Tree man of San Diego, the last vaquero, C.A. Smith’s repairman, when you win the lottery, largest rancher in San Diego
Various Authors 11:01 a.m., Dec. 10
"There goes the last DJ/who plays what he wants to play/and says what he wants to say/there goes your freedom of choice/there goes the last human voice/there goes the last DJ" -- lyrics from "The Last DJ," by Tom Petty
DJ Jim McInnes spent 28 years in radio before being fired for the first time a few years ago by Clear Channel/101.5 KGB FM. McInnes had spent most of disc jockey career ["And over half my life!"] at KGB.
"He's a local broadcast legend who knows the local music community," says Shambles guitarist Bart Mendoza. "He gave us our very first airplay back in the Manual Scan days [ Mendoza 's original mid-eighties group], kind of giving us the impetus to continue. Someone was listening!"
Says Mendoza, "In an age where 'local radio' means the DJ is in Texas and has possibly never seen your town, Jim is a treasure." Mendoza makes note of the fact that McInnes is a musician himself, having played from 1979 through 1981 with the local punk outfit Land Piranhas.
McInnes ignored his musical aspiration for nearly two decades, but has recently picked up the guitar again to play with Modern Rhythm, along with Jack Pinney, once the drummer for Iron Butterfly. "I respect that he continues to perform," says Mendoza . "It's an indication of just how much he loves music. He's also one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. He's the voice of San Diego radio!"
Scott Chatfield used to serve as promotions director at KGB and spent many years working alongside McInnes. He tells me "Jim's impressive because he's thoroughly unimpressed with his own celebrity. He's a great friend, personality, humorist, musician and water volleyball player. Before I joined KGB, McInnes' voice and dada-esqe yet conversational attitude were synonymous with the station for me. He and his wife Sandi were among the first to make friends with me when I joined KGB as producer of the Delany & Prescott Show in June '83, and they were kind enough to take me out to dinner the night I was relieved of that job in September '84."
"Jim and his family were our companions on our first European trip in 1988. Jim and I have traveled a lot together since then. When Jim took a two-year break from hosting his legendary local music show, The Homegrown Hour, he chose me to fill in, a task that was pure joy."
The Homegrown Hour featured only San Diego musicians, and there was also a series of Homegrown vinyl records, the first of which was released in 1973 and sported liner notes by a teenage KGB listener named Cameron Crowe (later to author "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" and the subject/writer/director of the film "Almost Famous"). "Through Homegrown, I became close with many San Diego musicians, including Mike Keneally, who I now manage and am partners with in our label Exowax Recordings." McInnes and Chatfield co-produced the final album in the series, Homegrown '84.
Mark DeCerbo of Rockola has resurrected Four Eyes, the power pop band he fronted in the late seventies and early eighties. "Jim was always hanging out at shows, checking out local bands. Being in a position as the top DJ at the biggest radio station in town, he was able to put on these shows called 'Homegrown Nights,' at a place called My Rich Uncle's. Local bands would play live for an audience and he'd record them on an eight track recorder and then play it that weekend over the radio, the full show. Whenever there was something happening with local music, he'd not only be there in person but then he'd take it to the airwaves, if not recorded then he'd talk about it."
Says DeCerbo, "Four Eyes had a song called 'Dangerous' on one of the Homegrown albums, and that was the first chance a lot of us had to be recorded and have records in the stores. He also played our songs sometimes during his drive-time slot and on a Sunday night show he had that focused on local music. DJs just don't have that kind of freedom any more and, even if they did, few would be daring enough to put so much into local musicians who don't even have a record deal."
David Peck's local Reelin' In The Years Productions maintains an archive of over 10,000 filmed musical performances, as well as representing others with footage to license for broadcast or video releases. Reelin' holds a piece of historical footage featuring McInnes, which it has licensed for use to VH1. "I got ahold of a piece of film that was shot at a backyard party here in San Diego , around 1981," he says. "Weird Al Yankovic was there, before he really broke big, when he was still doing 'Another One Rides the Bus' on [syndicated radio show] Dr. Demento. Jim is playing with him, and he's playing Weird Al's accordion and somebody comes by and spills beer on the thing. Weird Al got really upset with him, because it was a brand new accordion! And Jim is just shrugging his shoulders, like, 'hey, it's just an accordion, not a Les Paul,' but Weird Al wasn't laughing. Shows which one of them actually had the sense of humor, huh?"
McInnes explains in a phone interview "What happened was that my friend tried to pour a beer in my mouth while my hands were occupied trying to play accordion for the first time, and it spilled into the [instrument's] bellows. [Weird] Al was a good sport about it - he'd just had the accordion cleaned!"
Guitarist Marc Intravaia used to play with the Monroes, who had a brief taste of national fame with the hit "What Do All The People Know." "Back in the seventies," he says, "I was in a band called Listen, and we were on some of the Homegrown albums. In '75 and '76 or so, we did KGB's musical logos and played music for their commercials, and Jim even helped get us half hour spotlights about our band, like on the Sunday night shows. Back then, Jim was the guy who made KGB a really progressive radio station, and he really gave local bands a boost. I was 18 when we met, and I was in awe of DJs, of meeting the guys behind the voices on the radio."
"KGB used to put on free concerts at what is now called Starlight Bowl but then it was Balboa Bowl. Listen did a few of those, and Jim used to get up on stage and jam with us sometimes. The first time was '74 or '75, and I wasn't even aware at the time that he was a musician. I'm sure we had a bunch of beer and he said 'by the way, I play guitar,' and we said 'all right'.I think we just played a typical blues thing. As a guitar player, he's, uh, he's a great DJ."
DJ Gabriel Wisdom has been a fixture on local radio even longer than McInnes, since 1968 when he helped pioneer "free form" FM radio at local station KPRI. Wisdom went to work on-air for KGB in the early seventies. The station was at the time launching a publicity campaign announcing that KGB was being "recycled," referencing the then-current ecology craze but in actuality referring to a programming change that would now be called "instituting a new format." That format was progressive, album oriented rock and roll.
Wisdom told me about the first time he met McInnes, in the early seventies. "I had just started at KGB. I think I was the first FM disc jockey hired for the 'recycling' of KGB, and he was the second, when they lured him away from KPRI. When I first met him, and they were showing him around the station, I was knocking heads with the program director at the time because I wanted to do everything my way. Well, they fired me and hired Jim, so I was meeting my replacement, even though I didn't know it at the time. They hired me back a week later. So when Jim got fired from KGB recently, he'd never been fired, and I told him 'now you're finally a veteran radio DJ!'"
McInnes elaborates: "There's a saying in broadcasting; 'If you haven't been fired, you haven't worked in radio.' "
According to Wisdom, "Jim was one of the earliest people to use short abbreviated phrases like 'JM in the PM on the FM.' He's quite a wordsmith, and very well educated. He was the first guy that I ever heard use the phrase "cunning linguist" on the air, which you have to pronounce very carefully, or else, you know."
Wisdom reveals the little known fact that McInnes took seven years of Russian and is quite fluent in speaking the difficult dialect. "The irony of that, of course, is him working at a station called KGB! There was one time in the early nineties when Yakov Smirnoff, the Russian comedian, came into the studio when he was in town [performing] at the Comedy Store. Jim starts talking Russian to the guy and they sounded like a couple of KGB mafiosos! He'd told me he spoke Russian, but I'd never seen the proof until then. How do you describe half a dozen jaws dropping?"
"The most memorable part was when Jim said something in Russian, and I have no idea what it was, and Yakov Smirnov replied, in perfect English, 'That's the straw that broke Glen Campbell's back.' To this day, I have no idea what that was in reference to."
(Joey Harris - photo by Ryan Loyko, for the Reader)
Guitarist Joey Harris is a former member of the Beat Farmers (he replaced Buddy Blue after the third Beat Farmers record, "Van Go"), and he fronted Joey Harris and The Speedsters. "Jim used to get me backstage to after-parties," he says in a phone interview. "He'd be emceeing the concert and we'd hang out and we'd go to the hotel afterward to hang out with the band. Like at Cheap Trick. There were a lot of naked girls everywhere, in '83 or '84, back when Cheap Trick still had naked girls hanging around them."
Asked for further details, Harris (now married) laughs and says "I can't remember. I'm not sure that actually happened." McInnes emceed Harris' wedding when he married his wife onstage at Street Scene in 1990, perhaps explaining Harris' reluctance to reminisce.
McInnes today is the evening news anchor for KFMB 760AM and he writes a monthly column for San Diego Troubadour magazine. In January '08, he landed the afternoon drive-time traffic reporter slot at Jack FM. I called him awhile back, in part to give him a chance to hear what others had told me about him for this piece, but also to offer him a chance to add his own commentary or rebuttals, which I’ve inserted throughout this blog essay.
Mainly, tho, I wanted to ask him what it was that he and Yakov Smirnoff were talking about that resulted in Smirnoff commenting "That's the straw that broke Glen Campbell's back."
McInnes laughed and said "I don't remember that [about Glen Campbell's back]! I don't know if that actually happened. But it sounds good and, if Gabriel said it, well, it's at least entertaining. That's what DJs do, you know. We're entertainers."
At least the good ones are.
(Weird Al Video "I'll Sue Ya")
RAGE AGAINST THE RANCHO
I guess it makes sense that rockers as rich as the guys (formerly) in blink 182 have run out of things to angst over. "I guess this is growing up..." and all that, dontcha know.
So it's kind of a hoot to discover that the debut album by +44 with Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker includes a track dissing Hoppus' former neighbors in so-upscale-it's-obscene Rancho Santa Fe.
His rage against the Rancho is mainly directed at the neighborhood's homeowners association. Hoppus told newstimeslive.com “There's a song called ‘Lillian’ on the record that's about people that try to control other people's lives...And there's a place in San Diego called Rancho Santa Fe, which is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been in my life. It's country sides, rolling hills, there's trees everywhere. It's this gorgeous place, and it's filled with some of the most backstabbing, evil, just bitter, bitter people in the world."
"The homeowners association is very strict and it's strange because everybody who lives there is very wealthy…They're just bitter and it's a sour, sour community. The woman who started the homeowners association there is a woman named Lillian. So it's kind of about people trying to control one another.”
Hoppus seems pretty bitter and sour himself, judging from the tune's lyrics:
"The place I used to live, made me feel like a tourist I couldn't coexist with the cold and suspicious When the last remaining left was starting to filter It seemed the perfect time to step into the future
Your heart is no grave to be perfectly honest Your mouth's a smoking gun And you smile while your twisting the knife in my stomach Until everything is gone Take all you can from me I've got weak constitution I'm led so easily So easily
I left it all behind, in the dead of last winter I left it all behind, but the question still lingers So long forgotten friends, no, you don't know the difference Between love and submission, and I'm not that obedient
Your heart is no grave, to be perfectly honest Your mouth's a smoking gun And you smile while your twisting the knife in my stomach Until everything is gone Take all you can from me I've got weak constitution I'm led so easily."
I expect the next +44 album will include a tirade against Hoppus' Porsche mechanic ("Fixed my air with faulty parts, now my leather interior smells like farts").
Like this blog? Here are some related links:
OVERHEARD IN SAN DIEGO - Several years' worth of this comic strip, which debuted in the Reader in 1996: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/photos/galleries/overheard-san-diego/
FAMOUS FORMER NEIGHBORS - Over 100 comic strips online, with mini-bios of famous San Diegans: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/photos/galleries/famous-former-neighbors/
SAN DIEGO READER MUSIC MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/sandiegoreadermusic
JAY ALLEN SANFORD MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/jayallensanford