Nobody called it indie rock in the 1980s. You played original rock, and your band either had a record deal or it didn’t. And back in the days before digital technology, the foundation of a San Diego rocker’s plan for success was to get airplay on the Homegrown Hour on KGB FM. The host was a known tastemaker named Jim McInnes. He had an ear for talent, and making the cut was seen as a stamp of industry approval. Homegrown was also the title of a popular vinyl compilation of local rock, co-produced by McInnes and released by KGB annually for several years.
McInnes, likewise, coproduced records by DFX2, Chuck and the Tigers, and Melting Pot, and he hosted a weekly showcase at an area night club. These elements constituted San Diego’s first original-rock music scene. With JM in the PM (he hosted afternoons at the rock radio station for nearly three decades) as the driver and KGB radio as the vehicle, the emerging scene included such early notables as Rick Elias, the Puppies, Four Eyes, Claude Coma, the Beat Farmers, C.J. Hutton, DFX2, and the Penetrators.
These days, McInnes, who is still on the mend from brain surgery in March to remove a benign tumor that was threatening his vision, reads midday news on 760 KFMB AM. He is also the voice of “Jack’s Club” on Jack FM and the occasional commercial. For fun, he spins discs on Jazz 88.3 at City College on Saturdays. “It’s wide open. I can play whatever I want.” He lives in Kensington with his wife, Sandi Banister.
It’s funny that, off the air, I can hear your Wisconsin accent. And you’ve been in San Diego, what, 40 years?
“Yes, next summer it will be 40 years. One year from now.”
Your first radio job here was...
“KPRI FM. July 1973. Their studios were at Seventh and Ash. You could sit and be eye level with the sidewalk.”
Just like in the movie Almost Famous?
“Yeah. Well, [former KPRI/KGB deejay] Gabriel Wisdom was a consultant on that flick. They actually shot the scene outdoors right there at Seventh and Ash. But the studio thing was a reproduction on a soundstage.”
Some readers will remember Linda McInnes. You both worked at the same station. But did you two ever work together on air?
“No, we did not do a show together.”
But you were married, right? What ever happened to her?
“She became a star in the mornings. We got divorced in 1976, and she moved to L.A. and KLOS around 1980.”
For a couple of years in the ’80s, you hosted a weekly original-rock showcase at a place called My Rich Uncle’s near San Diego State. Your creation?
“No, it was not my idea. It was [KGB salesman] Bill Degischer’s idea, with Martin Montoya. Marty. His parents owned the place. He managed it. They weren’t doing so well. They had a C restaurant rating.” He laughs. “It was an effort to build business for them and to get exposure for up-and-coming bands. At the time, there was only the Spirit [Club in Bay Park]. That was the main place to play original rock.”
I remember [owner] Jerry Herrera wrote a funny gossip column as the Spirit advert in the Reader.
“I used to look forward to them every week. Jerry Herrera’s column...it was a big deal if he mentioned you or your band.”
The My Rich Uncle’s gig lasted for, what, a couple of years?
“Yeah. And it was a tough sell. It really was. I would bring in Four Eyes — who are still together, by the way — and Darius and the Magnets, and you’d be lucky if 50 people would show. And those guys would jump at playing. I had no budget. All I could give them was 25 bucks, and they’d say, ‘Okay.’”
Twenty-five bucks a man?
“No. For the whole band. The key was they’d get publicity. I’d talk about them on the air for a week prior to the show. Support was pitiful. Nowadays, it’d probably go over great.”
I see you as the unsung hero behind San Diego’s first original-rock music scene back in the days of vinyl. Being included on a KGB Homegrown album was a big deal at the time.
“Yeah. We moved 60,000 copies in our biggest year, which was 1976. I coproduced all of them after the first year.”
The Homegrown Hour, where you played tracks from local artists, started in, what, 1983? It has seen a revival on KPRI.
“And I’ve been on it. [Show host] Catherine Beeks does a great job. I’m proud to have her use the name.”
I recall a story about how you wouldn’t play Eddie Vedder on Homegrown when he lived here.
“His band was called Bad Radio. I used to harp all the time to send in a quality recording; no cassettes, you know? And so then he sends me a cassette. Bad Radio. So I listened to it, and the audio quality wasn’t good. I didn’t give it a second thought until years later.” He makes a funny voice: “Jim McInnes wouldn’t play Eddie Vedder on Homegrown. Well, sorry, it didn’t meet my specifications.” ■