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Jim Ladd's autograph (Radio Waves: Life and Revolution on the FM Dial)




Jim Ladd, the "lonesome cowboy" of late night radio in Los Angeles for four decades; the self-described aficionado of "long legged ponies," wrote poignantly in Radio Waves: Life and Revolution on the FM Dial, of the rise and fall of L.A. FM radio, of a radio paradise lost, from FMs inception in the late 1960s to its abrupt demise in 1987, when KMET went off the air forever without a word; without even the courtesy of allowing its DJs to say goodbye to its loyal audience; of two luminous and all too brief decades when radio playlists were still determined by real human beings -- by DJs who knew their sonic shit -- rather than the ratings-obsessed program managers and conglomerate suits more interested in record company kickbacks than promoting new and innovative rock-and-roll.

"To Vickie  Lord Have Mercy!  Jim Ladd  8/3/91"
Ladd, long a proponent of what he coined "freeform radio" -- radio that allowed DJs like Ladd and a handful of others to be creative, thematic and novelistic in the setlist stories they let their song choices narrate -- recalled the rise and fall of the legendary KMET and all its subversive shenanigans (as well as its intelligence, social relevance, and sensitivity, too, such as that sad pathetic day John Lennon was shot dead minutes prior to Jim Ladd going on air), and how KMETs demise marked the beginning of the end for freedom and integrity in FM radio throughout every U.S. market.

Well respected by his peers and the musicians he celebrated, Ladd recounted his many interviews or, "innerviews" as he called them, with the likes of John Lennon (Lennon was Ladd's first "innerview," in fact, in 1974), the Eagles, Roger Waters, and Tom Petty, among many other rock icons. The funniest story Ladd recounted for me was his early remembrance when he was just getting started in radio at KNAC in Long Beach, circa 1969, and how he stepped outside of the studio to smoke a joint and inadvertently locked himself out.  Luckily, he'd just set a song from Live Dead on the turnstile that took up an entire album side on the turnstile, twenty-four minutes of Grateful Dead improvosations, and despite being "stoned immaculate" as his idol, Jim Morrison, once sang, was still resourceful enough to find a janitor to let him back inside the studio just seconds before the song ended.  Can't you just imagine Ladd in that desperate moment of his then nascent career, praying, "Lord have mercy!"

Radio Waves is must reading for anyone remotely interested in FM radio's inception; its wild, short-lived frontier history when the Eastern mystical strumming of Ravi Shankar routinely occupied a slot in the same eccentric setlist next to the likes of the Amboy Dukes, Wishbone Ash, Cactus, or The Clash. Don Henley wrote the warm introduction, as much a fan of Jim Ladd as Ladd's long been of him.

While FM radio is now mostly dead, "freeform radio" as Jim Ladd envisioned and pioneered, is alive and thriving, having been resurrected on satellite radio.  Jim Ladd, praise the Lord!, can still be heard weekdays at Deep Tracks high in the Hollywood Hills on Sirius XMs channel 27.


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