by Andy Capp
“Thanks Andy! By the way, did I just say ‘Peckerhead’ on the air?!” Yes, he did. Of all my memories of Jim, that’s one of the clearest. I really should have known better than to slip into the studio when he was on the air. Anyone was fair game to get a mike shoved in their face when Jim was on a roll. Still, a spot was missing. Perhaps I could just sneak a cart in...no such luck. Trapped, participating in another of Jim’s on-air tirades, this one about the opinions of some movie reviewer in USA Today. Jim loved the movie; the reviewer did not. From Jim’s ranting, it was clear that this wasn’t the first time, nor the first reviewer to offend him. In fact, in Jim’s words, “Those movie reviewers are just a bunch of...” and that’s when he said it. Lord knows there have been worse things said on the air, but considering the year and market size, it might as well have been the Queen Mother. I knew it, and I thought Jim knew it, but he kept rambling on another 10 minutes as if he hadn’t said anything out of the ordinary, as if all the request lines AND the hotline weren’t ringing.
He wasn’t fired, for that one. It would have been ridiculous for an innocent slip like that, and well, that’s just Jim.
Jim is one of the funniest people I know. Really, right up there with Robin Williams, Jonathan Winters, Steve Martin, and all the Pythons. The difference is that I know Jim personally. I worked with him, and I was occasionally sucked into his lunacy.
When I came to KELO-Land, there were two Country stations in the building, and KELO FM was Extra Lite “Beautiful Music.” Jim was the PD/Morning Maven of the Country stations, as well as the merciless lampooner of Mellow Kellow’s music. One afternoon I found him in a solemn moon-walk to the strains of “Girl from Ipanema.” What the heck, I needed a break, so I joined in. Before long, we had digressed into break-dancing. Perhaps you had to be there to get the full effect. It wasn’t pretty, but it was pretty funny.
There’s always some bizarre routine going on with Jim, like life is one big stand up routine. I mean that in a good way. He’s one of those people who is so likable that the eternal lunacy is endearing, and endlessly funny.
I miss having Jim around the building. He brought out a perverse, silly, creative side of me that I didn’t know I had. It was a side that carried over into my work. Many of the really off the wall productions I was doing at the time came from that strange mindset Jim put me in. It was an unintentional collaboration, really, pulling me in creative directions I didn’t know existed.
I’ve come a long way. “I am a rock, I am an island,” Simon & Garfunkel could have been singing about me. For too long, if it came out of my head. I had to write it, produce it, voice it (even in multiples), pick out all the music and sound effects, everything. Hell, if I were a better musician and had a roomful of instruments, I would have composed and played the music—probably would have manufactured the tape and carts, given a plant. Everything was me, Me, ME!!!!
I suppose it was ego. After finding my niche in the business I wanted to keep proving that I could do it all, but it started to backfire. Everything started to sound vaguely the same, the end results lacked life.
It makes sense. A kid who grew up in South Dakota, leading a fairly sheltered life in the same town his first 22 years, has a damn small frame of reference. I’ve never believed that creative talent is geographic in nature, but it is a fact that the more life you experience, the more you have to draw from. In a short time, even the experiences of one person, vast or not, aren’t enough. Eventually it takes interaction to stimulate the creative process. Even the worldliest people get by with a little help from their friends. Consider the song Maybe I’m Amazed by Paul McCartney. Listen to the original on his solo album, the one when he wrote it, sang it, played it all. Then listen to the live version with Wings. The original version is a fine piece of work, but in its second incarnation, with input from other gifted musicians, the song really came alive—and became a hit.
It took awhile, but I finally realized that I do better work surrounded by creative people, whether they’re collaborating, or just, well, goofing off. Just spending time with another creative will expand your frame of reference, taking you places you’ve never been. At KidStar we were blessed with a group of creative people who understood that concept. Everybody contributed to everything. It was a team effort creatively, and the results were truly magic.
It’s worth the effort to spend time with other creatives, but let’s be realistic. It’s hard to find time. Rob, my composer/musician friend, is always writing/producing some new jingle or CD project, as is Phil, who focuses on kids music. Most of my KidStar friends are still in the Pacific Northwest, and while there’s always email, nothing beats those one-on-ones over a Latte. From Lori in Raleigh to John in Chicago to Klem in Seattle, I have many radio friends who inspire me with just a conversation over the phone, but they happen infrequently, too infrequently. And then there’s Jim. Jim isn’t in radio right now. He’s selling cigars in a smoke shop here in Sioux Falls. He needs to be in radio. He needs to be making a morning audience laugh. He needs to give a staff a creative kick in the butt, but circumstances have put him where he is right now. I don’t know all the details, but it was not his choice. If you need someone to jump-start your brain, if your station has a place for a crazy person (and what morning show doesn’t?), let me know, and I’ll get you in touch with him. I’ll miss not running into him at the local micro-brewery and laughing a few hours away, but he deserves more. Just keep in mind that I won’t be held responsible if you play “Girl from Ipanema” during the interview.