Man From Mars Productions
seldom heard on the air, the influence of Bertha G. Porter
was widely felt off the air at WDRC for almost
a quarter century.
in Springfield, MA on July 24, 1915, Bertha joined WDRC on
June 4, 1945 helping out in bookkeeping and on the telephone switchboard.
It was the heyday of network radio so local stations didn't play
much recorded music. But Bertha was put in charge of WDRC's
collection of 30,000 records. As record librarian, and later music
director, her ears were keenly attuned to the tastes of contemporary
America (her own favorite performer was the late Buddy Clark). Bertha
segued easily from the middle-of-the-road music aired during the
station's CBS affiliation into rock and roll.
What's Doing 'Round Connecticut column on October 22, 1963
said of Bertha:
radio bug bit Bertha in the days of the crystal set and earphones.
Her first taste of the record business came when she worked Saturdays
at a record store in Springfield, Massachusetts. Instead of getting
paid in dollars Bertha asked to be paid in records and the owner
of the shop agreed. Even in those years Bertha was a Big "D"
listener. Saturday nights she'd drop into the station to talk
with the announcer on duty. One day the program manager called
up asking if she would like to work for the station as record
and Cleveland were secondary markets with reputations for being
good places to test new record product, so a few minutes with Bertha
was a coveted prize for promoters from labels large and small. Her
choices of music resulted in national recognition and at least 15
gold records for being the first to play singles that went on to
become national hits. Among the awards she received:
gold record for Al Martino's "I Love You Because"
- winner of the 1963 Music Director of the Year award from
the trade magazine, the Gavin Report
for the third consecutive year, winner of Music Director of the
Year from the Gavin Report
March 1966 -
gold record (#5) for The Wonder Who's "Don't Think Twice"
gold record (#6) for The Happenings "See You In September"
1966 & 1967
- successive Music Director of the Year from the Gavin Award
- gold record (#7) for Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves
- gold record (#8) for the Young Rascals "Good Lovin'"
- gold record (#9) for Tommy James & The Shondells' "Hanky
1967 - gold record (#10) for the Easy Beats' "Friday
On My Mind"
June 1968 -
gold record for Gene & Debbie's "Playboy"
music director Bertha Porter receives a gold record from Al Khoury
of Capitol Records for her efforts in making Al Martino's I Love
You Because a national hit (Billboard Magazine, August 3, 1963)
1967 - Bertha with WDRC's Don
Wade (left) and WABC's Bob Lewis (right)
Charlie Parker and Bertha Porter receive a public service
award from the March of Dimes
was held in very high esteem by longtime Billboard Magazine radio
editor Claude Hall. In the November 23, 1968 issue he called her
the "queen of music directors," quoting Bertha's
philosophy for picking new records:
I like the record or I don't. But I'm not so stubborn that if
a record becomes a hit anyway I'll ignore it. There have been
records that I didn't like that became hits...but before they
did, we were playing them."
years Bertha had a weekly chore every Thursday - telephoning some
three dozen Connecticut record retailers to collect the sales data
she depended on to formulate the Big
D Swinging Sixty Survey.
her 2001 book, Invisible Stars: A Social History of Women
in American Broadcasting, historian Donna
L. Halper quoted WDRC program director Charlie
Parker on Bertha's work ethic:
planned out every announcer's show...she wrote it out on a yellow
legal pad. Every day she would plot out every show - how many
male vocalists, how many females, how many instrumentals; nothing
got played at WDRC unless Bertha Porter said so."
(used with permission)
August 6, 1969, radio and record industry luminaries gathered in
the Hartford Hilton's Terrace Room to honor Bertha at a retirement
party after 24 years at Big D.
final years were quite sad. For a time Bertha moved to Boston and
worked as a singles buyer for a record company. She later worked
for a toy manufacturer in the Boston area. One day her subscription
to The Rudman Report, a weekly record sheet, was returned
marked "deceased." Kal Rudman called Atlantic Records
executives Bob and Jerry Greenberg who tracked down the story. Bertha
G. Porter died on January 14, 1978, at the age of 63, having spent
three years at the Municipal State Hospital in Springfield with
heart trouble. There was no public funeral and no one at WDRC
knew of her death until after she was buried.
WINF's Uncle Jay Edwards, WDRC's
Jim Jeffrey, Joey Reynolds, Bertha
Porter, Dick Robinson & Ken Griffin review Connecticut School
of Broadcasting newsletter, 1969
English & Charlie Parker pose with
WDRC's gold record for R.B. Greaves'
"Take A Letter Maria" in January, 1970
English succeeded Bertha as WDRC's music director. He was
a local who had been in the first graduating class of Dick
Robinson's Connecticut School of Broadcasting in 1965 (along
with classmate Frank
Holler). After graduation he went on to accounting school before
pursuing radio employment.
started at Big D in September 1968, working in the Traffic Department.
In June 1969 Charlie Parker told him he would be replacing a living
had exactly one week to learn how the music library functioned.
It was a daunting task for him to learn the names of all the record
promoters Bertha had been meeting with for so many years. He also
had to quickly learn how to do the callout research necessary for
the Big D Big Sound Survey.
believes Bertha's sudden retirement was not her own choice.
The last thing Bertha did on her way out the door of 750 Main Street
was to add "Honky Tonk Women," by the Rolling Stones,
as a hit-to-be. Talk about going out a winner!
continued the tradition of collecting gold records. In his years
as music director he racked up a couple of dozen including:
Greaves' "Take A Letter Maria"
Cuff Links' "Tracy"
"Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye"
& West's "American City Suite"
Preston's "Outa Space"
Jerry's "In The Summertime"
Nilsson's "Without You"
Reddy's "I Don't Know How To Love Him"
"American City Suite" goes gold in 1972 on ABC/Dunhill.
(Front l-r:) Dunhill's Dick Lempke and
(Back l-r:) Program director Charlie
Parker, music director
Jim English, overnight host Barry Grant,
and 7PM-midnight host Gary DeGraide
English spent 12 years at WDRC. The radio industry was changing
and he could see his days as an off-air music director were limited.
In October 1980 the ax fell and Jim was one of several staffers
let go in an economic cutback.
took the civil service test, intending to work at the Post Office,
but instead latched on to a new venture called Enterprise Radio,
a national talk & sports venture based in Avon. Jim left after
nine months and Enterprise Radio ultimately failed (to be replaced
shortly after by ESPN).
April 1982 he went to work at the Aetna Insurance Company and is
still there in 2010. Jim English lives in Wethersfield