Hall of Fame: 2007

Jess Cain

For 34 years, hundreds of thousands of radio listeners awoke every weekday morning to the inimitable wit and delightful personality of Jess Cain on WHDH. He radiated a sense of comfort and ease, whether he was speaking to an athlete or a member of Britain’s royal family. He understood the intimacy of the medium, and made everyone who listened to him feel like a friend.

Jess Cain was born in Philadelphia, but he was as Bostonian as the Custom House Tower. He modestly downplayed his military service in World War II, where he served under Audie Murphy during the Battle of the Bulge and won the Silver Star for bravery.

He had a brief run in television acting and college teaching before meeting Jack Hynes (Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame inductee, 2008) at Notre Dame. The son of Mayor John Hynes brought Cain to Boston, where they initially thought of working as radio partners. However, Hynes gravitated to news, and Cain was hired by WHDH to host a morning record show.

In 1957, morning drive had not yet become the most important part of the broadcast day, so Cain had the luxury of refining his craft as his medium grew in popularity. Year after year, he built his morning audience with a mixture of music and patter (which gradually became all patter) until he was almost untouchable as a radio icon.

By the time of his retirement in 1991, Cain’s on-air style incorporated song parodies, commentary, interviews, and good fellowship into the requisite morning mixture of news, weather, traffic and sports. He had mastered the craft of speaking on the air as if he was conversing one-to-one with each individual listening, and when he died in 2008, thousands of listeners reacted as if they had lost a member of their own families.

In addition to his mastery of radio, Cain was an accomplished actor, who appeared on stage, notably at the North Shore Music Theatre, during and after his years of broadcasting.