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J.J. Jackson came to WBCN in the fall of 1968, after the underground rock station had shrugged off its classical music past and programmed free-form music 24/7. Once slotted into the midday shift, he would achieve industry notoriety as the earliest radio proponent of an unknown new band named Led Zeppelin and later, as one of MTV’s first group of video jocks.
Jackson held down a computer technology job, but was a novice DJ himself, on WTUF at Tufts. He tuned in 104.1 and was blown away: “I really flipped out over it,” Jackson told Record World in June 1978. “I went up to visit Peter [Wolf] while he was on the air, and I just fell in love with the station and everyone I met.”
“I knew JJ Jackson to be a 300-pound R & B singer,” Wolf recalled. “So he called me. I said, ‘Come on by.’ I opened the door and there was this thin cat there, wearing the whole ‘Super-fly’ outfit. I realized, ‘This is not the R & B singer.’ Hey says, ‘I love your show; can I come up?’ He seemed genuinely into the station, so I said, ‘Sure!’
“Early on we wanted to hire a black guy,” Sam Kopper explained, “plus, JJ Jackson was just a sweet human being. The racial irony of [it] was that out of all of us, he probably played the least Motown and soul, and the most Led Zeppelin and Yardbirds.” JJ’s memorable moments included bringing Zeppelin, The Who and Jimi Hendrix onstage as well as hosting Pete Townshend in the ‘BCN studio to debut Tommy.
In November 1970, Jackson departed ‘BCN to accept an offer from KLOS-FM in Los Angeles; ten years later, he’d be plucked by MTV. He died in 2004 from a heart attack.
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(by Carter Alan)
Carter Alan is a former WBCN DJ now heard on WZLX-FM in Boston. He is the author of Radio Free Boston: The Rise and Fall of WBCN (University Press of New England, 2013), available here as well as from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.