OBIT: James Clemens (1939-2020), former country station 590/WPLO jock and PD

Jim Clemens, a host and program director for the former AM Atlanta powerhouse country station 590/WPLO-AM, died last week.

Clemens was 80. He passed after a brief bout with cancer, his son Scott said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

He started his radio career in Minnesota in 1961, ventured to Texas in 1965 and arrived in Atlanta in 1968 at WPLO as a DJ and program director.

One of his prouder moments was playing a B-side Freddie Hart song "Easy Loving" on WPLO, a song that eventually hit No. 1 on the country charts and propelled Hart's career. In 1981, WPLO was named the Academy of Country Music's country station of the year.

Scott, 54, recalled spending summers at WPLO opening mail and meeting the biggest country stars of the 1970s and 1980s including Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings and Conway Twitty. Clemens became close to the members of  Alabama, artists Ronnie Milsap and Bill Anderson, and a host of others. Scott recalled seeing John Denver during the peak of his popularity leave the stage at the Omni and hug his dad.

“For him, it was the relationships and friendships that kept him going,” Scott said. “He was very humble. He was never out front about anything.”

Bob Jackson, who worked in sales for WPLO in the 1970s while Clemens was program director, said on a memorial site: "In the face of two huge FM country rivals, Jim kept little WPLO AM not only alive, but thriving well past its expiration date." Jackson, in a follow-up interview, recalled him as a "hands-on, moving-forward-with-a-smile kind of guy."

In 1986, WPLO-AM (590) and FM (103.3) was sold to DKM, the owners of FM country station Kicks 101.5. Clemens retired from country radio then, though he was only in his 40s.

“He could have gone to Nashville or L.A., but his kids were  here, and he decided to ride it out,” Jackson said in an interview.

Clemens stayed with DKM, which later became Summit, and worked as traffic director for another ten years for urban stations WAOK and V-103.

Scott said after Clemens retired, he became a wonderful grandfather, spending a lot of time with his grandkids and harboring more cats and dogs than Scott could keep track of. And Scott said his father — who was married to Scott’s mom, Gladys, from 1962 until her death in 2014 — stayed in his same Jonesboro home for 52 years.

Clemens is survived by two sons, Doug and his wife Tammy, of Jonesboro, and Scott and his wife Amy, of McDonough; one daughter, Tammy and her husband Kevin Holmes of Covington; five grandchildren, Landon, Rylee, Matt, Katie, and Carrie Clemens; and one brother Eugene M. Clemens and his wife Sally of Atlantic Beach, Florida.