Jim Lowe, a Missouri native, worked his way to Chicago as a disc jockey and singer/songwriter. He was signed in 1954 by Mercury Records where his recording of one of his own songs, “Gambler’s Guitar.” climbed in the charts. One year later Lowe switched cities and labels, moving in 1955 to Dot Records inNew York City. He quickly scored with the novelty songs, “Close the Door (They’re Coming in the Windows),” and “Green Door,” which became a #1 hit. Other Lowe singles including, “Maybelline,” and “Four Walls,” and two albums followed for Dot, as Lowe continued a transition from recording to radio.
Jim Lowe joined WNEW in 1962 moving into the overnight “Milkman’s Matinee”. He also hosted “Jim Lowe’s New York”. Lowe soon developed a strong reputation for his command of Broadway and showbiz lore and trivia. Jim left WNEW in 1969 and rejoined The World’s Greatest Radio station, WNEW, in 1973.
As WNEW reentered the Adult Big Band/Standards format in the 1980’s, Jim took a leadership position as a program manager. During this period Lowe did an outstanding job of providing the listener a sample of the sophistication that was WNEW’s trademark.
In this position, he continued to work with colleagues: William B. Williams, who hosted “The Make Believe Ballroom” a true professional and pal of the singer he called “Francis” and “Chairman of the board”; Ted Brown, with his cornball jokes and insatiable girl hunger; and the intellectual Jonathan Schwartz, a former rock jock, who brought a freewheeling FM sensibility to the AM stations.
Jim continued through the 80’s hosting his 3pm show “Jim Lowes Music Hall”. If it was Matinee Day, a visit to Charley O’s at Shubert Alley would find “Mr. Broadway,” afternoon disc jockey Jim Lowe, chatting it up with Cleo Laine and other performers or persuading the great Sylvia Syms to get up and hush the house with her songs.
As ratings started to fade, management teams changed and formats were updated, the impact hit Lowe hard. Lowe was dismissed in 1987 after a total of two decades with WNEW. At the time Lowe commented in the press: “new management was unwilling to enhance and protect the station’s 3 share and created the hodgepodge in a bid for revenues that alienated the core audience. If you’re going to play Chinese bells on the air, that’s fine, but you’ve got to do it for twenty four hours,”
Commenting on his broadcasting style Lowe commented in 1984:
“In order to succeed in radio, particularly New York, you have to have a rough edge. You can’t sound like an announcer. Another prerequisite is that you can’t sound like a New Yorker, because New Yorkers don’t like their own accents. I’ve always felt being from another part of the country has been a definite asset.”
Listen to a Jim Lowe interview with Hoagy Carmichael on WNEW-AM from 1981: