began in
PM drive and held that slot until his departure for Louisville and
WAKY. KEEL's signal had grade A coverage across the Louisiana-Texas
line in East Texas, and that's when I more or less lost my identity
and became known simply as "Jack Sanders' brother-in-law."
A young Tom D. Kennedy with Jack Sanders
The stay in Shreveport was a wholly successful venture. McLendon, as
was his bent, stopped at nothing to promote and position KEEL. Every
month brought something new -- the period's ever-popular flag pole
sitting promotions, treasure hunts with high money and prize
payoffs, the works. Jack found Shreveport a comfortable venue and
attracted a widespread following the likes of which in Louisiana and
East Texas had never been privy the brand of powerhouse radio and
jocks that Jack Sanders and company ushered in to the region.
In 1958, McLendon notified Jack and several others they were going
to Louisville to start WAKY. Jack and my sister truly liked
Shreveport and my sister, when told of the plan, asked, "What on
earth is in Louisville?" Jack told her, "If Gordon has his way, one
outstanding radio station."
John -- the rest would be a rehash of what everybody for the most
part already knows. What some people may NOT know is that Jack was a
loyal Alfred Hitchcock fan. Every Sunday night he was literally
glued to the television screen, soaking up Hitchcock's latest plot
and surprise ending. His favorite episode was the one in which a
woman beat her husband to death with a frozen roast, then cooked it
and served it up to the police officers investigating the homicide.
So much for "method" in her commission of the crime.
Photo of Jack Sanders taken during his
All this, I cheerfully admit, is
much too long, but I'm hoping it will provide some context on Jack's
existence and give you some material from which you can edit,
summarize, and somehow add a new dimension to the man who became
Jack Sanders. Let me know if there are any gaping holes you would
need me to fill. Along with the lost airchecks and personal pictures
I had on Jack, a special loss consisted of the endless pictures I
had of him doing a marathon in Dallas at KGKO in 1957. [Webmaster
note: the KGKO photos have been found, and several are posted
below.] The images
were priceless and I've often thought the episode of The Dick Van
Dyke Show in which Rob Petrie does a department store window
marathon was based on some specific incidents in Jack's 100-hour
plus run on the air, done (as many of them were) in a high
visibility location--this one in the showroom of Mohr Chevrolet on
Central Expressway in Dallas.
shot for Jack Sanders' Mohr Chevrolet remote
(standing) and unidentified KGKO engineer before the Mohr
Chevrolet remote started
during the Mohr Chevrolet marathon remote on KGKO in 1957
and two lovely ladies at the Mohr Chevrolet marathon
Jack Sanders and two lovely
ladies at the Mohr Chevrolet marathon
catches some shuteye during the 1957 Mohr Chevrolet marathon
gets carried out after the Mohr Chevrolet marathon broadcast
My objective here is to supply
information that most likely is little known or not known at all
about the Jumper. And the Jumper moniker originated in Louisville. I
can't recall it ever being part of his persona before then. I do
recall, though, at endless hops and shows with the Trendells,
Carnations, Cosmo, et al when he would go up on stage the crowd
would chant, "Jump, Jump, Jump," and he would bounce all over the
stage--admittedly a bit campish by today's standards but a big hit
in those crazy times of the late '50s and early '60s when rock and
roll was king and the jocks who sold it were almost as big as the
groups who played it.
Jack Sanders with son James Dale Spence, Jr.
and wife Carole at home in Louisville
I must admit to really regressing while writing this piece. Those
magic moments that were so real yet just a flash pop in time are
very, very special to everyone who not only experienced but actually
lived the era. It provided the context for what actually is music
today. This period's teenagers and those in their early 20s-30s fail
to realize that had it not been for those of the McLendon-Sanders-et
al era we might still be listening to block programming and
announcers who lead into a song with, "Patti Page now asking the
musical question..." Jack said many times this music will last
almost forever, but times and people certainly will change and the
Top 40 format will move into something else, with our music now
taking on a less prominent role than it assumes now.
Jack Sanders in front of his Louisville home
Jack was very much a free spirit, but also extremely introspective
-- and realistic enough to know it would be a good run but not a
permanent run. It sort of resembles the changing times theory that
flowed underneath the story line in American Graffiti. I recall Jack
once saying driving on the Watterson past the Ralston-Purina plant
(which always smelled like a huge bowl of Wheaties), "These are
fantastic times and this town is being very good to us, but we'd
better enjoy it because it'll only be a memory someday." Much like
the Margaret Houlihan character once said in an episode of M*A*S*H,
"One day they'll declare peace and THEN where will I be?"
I've received a few e-mails from people who saw my contributions on
the Reel Radio site, people who didn't care much for Jack and his
ways. To them I have simply responded that I was aware of it all but
certainly had no power to change him. Right or wrong you had to let
Jack be Jack. There was some definite bad there, but also not to be
denied was a wealth of talent. I've always maintained that "show
folk are just different" and chose to let it go at that.
Jack Sanders in Nashville in the '70s
I think of Jack often and choose to remember the good over the bad.
I'm just sorry we lost him in such an untimely way. One of the great
regrets in my life is not being able to attend the memorial service
for him in Nashville in 1978. I was in the throes of completing my
doctoral degree and couldn't manage even a day away for a trip to
Nashville. To have taken leave would have caused me to delay
graduating for a semester, and after three plus years in the
doctoral program, I NEEDED to finish and get away. (Doctoral
programs have that effect on candidates--to get the degree before it
For what it's worth in closing, Jack constantly recognized the
tremendous talent of his contemporaries at WAKY -- and all the other
stations at which he worked. He had a great appreciation for people
such as Tim Tyler. Jack Grady, Jim Brand, and a host of others who
made up the initial roster of talents who put WAKY "on the map". I am
appreciative to have been asked to share my perspective on Jack's
presence in the business.
Note: Tom Kennedy passed away May
11, 2010 in Longview Texas.
September 1959 Movie Mirror Article
Cover of the issue that included this
Greatest Disc Jockeys
Louisville's Jack Sanders
Things are really movin' -- from Louisville to Cincinnati -- when
Jumpin' Jack Sanders takes to his turntable six days a week at WAKY
in the Kentucky city. An estimated 40,000 people in Kentucky,
Indiana and Ohio tune his way for the Top 40 Show, which is
broadcast from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from noon till
6 p.m. Saturday.
A native of Hutchinson, Kansas, twenty-three-year-old Jack (whose
real name is Jim), has made the move from a "dime-a-dozen" announcer
on a small radio station owned by his cousin to one of the top-rated
air salesmen in the country. But speed comes naturally to the
good-natured deejay who's crammed a powerful lot of accomplishments
into his young life. Like how? Like so. When he was ten years old
and living in Eastland, Texas, he set out to become an excellent
rider. At twelve, in Lampasas, Texas, he became interested in golf
and won several titles. The summer he was fifteen he worked at KERC,
an Eastland radio station owned by his cousin. After graduating from
high school in Brownwood, Texas in 1952, he started classes at Cisco
Junior College, going to school in the day, working as a deejay at
night. Six months later he had his first offer as a full-time disc
jockey in Thomasville, Ga. Rated tops in the area at eighteen, Jack
then moved on to Moultree, Ga., as announcer, deejay and news
director. Within six weeks he had helped local police solve a murder
case involving a prison warden and was rewarded with special awards
from both the Associated and United Press wire services.
An estimated 40,000 people tune in on
Jack Sanders' Top 40 Show, aired on WAKY.
Jack's next deejay assignment was
in Longview, Texas, where he soon advanced to program director -- at
nineteen. That's when he also met his future wife, Carol, who'd won
a Voice of Democracy Speech Contest. As acting news director Jack
got involved in breaking up a vice ring, and on his dates with Carol
he was often supplied police protection. After he and Carol were
married on November 15, 1955, they moved first to Amarillo and later
to Dallas, with Jack working at KFDA and KGKO, respectively. Jack
was twenty and working in Dallas when he decided to break the
national record for radio marathons. Broadcasting from the window of
a new car showroom, he carried on a deejay show for 130 hours, 32
minutes and 12 second without stopping!
Jack next went to Shreveport, La., where he became the teenagers'
symbol of fun and fair play. In addition to managing Dale Hawkins, a
top recording artist, he put on floor shows and dances for teenagers
of the area every weekend. Three months later, Jack, along with five
other disc jockeys, was called to Louisville to start another
station -- WAKY.
Jack, Carol and their two-year old son Jack Sanders, Jr. live in an
eight-room apartment overlooking the Ohio River Valley. The busy
young deejay still likes horseback riding, polo, swimming and
yachting - and in his "spare" time he makes personal appearances to
fight juvenile delinquency.
Why did Jack start in the business? "I just generally dug the idea
of being a jock." Why has he stuck with it? "I love working with
young people." Would he do it all again? Silly question!
1960 Movie Mirror Article
Greatest Disc Jockey of the Year
The Winner: Louisville's Jack Sanders
Our nation-wide contest to choose
America's Greatest Disc Jockey brought such a staggering response it
took weeks to tall the votes! The winner? WAKY's Jack Sanders, who
won by a landslide!
Reviewing his fabulous career, it
is easy to se why Jack, one of the youngest deejays in the business
(he's a mere twenty-three!), won your unanimous votes. Seen six days
a week on WAKY, Jack began his brilliant career at a mere fifteen.
That year, while still attending high school, he worked at KERC, an
Eastland station owned by his cousin.
In 1952, he juggled classes at
Cisco Junior College with a night-time deejay job. At eighteen, in
his first full time triple-role job as deejay, announcer and news
director for a Moultrie, Georgia station, he sleuthed enough to help
solve a significant murder case. Jack next worked in the Texas, then
Shreveport, Louisiana areas.
While a program director in
Longview, Texas, Jack met lovely Carole, a Voice of Democracy Speech
contest winner who was was soon to become his bride. She'll never
forget those early dates, vows Carole even today. Since Jack was an
active participant in cracking a vice ring, he needed police
protection so a "bodyguard" chaperone gave them little seclusion for
Kansas-born Jack, son Jack Jr. and wife
Carol, live near the Ohio River Valley.
Now Mom of two-and-a-half-year-old
Jackie Jr., Carol is rightfully proud of her successful hubby -- and
Jack is grateful to WAKY for giving him the biggest break of all.
Our hats off to you, Jack, for
winning our America's Greatest Disc Jockey poll. You deserve it.
Jack Sanders Memories
Former WAKY newsman and Jack Sanders
fan Byron Crawford remembers Jack:
"I remember when Jack Sanders recorded
this weird, mysterious thing that sounded like a commercial for some
new product but nobody ever knew what it was. It began with dramatic
heavy music, then Sanders' big movie spot-like delivery: 'Sleek,
black trucks roar through the night...on a mission for better living
in Kentuckiana. Eola Piles are on their way to Louisville. Stay
tuned for further information about this revolutionary new....blah,
blah, blah.' He never said what they were, only how fantastic they
were. Everybody was saying, 'What in the Sam Hill are Eola Piles?'
That was Sanders and that WAS WAKY in the glory days."
Jack Sanders (sitting) and WAKY engineer Todd Kirk
Here are David Cox's memories of an
early '60s visit to WAKY while Jack was on the air:
"My interest in radio started early in
life, I can't remember exactly when, maybe at birth. Anyway when I
was fourteen, I discovered that in order to get into radio, I needed
to pass my FCC Third Class license test. After a week or so of
preparing for the exam and being too young to drive, my friend Jim
and I boarded a train in Winchester for a trip to Louisville, where
the test was being administered.
"At that time in my life, WAKY was 'The Station' and Jumpin' Jack
was 'The Man.' After completing the FCC exam, and with several hours
before the train was scheduled to make its trip back to Winchester,
we decided a visit to WAKY and meeting 'El Jump' would be a great
way to top off our trip. I located a pay telephone near the front of
the Federal Building, where the test was given, called WAKY and
managed to talk my way into the control room and connect with
Sanders. I conveyed my interest in radio and especially with WAKY.
Jack said 'Hell Yes! Come on up,' and gave us directions. It didnít
take us long to arrive at the original WAKY studios where we were
greeted with near VIP hospitality, of which I was unaccustomed to,
but welcomed. The receptionist gave us the grand tour, which ended
with an invitation to have a seat in the control room for a visit
"Jack was very quick-witted and was quick to hone-in on my keen
interest in radio. He was using the first tape cartridge machines I
had seen. This was most interesting because prior to this visit, I
had only seen small, three-inch reel-to-reel tapes used for
commercials and jingles. Jack took the time to explain exactly how
they worked and let me examine one of the cartridges.
Jack Sanders from an early 60s WAKY promotional
"It was shortly after I had returned the cart to the lazy-Susan
wire-rack when a cocktail waitress, in full traditional early 60s
attire, came through the control room door. She was dressed in
high-heels and a mid-thigh length black skirt with her bosom pushed
up and overflowing out of her top, quite a sight for an Eastern
Kentucky fourteen-year old boy. She was carrying a round tray and
gracefully balancing three drinks, probably Manhattans. Jack
received the drinks one by one placing them in a straight line just
behind one the turntables and winking at the waitress as a gesture
of thanks. With one hand he placed a ten-dollar tip on the round
tray while with the other hand patting her, playfully on the behind.
The waitress laughed with a sexy giggle as she exited the control
room. With all of this distraction and a side game of Chess going on
with his newsman, Jack didnít miss a single break or segue on the
air. His 'on the air' style and personality flowed with ease as if
this was an everyday experience. To this day, I have never seen
anyone so relaxed and at ease during an afternoon drive-time shift.
"After downing two of the drinks, Jack asked us to please excuse him
a minute, picked up the telephone, and dialed a number. After doing
a live tag on the air about bus advertising in Louisville, he was
talking with his bookie, placing bets on afternoon races at
Churchill Downs. He was on the phone for perhaps five minutes or so,
taking time from the conversation to intro a record, read a live
spot and make a move on the chessboard. Was I impressed? You know
it. Was this part of Jump's show, to impress visitors, or just the
norm? I am still not sure.
WAKY DJs Jack Sanders, Gene Snyder and Greg
"The old clock on the wall was moving toward 3:55 PM, our train was
scheduled to depart at 4:55 PM, so I knew we needed to end our WAKY
visit shortly. I thanked Mr. Sanders for the visit, and said we
needed to get to the train station. While downing another one of the
drinks, he insisted that we needed to experience a Gerry Wood
newscast before we departed. Gerry, in the adjacent studio, was well
into the news, when Sanders grabbed a 45 record from the rack and
rolled his chair under the console desk. From our vantage point; we
couldnít exactly determine what Jump was doing with the record and
both of his hands under the desk. With about two minutes remaining
in the newscast, Sanders rolled the chair out from the desk, got up
from the chair and climbed onto the desk just in front of the
control board. He was facing Gerry, only separated by about two feet
and the glass window. It was only seconds until we figured out what
he was up to under the desk. With both hands in the air and his
manhood dangling through the hole in center of the 45-record, he did
a hip-rolling imitation of Elvis. Wood ended his newscast as quickly
as possible, with the last thirty seconds totally in complete
"That was my only encounter with Jack
Sanders. Needless to say, Jim and I had lots to talk about on our
train trip home."
Have a memory about Jack Sanders
(or any facet of WAKY) you'd like to share?
E-mail the Webmaster