Night Flight; Musical Memories from Detroit’s WJR 760 AM

There was and is something magical about radio. When I was a boy it took me by plane at night to far away cities thanks to WJR 760 AM in Detroit.

Before entering my teens it was a big deal to sleep on the porch all night. It was the fifties in Lima, Ohio. Few people stayed up past 11:00 PM. We lived on a corner house and a street light was the only illumination to the neighborhood. I don’t remember anyone walking the streets after sundown. No one had any business being out that time at night!

There is something magical and mysterious about being awake when everyone else is asleep. The pace and rhythm to life is different. It’s like seeing a town from a ride on a train; it is an entirely different perspective of the familiar.

I liked to lay and listen to the radio. Night radio and the music was different also. It was a voice meant to keep one company, not to entertain or sell something.

In the fifties WJR 760 out of Detroit had an all-night broadcast called Night Flight. When I think about it, it was really corny. It started out with an announcer saying that we were about to go to a city and we were cleared for take-off. All we had to do was relax and listen. For example the announcer might say we were on an all-night flight to Austin, Texas, a city of … and so on through out the night. So and so is from Austin… As he spoke you heard the sound of a prop airplane engine in the background as if just outside the passengers’ seating in a DC 3. The announcer kept you informed of weather conditions back in Detroit, the cities flown over, and what to expect when you ‘arrived’ in Austin.

Music was the main feature of the programming and your radio simulated flight. I wanted to hear rock n’ roll, but the music of Night Flight was meant to relax. They played a lot of Sinatra, Crosby, Cole, Cloney, The Ames Brothers, and Garland.

One night I got a little crazy. That happens during sleep deprivation. I stood and did close-order drills in the street in front of our home to the tune of The Ballad of the Battle of New Orleans.



    • An earlier version of Night Flight had a host who used the name “Stuart Sthall,”
      sponsored by American Airlines– when airlines only had “stewardesses”

      My brother and I, had a lighted globe in our attic room, and we could mark the plane’s route with a washable red marking crayon.

      I don’t remember it being “corny” (we were into bebop). I remembered the fare as light classical, topical and experimental depending upon the flight destination and stops—sometimes even George Shearing and Stan Kenton.

      On a destination with a stop in New York, I heard parts of Gordon Jenkins’ Manhattan Tower for the first time. One flight to California, included excerpts from Ferde Grofè’s Grand Canyon Suite. It was the first time we’d heard it and wrote down the name on our globe.

      Not only was the program a lesson in air travel but a revelation in new music.

      Years later, studying the notebooks of S.A. Ulam—he made the association of memory with music and place. Maybe Ulam listened to Night Flight


      • Me, too, PB.. I loved the “geography lessons” and the huge range of musical selections, modern, classical, a bit of opera here and there, and the host used to play other less-known sides or pieces by famous or current artists, things they didn’t play on the “mainstream” programs! One in particular I remember periodically included selections by “the Red Russian Army Chorus”!! Do you remember those?! Love “Night Flight”! Take care, PB and KL! From SC

      • We moved from East Detroit to Lexington Ky about 1960 and I remember listening to Night Flight 760 as it seems like it came on about 10 pm. Played a lot of semiclassical music. I was only about 13 or 14 at the time but I loved the music. Montavani, Mellicrinno Strings, Knightsbridge Strings, etc

  1. Sorry I missed Night Flight. But my brother, Ronnie, and I put a transformer onto a car radio and listened to Tigers’ baseball. We heard Norm Cash’s out-of-the-park home runs, Jake Woods’ in-the-park home runs. And we never tired of Ernie and George. So much has been made of Ernie’s career. But our favorite was George Kell. Next I was soothed by the constant voice of J.P. (Joseph Priestly) McCarthy. Maybe it is no coincidence that the world seemed to topple after his untimely death. His interviews were interesting and human, not political and savage. I miss his daily intro, “thank you, God, for this sun-drenched morning.”

  2. In the early 50s I was in the army in korea,I was only 18 and missed home,I bought a zenith transoceanic radio and used to listen to night flight just about every night,it made me feel like I was home,I still have the radio it it stillworks, now I miss night flight

  3. Captain Jay Roberts was the man behind the mike on Night Flight in the 70’s. It was real radio, not the garbage that we are all subjected to now. The music was great…..even for a kid that was just 18 at the time. It motivated me to get into radio. Sports final on JR….then Night Flight 76….jet service…now leaving WJR. I can still hear it today….yet it was over 30 years ago. Consultants came in and wrecked radio…..but its not too late. Satelite radio is failing…..why pay for radio. Station owners must get back to the way radio was…..local….with personality…..people are just waiting. You drove your listeners away with syndicated programs….and you lost your audience. We are still out here…..the time has come.

  4. I was a little younger than Mr. Andrews, above – early high-school age, I’d say – and it was around 1963 or thereabouts in Windsor, Ontario. I had a small crackling AM radio in my room, next to my bed and if I kept the volume very low, I could listen to Night Flight 760 on WJR into the small hours of the morning without my parents ever being aware. I’d be tired and exhausted for school next day but it didn’t matter; I was enraptured with the program, the concept, the music and, of course, Jay Roberts himself. I was seduced by a spell which might well have been sorcery had I not been such a willing captive. He was what I wanted to be; he was what I had to be – there would be no other option: Roberts was the beginning, the middle and the end of who I would become. Even then I knew my life would never be complete unless I could be an all-night radio announcer just like him.

    Fast forward a few years to the launch of CKWW-AM in Windsor. This was my moment. The stars were properly aligned. I rode the vectors as if I had known they would always be there for me. In fact I became the host of “Music Till Dawn” (sponsor; Craven A and Craven A menthol cigarettes) even while I was still in my last year of high-school. And, yes, just like Roberts, I had the good fortune to be able to feature music by Sinatra, Andre Previn, Norman Luboff’s Choir, George Shearing and many other fine artists of the day.

    Life has its twists and turns and I wound-up becoming a lawyer for many years, now retired from the practice of law and currently a College professor. But it was Mr. Roberts and his Night Flight program who were my first and most enchanting inspiration; who, as I lay there, head on my pillow in the darkness, were the sparks igniting the flame that burned into my heart and soul the will to follow my dreams.

    Thank you, Mr. Roberts.

    • Thanks for taking the time to share this significant portion of your life. It is those secret moments that enrich us. The ones that are hidden and just waiting to be told. Please take time and share this, if possible, with a much larger audience. It is worthy of doing so.

      • Thanks for adding to the conversation. It is amazing how many people liked the broadcast and remember it with such fondness. Makes one wonder why it doesn’t still exist. Perhaps we’re all getting a little old and need our sleep..

  5. As a kid in small town Northern Ontario in the 70’s, I would tune in to all the higher powered AM stations at night in the search for jazz. I found WEBR, WHAM and of course WJR. The latter being the most intriguing, eclectic show I’d ever heard. When I attempted to explain it to people, I was often at a loss for words. It wasn’t a jazz show per se. It was not shmaltzy ‘easy listening’ music. It was relaxing. A mix of show tunes, vocals, jazz…I still don’t know how to describe it. Suffice to say, it left me with pleasant memories of those years. As Mr. Gasparini noted, it was worth being a bit tired the next day. A fair trade for such great entertainment. One of the reasons I did a search tonight is that I have, for years, been more than curious to know both the beginning and ending theme songs for the show.If anyone happens to have that information, I would be thrilled.

    I’ll even share my e mail should anyone out there know the answer to that question.

    • Thanks for the read and reply. It seems like many stations in the 60s did the same WJR did. They played music like that. Perhaps what you are saying is they did not play anything that would appeal to teenagers, yet I listened. It broadened my appreciation for other forms of music. For rock music there was always CKLW.

  6. It’s half an hour after I wrote my last comment…it’s still awaiting moderation. Well, with a bit more searching, I was able to answer my own question and will now post my results should anyone else would like to know the theme songs for the show. Opening: Love is a Fabulous Thing. Closing: Cherchez La Femme. Both from the album Love is a Wonderful Thing. Artist is Les Baxter. Available on iTunes. Just bought it! Cheers everyone.

      • I could not edit my earlier comment. I re-listened closely to Les Baxter’s Love is a Fabulous Thing on Youtube and now agree: yes that is the original theme. I always thought is was so subtle and beautiful, esp. the plucked lower note (cello?) strings.

  7. I listened to the Captain all through the seventies, even though it wasn’t “cool” for a teenager at that time. Jay Roberts had a soothing, all-knowing, relaxing voice. He obviously knew a lot more than I did, so I learned a lot from him. One night-it must have been 1980-81- he wondered aloud on the air how the Central Michigan University football team had fared that day. I immediately got out of bed and phoned him. He picked up!!! I told him I was a student at CMU and informed him of the score. He was very gracious. He was happy to hear that a college student was listening to him, and he even asked me to contact his daughter who was a student and lived in a dorm at CMU at that time. I told him I would. It would be a GREAT story if I was able to report that I called her, but, alas, I was too shy to be so bold. In the intervening years I have regretted that I didn’t call her.
    Tonight, on WJR, I hear Alexander Zonjic testify that he got his big break in Detroit when Jay Roberts played his music on WJR 30 years ago. God Bless Jay Roberts!

  8. As a small business owner, my ‘night hours’ in assembling the pieces of fabric bags the ‘day crew’ had cut, I soared with Jay’s music, wisdom and companionship. The Night Flight communication, over the waves [pun intended] from WJR to Cleveland gave lift to the midnight hours.
    As a new Mom in 1967, I began my WJR listening career with the ‘day’ programming starting with the 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. daily live in-studio orchestra that preceded Carl Haas’ Adventures in Good Music.
    Truly: World-Class programming. Yes, God works with many hands and helpers! Jay Roberts, J.P. and Paul W. amongst those wonder workers!

  9. Like most of you, I also enjoyed listening to Night Flight. My experiences were down in Alabama. I was an announcer on an FM rock station and once called and talked to Jay when he announced that our city, Huntsville, was the destination. He was very hospitable.

  10. It was 1966 when the ritual began. The TV was turned off at 11:00. I went up stairs and took my shower. About 11:15 I turned on the radio, which would play for an hour, and crawled into bed. The dial was always set to 760, WJR, Detroit. I would listen to the weather followed by a sports report done by an excellent sportscaster who’s name I can’t remember. And then would come the fantastic opening theme to American Airlines, Music Till Dawn. It was special. As I recall, it was timpani drums that went from a soft beat to a crescendo of rich and beautiful sound which broke into the enchanting melody of “That’s All”. Having heard that, my day was complete. Sometimes I would drift off quickly and sometimes I would listen until the radio went off, to the melodic voice of Jay Roberts telling me where were going tonight.

    I have often tried to find the actual rendition of “That’s All” that was used for the opening theme of Music Till Dawn. Only recently, I was told there was a second version of Cy Mann’s “That’s All”, written, performed and recorded, especially for, and only for, Music Till Dawn. I was also told this special version of “That’s All” is no longer in existence and cannot be found today. I find this hard to believe, however, I have never been able to find, what I think, was the “real” opening theme to the program. I wonder if anyone can substantiate this or if anyone has the version I remember with the timpani drums in the opening bars of music.

    What I would give today, just to hear the first 15-minutes of any broadcast of Music Till Dawn with Jay Roberts, on WJR, Detroit!

    Keith Balon

    • What a wonderful memory. Night Radio in the day was a production, a work of art, It seems today it is dominated by commercials, weird claims, sightings, and conspiracy theorists.
      Yeah to have that all back for just fifteen minutes.
      When we think about it, it does sound a bit hokey, but aliens among us?
      Thanks so much for your comments and sharing your thoughts and memories.

  11. The That’s All that they played at the beginning of the program might be a Jackie Gleason version that I found on You Tube. I’m not sure, though, because I haven’t heard it for almost 50 years.

  12. I heard one NIGHT FLIGHT in the late 1960s, and the Chicagoland area had Franklin MacCormack’s ALL-NIGHT SHOWCASE simultaneously, followed by Mike Rapchak’s / John Doremus’,and Jay Andre’s GREAT MUSIC FROM CHICAGO, all gone now, but the MUSIC OF THE STARS is heard each Sunday morning from 7 to 11 CT over WLIP AM 1050 and worldwide at .Check Facebook and .

  13. I was a college student in Toledo from 1967-1971. When I was studying for exams, I’d sometimes take a break and walk around campus, listening to Night Flight on my transistor radio. Jay Roberts soothing voice and great music choices always succeeded in giving me the boost I needed. And the American Airline ads fueled my wanderlust. What great memories..

  14. There seems to be an informal club of Night Flight listeners. When I was 9 I recieved a my first radio for Christmas. One night, after my parents went to sleep, and I was settled in bed with my flashlight and book, by happenstance, I tripped over the wonders of Night Flight, Every night thereafter, and with rare absences, I listened to music not heard around our house. I was introduced to Louie Prima and Keely Smith, Nat King Cole, Wayne Shorter, Fletcher Henderson and endless numbers of others. It was the beginning of a sublime musical education.

    • I appreciate your remarks. I was growing up when Elvis was king and so on, but Night Flight allowed me to be exposed to other types of music. Your experience is not so different than many others. Listening to overnight radio now days is incredibly mind numbing.

  15. I grew up in Flint during the 60’s-70’s- When my peers were listening to Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, etc. I discovered Night Flight on a fall evening in ’73. I was the odd teen who never cared for rock and was overjoyed when I tuned in that night-Nat King Cole, Sinatra, Jerry Vale and others that were referred to as “lounge” music filled the waves as well as that magnificent voice of Jay Roberts. Glad I didn’t miss that period of great Detroit radio and will relish those memories to my last day.

  16. Another lonely Night Flight fan, down here in Georgia. Somehow there was magic in the idea of an overnight flight, even an imaginary one, to somewhere. When I was growing up in Ohio and couldn’t sleep, Night Flight saw me though many a restless night, something the talk shows never can match. First time I ever heard “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” was on Night Flight” and it haunted me for years.
    Radio’s not much fun these days.

    • I enjoyed your comment. Falling asleep in the sophisticated and knowing world of Night Flight made being an outsider more than tolerable. I’m pretty sure it was my introduction to Slaughter on Tenth Avenue as well. Later, in high school, (I was about 9 when I discovered Night Flight) meeting a fan of Thelonious Monk was like meeting another denizen of my private Night Flight world.

  17. I wonder if my wife, or anyone else close to me during the 60’s and 70’s, ever had an inkling of how many nights I spent listening to Jay Roberts – ‘Night Flight 760’ – later on I named my little Cruisers Inc. boat, ‘Night Flight 760. Like so many others who have written, I shared a fascination with radio growing up. When our family came to the Detroit area (Birmingham) from Ohio in the early 50’s I discovered WJR ‘The great Voice of the Midwest’ – 50000 watts clear channel. When I returned from the Navy in 62′ I had WJR 760 AM on from J.P. McCarthy in the morning, to Jimmy Launce (sp) to the Tigers, Red Wings and Lions sports, and on into the night where I went to sleep listening to Jay Roberts take us on a fanciful journey to somewhere – anywhere, overnight (I can still remember flying to Pocatello, Idaho one night, giving his listeners a short history lesson of the area as we flew). His voice was perfect night time smooth and quiet – never rushed, his music which reflected ‘Pop’ as well as Jazz and Broadway was always perfect. When I left Mi I lost track of him and I have to tell you, reading these other comments brings a real tear to the eye – I truly miss the Jay Robert’s of radio past! Night can be the loneliest of times, and Jay was my confidant – someone who was there for me. The only other night time hosts I listened to, from that same era, and also on a great clear channel 50000 watt station – KMOX St. Louis, was John McCormick, ‘The Man Who Walks and Talks at Midnight’ – same kind of guy with the same interesting and interested style, who you instantly felt you had known all your life. He played the same great blend of Broadway, Jazz and Pop.- his signoff, ‘And Now Night Becomes the Day’… Thanks for allowing me to contribute these wonderful memories.

  18. Kenton Lewis I’m too from Lima Ohio and I’m going to let you in on a true story. In 1960 my brother worked at WIMA radio, after graduating from Lima Sr. in the evening during the summer, thats where he got his start and bug for radio and a few short years later WIMA TV. His name was “Bob Cosart”. Bob went on to other stations moving forward each time, also changing his name because Cosart was not a common name or had a ring to it.. By the late 60’s Bob was working at WGAR in Cleveland. Many in the business said he had a voice and style like JP. During Bob’s two week National Guard Summer Camp at Grayling in 1969, Bob was contacted by Program Director from WJR. A meeting was set at Camp Grayling. WJR drove up and met with Bob and in a few short hours Bob would leave WGAR for WJR when he returned to Cleveland. Bob was to work as a Booth announcer ( station ID and such) he was working the mid day shift. A few months later they put him in the afternoon drive time moving Jimmy Launce to mid-days. Bob would fill in for JP on the morning show and with Focus Program. That lasted for about three years. Bob received a call from WGAR in Cleveland again with another offer he could not turn down. Bob was now doing afternoon drive again, Don Imus was doing morning drive. The rating were going sky high. The Program Director at WGAR, John Lund was approached by WNBC to come to NYC and bring Don and Bob with him. Off they went ! Bob had use his middle name as his air name Vernon, Bob Vernon, “Vernon with a V” as he later tag himself. While at WIMA Bob was Easter side kick on the radio. Bob also broke the news to Limaland on November 22, 1963 that President Kennedy had been shot. His career moved on to TV news in later years working for WRAL in Raleigh where he retired. Gary

  19. I remember Night Flight like a wise uncle who just knew so many things I’d never heard of. One night, Jay Roberts related a story about someone asking him a hypothetical question about the first thing he would save if his home were to catch fire. Jay said the Miles Davis album “Kinda Blue”. I’d never heard of it but if Jay Roberts treasured it above all else… Bought it and was never the same again! 🙂

  20. My dear, dear late Dad introduced me to WJR when I was growing up in Saginaw. He often had to work late and loved to listen to Night Flight 760 on the drive home from Bay City. He also enjoyed all the other wonderful offerings on WJR. When he had surgery about 20 years ago he was administered some pretty powerful pain killers for a few days as he recovered. As he would start to drift off, he would say, “Well, it’s Night Flight time. I wonder where I’m going tonight?” Later, when he would wake up he would describe his fantastic dreams. I particularly remember a Night Flight he described to Hong Kong! Anway, he got quite a kick out of my wife and I naming our first son “J.P.” after my son’s two grandpas (John and Paul). Anway, J.P. now enjoys me describing how he was also named after a man Poppa Paul loved to listen to on the radio! Man, I miss my Dad!!!

    • Mark, thanks so much for sharing your story. Sometimes I wish WJR would go back to doing Night Flight. I think there would be those who might do it for peanuts out of memory for their loved ones. So much better than the weird a contorted stuff that now dominates night radio. Nice story.

  21. I, too, grew up listening to Night Flight. Although it was the “That’s All” theme that I remember so fondly. I must have started listening when I was about ten years old as a youngster in North Toledo. I’m not quite sure why my parents allowed me to stay up nights to listen to the program while laying in bed, waiting for the Sandman to arrive, but I’m very grateful they did. Jay’s program was a wonderful introduction to a great variety of music that formed much of my adult tastes in music – jazz in particular.
    It was his soothing and relaxing voice that really made the program a very intimate experience for the listener. He spoke as though he was directing his comments directly to you, and you alone.
    I recently attended a live concert of jazz pianist Bebe Adair in Birmingham,
    AL and during the Q&A session, an attendee brought up the subject of
    Jay’s WJR Night Flight program and how much he had enjoyed it over the years and did she know the theme song. Although she wasn’t familiar with Jay’s program, I also commented on how I had listened to and enjoyed it while growing up in Ohio. For those of you who would like to hear a nice rendition of “That’s All”, check out Michael Buble’s version on YouTube (with the lyrics scrolled on the screen). It’s a shame today’s ten year old’s don’t have Night Flight to listen to…it would broaden their understanding of music and provide a calming refuge in this stressful and mechanized world. Here’s to you Jay Roberts, where ever you are. I like to imagine, that even tonight, somewhere, up among the stars, you are still spinning your melodies, creating memories and soothing the Angels during their heavenly flights.

    • Isn’t it just amazing the power of radio! I don’t recall “That’s All’ ever being the theme, it was always ‘Love is a Fabulous Thing’ by Les Baxter and his orchestra with another piece from Baxter to end the show. Like you and everyone else who has commented, Jay wove a magical thread into each nights adventure – I think it just had to be the combination of voice, music and our own quiet time which led to such magic. I listened, it seems, for yrs., and then was off to the service. When I returned I picked up again, but soon married and moved on. It’s absolutely mystical to me the power of this very ‘sweet’ recollection. Jay is gone; I wonder if he ever had any inkling of the legacy he left with ‘Nightflight 760’. By the way, if you want to hear what I believe if the very finest rendition of ‘That’s All’, listen to Mel Torme on You Tube – it was number one when it was recorded and one of his very best.

      • I can’t help but think there is a very vast audience who would listen once again to that type of programing. People will only eat what they are being fed. And some will always gravitate toward the junk food, but when the day is over they will see the value of a good diet and return to it, but it must be available.

      • Thanks Kenton for being such a vehicle for lost antiquities such as “Nightflight 760′ – so many of us have been able to revisit a time seemingly far in the past, yet right at the top of our awareness and ready to be reopened…thanks again for your interest in all things past and present…

    • I think the pianist to whom you refer is “Beegie Adair”. She is one of my favourite pianists.

      I must agree with Mr. Brown and, earlier, Mr. Scott: the opening theme was “Love is a Fabulous Thing” by Les Baxter. The song is available on You Tube and for purchase in iTunes. Mr. Roberts may have played “That’s All” (I was never awake at the end of his program) but certainly it was not played at the beginning. The famous title, alone, would have seemed non sequitur to someone with Roberts’ good taste and class.

      One other point I’ve never seen mentioned: I suspect that the name “Jay Roberts” was probably a pseudonym used by successive radio personalities. I say this because there is no question in my mind that the “Jay Roberts” I heard on WJR in the early 60’s did not have the same voice and speech mannerisms several years later toward the end of the series. The “Jay Roberts” I heard in the 60’s had a crisp, mid-tone-modulated, somewhat quick-paced and precise elocution. His diction was unmistakable. There was no trace of a Michigan or even an American accent beyond his self-confident, worldly and reasonably educated use of the English language. The announcer I heard many years later driving along the 401 late one night sounded nothing like that and I was actually quite astounded – so much that I stopped the car to listen more attentively.

      I know this because, as I mentioned in a much earlier blog entry, it was Roberts who inspired me to become an all-night radio announcer on CKWW in Windsor, Ontario (“Music Till Dawn” sponsored by Craven A and Craven A Menthol Cigarettes) and, of course, I shamelessly tried to copy every single aspect of Roberts’ radio persona while I was finding my own ground. Therefore, I was a keen, alert and meticulous listener. Of course, memories of this sort stay with one for life.

      All of which is to say it has occurred to me from reading the blogs that we may, indeed, be talking about “Jay Roberts” but different people using the same name depending upon the chronology.

      Best Wishes,

      • I think you can weed out the real “Jay Roberts” by going to the WJR web site and checking the stations history – from the beginning until fairly recent yrs. There you will find that only one Jay Roberts existed on WJR, possibly you heard another Jay on another station – borrowing/stealing popular DJ’s names in radio use to happen quite a lot. One thing is for sure, Jay Roberts was magic for thousands of us restless souls each night with his fanciful fare – the music, often picked for the prevailing weather, the trips destination information, and quiet tone in which he spoke to everyone. No, there was only one “jay Roberts” on WJR.

      • When the program started, it was sponsored by American Air Lines and the host called himself “Stewart Sthall” –a take-off on “stewardesses and “stall” –what planes do if they climb too steeply

      • Yes, and this was the opening. It turns out that Lori was correct after all and I owe her an apology. By the way, I also have to admit that Sy Mann’s version of “That’s All” was a magnificent opening and closing theme. As you will see (and hear), Ken Ackerman was the local host in San Francisco. Tremendous announcer!

  22. To Richard:
    All radio stations in this region began with a “W” and the people in advertising referred to 760 as “JR” and the host of Nightflight had a number of different voices. WJR had a Sunday night program just after the 15 minute 11:00 PM news summary with the same format as Nightflight but the theme was Suddenly based on the theme of Richard Heuberger’s operetta— Eine entzückende Frau.

    When radio was king, they spent a lot of money on survey research and the two things major advertisers wanted was a product to have a human face—a personality—and continuity. The Betty Crocker image stayed the same for fifty years before a new sketch was made in the 60’s.

    But, none of this really matters—as Eliot wrote in the Four Quartets “… mankind cannot stand too much reality. I would amend to say some things do not need too much reality. The show was magical and the fact that we can still talk about the program with so much appreciation shows that the magic did its work.


    • To Peter:

      I never really felt the coin drop before, but I suspect that the name “Jay Roberts” itself is an extension of “JR” as in “WJR”. Your observation that Nightflight “had a number of voices” certainly seems consistent with what I thought I heard that night on the 401 which I mentioned earlier in the blog thread. It was a completely different voice and approach than the “Jay Roberts” I listened to in the night in my teenage years.

      There is a very good picture of the person called “Jay Roberts” at WJR, taken in 1963 at this URL:

      What appears to have happened is that at some point American Airlines “Music Till Dawn” morphed into “Nightflight 760” and I don’t really have any recollection of that happening. It is likely that I started listening to WJR for the first time well after the transition took place.

      As I’ve mentioned, CKWW Windsor went on the air at about this time and I was the all-night host of our own “Music Till Dawn” sponsored by the Rothman Tobacco Company. The radio spots and flashes were done by the famous Joel Aldred. I was a skinny little kid with a thin and immature voice not even improved with the magnificent RCA BK10 microphone in the control room so I always sandwiched Joel’s commercials between records where my voice would not be juxtaposed to his.

      According to Les Martens, the local Detroit host of of the much better known Detroit version of “Music Till Dawn” …

      “The show was set up originally in nine cities, each with a local host, in CBS O&O stations in the early 50’s. The CBS pattern was broken in Detroit when WJR wouldn’t come to terms on all night rates, so American Airlines’ ad agency made a deal with WWJ, which as the world’s first radio station, operated by the Detroit News, was not chopped liver.

      A couple of years after I took over hosting in 1956, WJR started Nightflight 760, with a format of travelogue type info by Jay Roberts with related pop music. Memories later confused the two shows hopelessly.”

      On the other hand, I note the comments of one blogger, Mike Jarvis, who actually met “Jay Roberts”. According to Jarvis:

      “…in 1964 “Music ’til Dawn” was on WJR. Sometime in 1965 American dropped its sponsorship and the show reverted to “Night Flight 760″ with less classical music. My wife and I met Jay Roberts in the studio one night and we discussed the change and his freedom to program the music more to his liking.”

      • Richard—

        You probably should start thinking about a book.

        There are several books Radio’s Golden Years (out of print) and the Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio you’d be surprised at how much interest there is—I’m impressed with how many people listened to the show(s) and am now learning that there were several in different states.

        You have mentioned CKWW Windsor several times; was that different from the CKLW (800) –Windsor we used to listen to in Detroit? “CK” was another radio station that reached all the way into Winnipeg, Montreal, Nova Scotia and Manhattan and played everything live from Glynn Gould to Oscar Peterson—two Canadian locals. Two Detroiters had a jazz program on CK (800) in the late 50’s called The Sandman—Ernest Hill and Ken D. Bradley (both now deceased). Ernest migrated to New York and worked at the UN; Ken had an R&B show using his initials calling himself Katy Be Be (KDB)

        If your CKWW was CKLW, you really should start thinking about a book


      • Peter –

        I remind myself of Joseph Grand in Camus’ “The Plague”. I never seem to be able to get past the first sentence!

        CKLW and CKWW were completely different stations. The latter was owned by Senator Royce Frith and sold to entrepreneur Geoff Stirling just before it went on the air in the early 60’s – a matter of a few weeks before I started there doing a 15 minute Saturday morning high-school teen report show sponsored by Coca-Cola. (I was, in fact, still in high-school when I started the all-night show and that was brutal on my studies). I think we may have only been about 10,000 watts but I’m not sure about that.

        CKLW was the big, famous, 50K giant and it had been around for quite awhile. The all-night host there at the time was a tall, slender, baritone-voiced dude named “Conrad Patrick”. His blend of music was something like Roberts’ but tended to jazz: Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, Ahmad Jamal – great stuff!

      • Thanks for the memories.
        Grand should have started with a title–the first sentence comes automatically after that.

        Detroit has almost fallen off the map–it needs its history.
        Keep trying
        Good luck

  23. Just talking about Night Flight at dinner tonight. One of the young ones was not familiar with it. I mentioned having my transistor radio under my pillow and listening to it, especially in the summer. It was a very comforting program and helped me fall asleep. Thanks for the walk down memory lane!

  24. I remember going to sleep with Jay Roberts and waking up with J P McCarthy. What bliss! I was a young mother in Clevelad and listened to WJR all day, in the car too! I even became a Tigers fan! I miss that station at that time. Now I live in Chicago and we are blessed with a jazz station from the Collage of Dupage, WDCB-FM. So, I can still listen to the radio all day.

    • Isn’t it amazing! I left Detroit for the Navy in the early 60’s, came back a few yrs. later and left for good in 1968. While I lived there I listened to Jay Roberts and I continued that wonderful habit every time I returned – I could not get enough of ‘Nightflight 760’. I know it sounds a bit silly to say, but listening to this wonderful guy was a very personal, sorta private thing – he made you feel as if he were talking directly to you – what a wonderful thing to do. The hold he had on his listeners remains today all these yrs. later – what a legacy he left – amazing! Because this ‘blog’ is for ‘night people’, restless souls who search the airwaves while the rest of the world sleep, some of you may have had the same kind of experience listening to John McCormick, the night guy at KMOX St. Louis during the same period. He was ‘the man who walks and talks midnight’ for many yrs., played the same mix of jazz, broadway, orchestra – one night while on surveillance in E. St. Louis he played non-stop the entire broadway recording of Camelot – he loved great music and had that same kind of mesmerizing delivery leaving you to think, ‘it’s just you and me for the night’. I do believe radio is the ‘theater of the mind’ – a great host and our own imagination make for wonderful listening.

      • It hasn’t been mentioned much but I think AM Radio itself had something to do with the magic of Night Flight. The pristine clarity of FM collapses distance, contracts space and lends binary immediacy to the aural experience. But the analog crackle of AM Radio in the middle of the night was something else again. The crumpled in-out drift, the garbled snippets of talk and music from occasional intruders on the bandwidth spoke of space and stars and unknown distance from the innermost depths of which Jay Roberts reached out to every one of us as his plane traversed a lonely, nighttime journey across the skies with only music to accompany us. And above that crackle and crumple, surmounting that interstitial jabber from nearby stations less attuned to beat of our hearts and the yearning of our souls, Mr. Roberts, the Captain of Flight 760, was there to assure us with gentle talk, soothing music and the promise of a new day tomorrow.

  25. Night Flight in the early 50’s was hosted by Jay Roberts, and had a mix of popular band music from the 40’s and contemporary vocals. He had a fondness for George Shearing. I remember that in this first period in the early 50’s he featured comedy albums, esp. the Bickersons. Then, in the early 60’s, American Airlines assumed sponsorship of the program, which changed its name and content (to mainly classical), but with Roberts still the host. Then, AA dropped its sponsorship and Roberts stayed in the role of host and returned pretty much to the original format, although I was not listening regularly then. I also don’t recall that the closing theme as being Les Baxter’s Cherchez les Femmes. The morning (good-by) theme started with marimbas and had a Latin sound. Maybe the themes changed over the years. The Jay Roberts of the ’50’s used to talk about his boyhood in New York.

    • Wow…lots of comments since my last post. A testament to the popularity of the show, even after all these years. I can tell you with 100% certainty that those two tunes were the opening and closing theme in the seventies, when I too was a teenager and listening…took me a long time to finally find them and get them!

      • I’m in my 80’s and listened to Night Flight through all of it’s stages. It’s always a pleasure to hear someone else enjoyed and remembered.

  26. I was just listening to a cd from a station in Phx AZ that has also lost its appeal after such success earlier. The station always made me think of Jay Roberts & his night flight when I lived in Detroit until 1963 so I looked up any info & found this site. On a visit to Detroit in the 80’s I immediately tuned the radio in my rental car to WJR. Being a “night person” I listened to night flight when visiting with an old friend & we called the station just out of curiousity – we spoke to Jay Roberts & he was very gracious & even spoke of our call on the air. His music was such a delight – probably the only thing I missed about MI. I still remember the pure enjoyment of going on those flights – the destinations, the sounds & the wonderful music. Thanks to all of the sharing from everyone – it takes me back to times held dear.

  27. +from Mike Andrews

    Still no changes in radio.

    very sad. I remember Night Flights sponsor in the later days was a restaurant across the river called the MILANO? And how could we forget Roger Penske Chevrolet. Just like yesterday in my mind. Didn’t realize how great this really was at that time, but that is why we listened I guess.

  28. I grew up in Ann Arbor during the 1970s and 1980s. Prior to my teens (pre 1982), I didn’t follow music very much, so the Detroit area stations I was most familiar with were WAAM, which we listened to in order to find out if one of my recreation league games or school was going to be cancelled due to bad weather, and WJR. My main reason for listening to JR was Tigers games. I was allowed listen to games even after I went to bed, and since I often had trouble getting to sleep, I would continue listening to the radio after the game was over. I regularly heard the Paul Carey Scoreboard Show, the 11 o’clock news, Sports Final, and Night Flight 76. I always liked being reminded that there was a pillow in the overhead compartment in case I wanted to sleep part of the way and that there were magazines and newspapers available if I had to or wanted to stay awake for one reason or another.

    A couple of specific things I remember from the show: The Polish national anthem was played almost daily in the early part of the show during the Solidarity Strikes in Poland in the early 1980s, On one specific night, also around 1980 or 81, WJR had maintenance scheduled, so the station had to go off the air for a few hours starting at midnight. Since Night Flight would only last 30 minutes before the maintenance started, that evening’s destination was Cleveland.

    • Aaron–
      I enjoy reading listener’s memories. I was an early passenger when the planes had to stop for refueling every 500 miles. And, I wonder if today’s “talk radio” will leave as many fond memories with as many people.
      Continue to have good flights

      • Likely some aspects of Talk Radio will be remembered, but certainly not the same way. Some of the old radio programs touched the heart. Currently Talk Radio doesn’t do that. It’s just for the opinionated.

  29. In the world’s current mix of chaos and clamor and culture clashes, this blog gives and evokes and ‘links’ such a community. It’s existence is a very golden thread among the membership and weaving into our individually woven matrix of our life’s fabric. What a ‘dear’ recall: the overhead pillow reference! Thank-you travelers on Night Flight 76 Memories journey!

  30. My family left East Detroit about 1960 to Lexington Ky and I “discovered” WJR on my transistor about a year later. I was only 13-14 but always enjoyed the semi classical music, Mellicrino Strings, Montavoni, Knighstrbridge Strings which definitly was not cool for 14 year olds at the time, Couldnt have found three kids in the rest of the world that would listen to that kind of music and probably for sure cant now.

  31. More airchecks of Night Flight please. As a kid in the mid 60s, one night I couldn’t sleep, turned on the radio and was stunned to hear the theme from The Apartment for the first time. I still remember hearing probably Ferrante and Teicher’s version, and actually thought it was being broadcast from a plane.

  32. Reading these comments, it’s as if we’d all been abducted by the beams of thought relayed from an extra-terrestrial force as in “Close Encounters” – everyone meeting on a piece of high ground to discuss their revelatory memories of a nightly sound. For me it was born of a 3-year stint in Toledo (1971~74) where the clock radio at bedside would bring in the Les Baxter “Love is a Fabulous Thing” recording night after night.

    The intro was redone sometime in 1974, I think, to change the title of the show from “Night Flight 760” to “Night Flight Seventy-Six” anticipating the Bicentennial. I recall not approving, as the way “760” rolled off the tongue not only sounded better but had more of a flight number appropriateness to it.

    The show – heard over the narrower AM bandwidth – had a distant sound – at once adjacent by inches, at once a 80 miles away. I guess the sound was meant to evoke a bit of The High and the Mighty, without the drama – from a time when our unified images of perfection came from a standard of affluence, conservatism, ambition, and comfort. All I knew as a kid was that it was good.

    I periodically flew with Captain Roberts even 150 miles south in Dayton, which was the southern fringe of the great broadcast sweep commanded by WJR. Eventually that particular signal, like so many others, wafted away never to return.

    I’m glad so many remember the same nightly ritual. Golly it was nice.

  33. Like many have mentioned, in the 70’s, I would go to bed and listen to the Tiger game on my clock radio. The soothing voices of Ernie and Paul were like nothing I had ever heard before, or since. Since the games started at 8:00 back then, they ended around 11:00pm and I would then listen to the post game wrap up, the score board (sports final), and then came this awesome show called Night Flight. I have no idea what my initial attraction was, but even at 8 years old, I loved listening to this perfect compliment to Ernie and Paul. I couldn’t stay up too long since I was in 3rd grade, but I always listened before I went to sleep. Thinking back, this is probably why I was so tired every day at school. In junior high when they would regularly take student polls and ask “what is your favorite radio station”, most every student would say Keener 13 and WDRQ, I would always say WJR. My favorite station, all time.

  34. Grew up in Chicago, marriage and child rearing days in Detroit suburbs. These reminiscences of Jay Roberts and other late night radio gems are soul touching. Why do I have a niggling memory of an actor, John Carridine I believe, reading Edgar Alan Poe over the airwaves in the middle of the night? Was I hallucinating?

Blather away, if you like.

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