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


Send Your Opinions To Chattanoogan.com; Include Your Full Name, Address, Phone Number For Verification

We welcome your opinions at Chattanoogan.com. Email to  news@chattanoogan.com . We require your real first and last name and contact information. This includes your home address and phone number. We do not post the contact information, but need it for verification. There is no word limit, but if your article is too long you may lose your reader. Please focus more ... (click for more)

Lawsuit May Bring More Security To Hamilton Place Mall

Good for the military veteran that is suing for getting shot on CBL's and ERMC's watch. With this past holiday season's traumatic events unfolding at the mall and clear evidence that ERMC security does not have the ability to insure the safety of the patrons, it is time for a lawsuit to get someone's attention.  This military veteran, who clearly saw combat due to the mentioned ... (click for more)

School Board Approves "Partnership" With State As "Lesser Of 2 Evils"

The County School Board on Thursday night voted 7-2 to join in talks with the State Department of Education leading to a Partnership Zone for five low-performing schools. Joe Smith and David Testerman voted against the plan. Other board members said the only alternative was for the state to take over several low-performing schools under the Achievement School District in which ... (click for more)

Investors Who Lost In Dyer/Brennan Scheme Furious At Seeing Dyer At UTC Games; Attorney Says He Takes Disabled Brother To Work Games

Two victims in an investment scheme by Doug Dyer and James Brennan said they were furious to see Dyer continuing to attend UTC sporting events. Dyer is a past president of the Mocs' Quarterback Club. In two victim letters prior to the Dyer/Brennan sentencing next Friday - from Mickey McCamish and Mark E. Smith, they state that Dyer bought season tickets to UTC football and has ... (click for more)

Unbeaten Baylor Rolls Past Cleveland For 30th win

The Baylor Lady Red Raiders have produced more than their share of outstanding volleyball teams in head coach Sarah Lail’s tenure, but this year’s team may be the best ever. There are no real superstars like in years past, but they have a talented group of young ladies who can beat you from any number of spots on the court. Facing one of its biggest tests of the season on ... (click for more)

Vols, UMass Matchup Pits 1998 National Champions

Tennessee takes on UMass on Saturday at Neyland Stadium. The game will feature a noon ET kickoff on SEC Network.     Tennessee (2-1) is coming off a 26-20 road loss to Florida on Sept. 16. Junior running back John Kelly set career highs with 141 rushing yards and 96 receiving yards and played a major role in the Vols' second half rally before the Gators ... (click for more)