Many people grow up without a clue what their future career might be, but for Jack Pattie, that just wasn’t the case. At the tender age of four, Jack saw a cigarette commercial that steered his future in a big way.
“There was this disc jockey sitting there with these two huge turntables in front of him and this mic coming down from infinity. He spun one of the records and took a big puff off that cigarette,” Jack recalled. “I thought–that’s what I wanna do when I grow up.”
He got there sooner than even he expected. Jack played in bands in high school. He ended up riding home from a gig with the WVLK afternoon DJ, Denny Mitchell. Jack was starstruck. He mentioned that he had always wanted to be on radio, and Denny invited him down to the studio sometime to see the magic happen. “I jumped on that opportunity,” Jack recalled. “I would take the bus down to the Phoenix Hotel and just sit and watch him every afternoon.”
When Jack was a junior in high school, he met a student teacher named Terrell Whitaker who worked in radio and TV. Whitaker wanted to know if any students would be interested in starting up a student radio station, and of course, Jack jumped on that opportunity, too. “He got what was basically a janitor’s closet and came up with some equipment and we played music over the intercom in the cafeteria at lunch,” Jack remembered.
“Just before Christmas that year, he and I skipped school together and he took me to a little radio station in Georgetown, WAXU. I met the general manager and he took me into the studio and introduced me to the guy that was on the air,” Jack said. They let Jack take over for a while. He did well enough that they hired him to do Sunday mornings from 6am-noon. After a few months, he got a Saturday afternoon show that turned into every afternoon.
By the time he was a senior, he was working seven days a week at the radio station. “I completely lost interest in high school,” Jack laughed. “Hell, I barely got out.”
"People ask me if I’m going to retire, and I say ‘from what?’ They’ll have to carry me out or throw me out.”
He hopped around over a few stations in a few different cities, but settled in Lexington in 1975 for his job at WVLK, where he’s been broadcasting since with one hiccup. In 1980, he was offered a position as Program Director of WLAP. “I thought that was a big move into management. Well, it was a stupid move,” he reflects. “I’m a radio guy, but I’m not a manager.”
He was fired under a year later. He moved back to WVLK part-time. The morning show opened up again in 1984 and he’s been at it since. “After all these years, I still look forward to going to work every morning. I really love my job, and I work with great people,” Jack said. “I’m 65 and I’d like to do it for a while. People ask me if I’m going to retire, and I say ‘from what?’ They’ll have to carry me out or throw me out.”
Jack is always quick to credit the people who helped him along the way. Among them are his team at WVLK. “My producer is Deidre Ransdell. She is a ray of sunshine. Brad Munson is our traffic reporter and makes me laugh every single day. Scott Johnson, our news director, is a wealth of information on any subject,” he explained. “All three of these folks make my job so much easier.”
Of course, people know Jack Pattie as much as the Mayor of Lexington Radio as they do his other persona: Jack, the Santa guy! Just like his career in radio, Jack felt the calling to play Santa very young. In the fourth grade, he was the Teacher’s Pet. She picked Jack to play Santa that year for a program. Jack picked the suit up again in 2006 and hasn’t looked back.
For Jack, sharing the magic of Santa is personal. He has a special needs daughter of his own, and he has seen firsthand how much Santa means for children in need.
For Jack, sharing the magic of Santa is personal. He has a special needs daughter of his own, and he has seen firsthand how much Santa means for children in need. He donates his time whenever he’s working with charities that help children. In the past, he worked with Hospice of the Bluegrass to visit terminally ill children at their homes.
Jack has been Santa for twelve Lexington Christmas parades, eleven Lexington tree lighting ceremonies and several tree lightings in Frankfort, even some events in Louisville and Cincinnati, all while working all but the week before Christmas at WVLK each morning. He does so many events that he can’t take on any more.
“It’s fun. I have not found a downside to being Santa,” he said. “By the end of the season, I’m worn out, but it’s a nice worn out. It’s just pure joy.” •