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Local radio personality returns to entertainment

Created date

January 25th, 2010
MD_0210_dog show
MD_0210_dog show

You may not recognize Jim Wetzel by sight, but for many longtime Baltimoreans, the sound of his voice rings familiar. Wetzel, aka Jim West, was cohost of the popular Jones and West Morning Show on WBAL radio throughout the 1980s.

Service kick-starts career

Wetzel served two tours in the U.S. Army in Japan and Korea and was reassigned as a Military Occupational Specialist entertaining the troops. I was in Korea at the time, and I went to [caption id="attachment_7588" align="alignright" width="280" caption="With Jim Wetzel (right) as the announcer, Oak Crest s Canine Cup sounded like the Westminster Dog Show. "][/caption] Army headquarters to see the lieutenant who was running one of the shows, recalls Wetzel. I auditioned, and he hired me as a singer and the master of ceremonies. After returning to Baltimore in 1951, Wetzel took a course at the National Academy of Broadcasting in Washington, D.C., before landing a singing part on a WBAL-TV variety show. They said my name needed to sound a little more show-bizzy, so we came up with the name West. I was in my early twenties at the time, and it just stuck with me, he says. After a stint at WNOW in York, Pa., Wetzel returned to WBAL as well as WITH. Notably, he was the news and sports director for WITH radio and the radio voice of the Baltimore Clippers ice hockey team. From 1970 to 1978, he hit the national scene in Chicago as the play-by-play voice of the Cubs baseball team and Blackhawks hockey team for WGN-TV, an eight-year run he holds as one of the highlights of his career. It was an exciting lifestyle, says Wetzel. I was doing something like 200 games a year. I traveled so much I used to meet myself at O Hare airport, he jokes.

Jones and West

In 1979, Wetzel returnedto WBAL radio as the morning sports anchor, an assignment that eventually led to his locally acclaimed role as cohost of the Jones and West Morning Show. Bob Jones and I had a lot of fun! We would bat around conversation every weekday from five to nine in the morning, says Wetzel. We didn t really talk about anything too heavy in those days. It was pre-9/11, and there was a different mindset. It probably wouldn t go over as well today. We interviewed guests like Alex Trebec and Dinah Shore, broken up by news on the hour, weather, and sports. Retiring from broadcast media in 1995, Wetzel and his wife moved to Oak Crest, where they recently celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary. He says living there has given him room to keep growing. There aren t as many opportunities for people my age in broadcast, says Wetzel, but there are plenty of things here at Oak Crest.

Gigs at Oak Crest

Wetzel is a regular contributor to the in-house TV station; contributes to Our Village Voice, a campus newspaper where for the last ten years he has written Cinemania, a regular column in which he reviews films from the Oak Crest Video Lending Library; emcees events like the annual Oak Crest Canine Cup and Home Run Derby; and in January, he starred in the Oak Crest Village Vaudevillians production of Captains Outrageous, where he was able to do what he loves most: sing. Initially, I was angling towards a singing career, says Wetzel. I had sung with a local band when I was in my late teens. But then rock and roll came along and knocked that idea out of play, he laughs. So what does he have up his sleeve for the future? Nothing in particular, he says. But let s see what develops.