David Carroll: Miracle Man Tommy Jett

Saturday, January 10, 2015 - by David Carroll
Tommy Jett, surrounded by radio friends at his Hall of Fame induction, May 4, 2013
Tommy Jett, surrounded by radio friends at his Hall of Fame induction, May 4, 2013

On May 4, 2013, a silver-haired man with a ring on every finger stepped up to the podium at the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame banquet. The newly inducted deejay thanked his family, his listeners, his God, and his “close personal friends.” Thankfully, he didn’t name each of them because it would have taken all night. In a career now spanning 54 years, 74-year-old Tommy Jett has amassed a following like few others. Starting at WFLI (AM 1070) in Chattanooga, Tommy had provided the soundtrack to the Baby Boomer generation. On Jan. 10, "TJ the DJ” celebrated the publication of his biography, a day he never thought he would see.

On April 18, 2012, the longtime diabetic lost consciousness while driving along a rural north Georgia road. His car went airborne, flipping a half-dozen times before landing in a ditch. Emergency workers spent the next four hours removing Tommy from the wreckage, using the “Jaws of Life.” Walker County Deputy Bruce Coker led the rescue effort. “I thought there was no way we could get him out alive,” Coker said later. 

Yet within days, Tommy was holding court in his hospital room, recovering from neck surgery. He was determined to attend his annual Entertainers Reunion, scheduled in May. As Tommy said, “If I’m above ground, I’ll be there.” He made that date, and even emceed the Riverbend Festival in June. But he was looking more gaunt by the day, losing weight rapidly. The once robust rock-and-roller had lost his appetite. 

It all came to a head in late June. His wife Charlene, who had tried mightily to get him to eat, called 911. He had lapsed into a coma. He was rushed to a Chattanooga hospital, and friends started spreading the word: this didn’t look good. 

On Sunday, July 1, the phone calls went out. “If you want to see Tommy Jett alive, you’d better hurry.” He was being kept alive on a respirator, and doctors told Charlene the bad news: “He will never get better.” That afternoon, she told friends she was beginning to accept the inevitable. By morning, family members were called in to say goodbye. Funeral arrangements were made, a church was chosen, pallbearers were notified. 

What happened next has yet to be explained, scientifically anyway. Some longtime radio friends hatched an idea. Yes, Tommy was lying in a hospital bed, lifeless. But what did Tommy enjoy more than anything else? Being on the radio, playing the hits. So the radio guys got a boombox, loaded in some CD recordings of Tommy’s WFLI “Night Train” shows from the 1960s, and cranked it up at the head of Tommy’s bed. When one disc ran out, a new one was put in. Elvis, the Supremes, the Beatles, all introduced by Tommy’s familiar “Hey Now” greeting. Just as it had aired on transistor radios 50 years earlier. 

Monday morning arrived, and to everyone’s surprise, doctors did not “pull the plug.” They told the family that Tommy had shown slight signs of improvement. Tommy was still in a deep sleep, as the music played on. “Come on and be my little…good luck charm,” Elvis crooned. Tommy’s lively voice would interrupt between songs: “Nineteen minutes after midnight, you’re movin’ and grooving, with Super-Jett, your ever-lovin’ leader!” 

The next day, Tommy began to move his fingers just a bit. By Wednesday, he was blinking his eyes. Later that day his eyes began following the movements of his grandchildren in the hospital room. Message received: Tommy wasn’t ready to “check out” just yet. 

By Friday, five days after his pals came by to say goodbye, they witnessed what can only be described as a miracle. There was Tommy, now able to speak, laugh, and express his thanks. Did he hear the music during his deep sleep? No one, not even Tommy can be sure. But it certainly didn’t hurt. And if anyone wants to attach a little healing power to the sounds of rock and roll, so be it. His wife Charlene said, “When the #1 doctor, God stepped in and and said it is not time yet, Tommy woke up. We give much credit to the doctors, but Tommy and I know the real reason he is here is God.” 

In early 2015, he’s still rocking, and happily autographing the book about his life. 

Tommy can’t hide a smile when it’s suggested that maybe rock and roll had something to do with his amazing recovery. “There’s nothing like music,” he says. “It’s been a big part of my whole life.” As for me, I’m telling my family to keep some Tommy Jett CDs handy. If I’m ever the subject of those serious hospital conversations, crank up “TJ the DJ” for me. That’ll make me want to stick around a while longer too. 

To get your copy of “The Jett Age” or to find out about future book signings, call 706.820-8111. 

From David Carroll’s ChattanoogaRadioTV.com

David Carroll and Tommy Jett
David Carroll and Tommy Jett


Oh, Woe, What's Next?

Oh woe, what is next is an apt introduction to a topic that lots of people talk about but little actually gets done and the product improves. The product, children, is a blessed event most of the time unless you are black, brown or not readily acceptable to the majority. I saw the prejudice in my small town as Polish, Italian, Latvian immigrants moved to work in the factories ... (click for more)

Bothersome Robo Calls

I receive several (three or more) scammer calls, insurance offers, credit card monitoring services, security services, unknown callers, etc., every day. They come in mostly on my home number but those coming to my cell number seem to be increasing.  Those are mostly unknown callers, no number so you can't block them.  Googling the numbers sometimes confirms they are ... (click for more)

Red Bank Finalizes 20-Cent Property Tax Increase

The Red Bank commissioners voted Tuesday night to adopt the fiscal year 2018-2019 budget that includes a property tax increase. Mayor John Roberts said that along with the increase in both commercial and residential development, comes increased traffic. Infrastructure has not kept up with the growth, including the secondary roads. The cost of paving these roads is $1 million. Money ... (click for more)

Attorney Poston Says Man In Viral Video Seen Fighting Officer Was Trying To Break Up Fight

Attorney McCracken Poston said William Alexander Floyd, the young man seen in the recently published “viral” video who is seemingly engaged in a boxing match with a Chattanooga police officer, started out trying to break up a fight.   The attorney said, "Things are not always as they appear. There is a much more interesting story in the seconds leading up to the events ... (click for more)

Voice Of The Vols John Ward Dies

John Ward, the former “Voice of the Vols,” has died. Senator Lamar Alexander said, “When it came to UT sports, listening to John Ward was almost as good as watching the game. In fact, many Vol fans at many games brought their radios to make sure they could do both. John was a generous, courteous, enthusiastic ambassador for the University of Tennessee. He brought joy ... (click for more)

Belmont University's Mark Price Named Baylor School's Boys' Basketball Coach

Baylor School has named Belmont University's Mark Price as the boys' varsity basketball coach, following veteran basketball coach Austin Clark's announcement in April that he would be retiring after 36 years of coaching the Red Raiders. "I am very excited that Mark will be leading our boys' basketball program.  Throughout this process, we interviewed many individuals who ... (click for more)