Local Legends Profile: DJ Jim McInnes, Homegrown Hero
When Jim McInnes was fired by Clear Channel/101.5 KGB FM in 2002, after 28 years with the station, he had spent most of disc jockey career ["And over half my life!"] at KGB. JM in the PM on the FM. HR Rock ‘n’ stuff, occasional Land Piranhas guitarist, and original co-creator of the Homegrown Hour, designed to feature only San Diego musicians.
During his heroic heyday at KGB, McInnes also hosted local-centric Homegrown Nights around town at mildly glitzy dugouts like My Rich Uncle's, where local bands would play live for an audience and be recorded on an eight-track recorder, with the full show being aired that weekend over the radio.
Then there was the now-elusive series of Homegrown vinyl records, the first of which was released in 1973 and sported liner notes by future famous former neighbor Cameron Crowe. McInnes and KGB promotions director at Scott Chatfield co-produced the final album in the series in 1984 (Chatfield also hosted the Homegrown radio show while McInnes took a two year break).
"Jim's impressive because he's thoroughly unimpressed with his own celebrity," says Chatfield. "He's a great friend, personality, humorist, musician and water volleyball player. Before I joined KGB, McInnes's 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."
After McInnes was relieved of his own job at KGB, he went on to become a PM drive jock at KPLN 103.7 the Planet, and then an afternoon drive-time traffic reporter at Jack FM. Today, the Kensington-based jock is the 3-to-9PM weekday news anchor for KFMB 760AM, a conservative talk radio station where he also voices commercials and promos.
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 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."
I later asked McInnes what he and Yakov Smirnoff were talking about. 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.
WHAT’S IN YOUR CD PLAYER?
Paul Simon, So Beautiful or So What. “The Afterlife is the catchiest song about the great beyond that I’ve ever heard. You get to the pearly gates and some clerk says, ‘You got to fill out a form first, and then you wait in the line.’ It’s genius!”
Cal Tjader, Cubano! “Great vibes and massive percussion.”
Black Sabbath, Volume 4. “Music so heavy, you could quarry granite with it.”
Steve Gadd and Friends, Live at Voce. “A quartet led by virtuoso drummer Gadd and organ master Joey DeFrancesco, it’s been in my car’s music system for more than a year.”
FAVORITE FREE HANGOUT? “Home is my favorite place. Wait, that’s NOT free when you have a mortgage, is it?”
GUILTY PLEASURE? “I’m a big fan of the trashy pop of Scissor Sisters.”
BEST CONCERT? “I never understood why people loved the Who until I saw them at the Sports Arena sometime around 1976, with the original four band members. The energy level was ridiculous! I’ve seen them a dozen times since then, and only since Zak Starkey joined on drums have they recaptured that power.”
WHAT WOULD YOU TELL THE YOUNGER YOU? “I’d say, ‘Don’t even TRY doing the morning show at KGB.’ They hired me in 1974 to do mornings, and I lasted three months. Luckily I wasn’t fired!”
SOMETHING YOU NEVER RUN OUT OF? “Shredded wheat. It’s good for you. Keeps you regular.”
WHO DO PEOPLE SAY YOU LOOK LIKE? “When I had a big, bushy moustache, David Crosby, before his troubles began, which is laughable. If I look like anyone, it’s my mom.”
WORST INJURY? “I completely fractured my right humerus at age eleven, when I fell from a tree while trying to shoot a squirrel. I gave up shooting at critters after that.”
BEST AND WORST THINGS ABOUT LIVING IN KENSINGTON? “It’s the greatest hundred year-old neighborhood in the city, and it’s convenient to everywhere. Unfortunately, there are too many police helicopter flights over the area, due to its proximity to some not-so-nice areas.”
POLICE HELICOPTERS HOVER OVER NICE AREAS TOO “True, we were burgled in Tierrasanta in 1984. They took all the usual stuff, and we never got anything back.”
WHERE DO YOU TAKE OUT-OF-TOWN GUESTS? “Ponce’s Mexican Restaurant in Kensington. Yummy.”
YOUR BEST ON-STAGE MOMENT? “When Ian Anderson chose me to be his co-host during the Rubbing Elbows tour stop at the East County Performing Arts Center several years ago.”
FAVORITE CELEBRITY ENCOUNTER? “I once shared a joint with Bob Seger and his sax player, Alto Reed.”
TOPS ON YOUR TO-DO LIST? “Explore the Great Pyramid at Giza, visit Tuscany in Italy and cruise the Greek Islands of the Mediterranean, lose forty pounds, and pay off my mortgage before I retire.”
TELL US SOMETHING WE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU? “I was a member of the NRA in the early 1960s, and still consider myself a good target shooter.”
More like this:
- Jim McInnes booted via Facebook from Jazz 88.3 — Aug. 8, 2018
- Homegrown McInnes — Aug. 15, 2012
- DJ Jim McInnes Recovering from Tumor Surgery — April 2, 2012
- When DJs Ruled the Air - Jim McInnes and the Birth of KGB Homegrown — June 10, 2011
- JIM McINNES: THE LAST DJ — Sept. 1, 2007