January 17, 1948 |
|Occupation||Disc jockey, writer|
Radio show style
Ladd personally selected every song he played on his weeknight show on KLOS-FM in Los Angeles. Station management gave him complete control over show content. He combines music with atmospheric sound samples and social commentary, often inviting listeners to participate on the air. Most of his music sets center around a theme or story-line, such as Wild West outlaws, beautiful women or fast cars. He regularly adds appropriate listener requests to his themed sets; sometimes a request will inspire an entire set.
He had three theme-based shows every week, on Monday, Wednesday and Sunday nights. On Monday, Jim featured the Blues on 'MOJO MONDAY' from 10PM pst to 11PM. On Wednesday at midnight, he performed an hour-long, uninterrupted segment called "Headsets." This is a theme-based collage of music blended seamlessly together, with one song leading into the next, incorporating sound effects such as voice overs and quotes from movies relating to the theme. On this program Ladd creates what he calls the "Theater of The Mind" (headphones are recommended). Two "Headsets" albums, both done in collaboration with Billy Sherwood, have been released.
Sunday night began at 9PM PST (to Midnight), a theme show called "Theme of Consciousness", where Ladd played listeners' requests for songs based on a single word or phrase, such as "Colors", "Fire", "Dance", etc. This show recreates what Ladd calls the "Tribal Drum", describing the communal effect of radio in his pioneering days of FM radio. His repertoire combined classic rock standards by artists like The Beatles, The Doors and Led Zeppelin with songs and artists not normally heard on commercial radio. As was once standard in radio, most of his broadcasts end with a long song, such as the Doors' "When The Music's Over," Led Zeppelin's "Achilles Last Stand" or even Pink Floyd's 23-minute-long "Echoes."
Early years and KMET
Ladd began his career in 1969 at KNAC, a small Long Beach rock station. After two years there, he moved to Los Angeles station KLOS. In 1974 he moved to KMET-FM, known to its legions of listeners as "The Mighty Met", where he would remain for most of the next 13 years (returning to KLOS in 1984, but going back to KMET again, 2 months before they changed format), while also hosting and producing Innerview, an hour-long nationally syndicated interview program that aired during the same period.
After what many listeners and people in the industry perceived as a long steady decline in the station's output, attributed by most accounts to the station's decision to bring in consultant Lee Abrams and the strict "album oriented rock" formatting he favored, KMET management shocked southern California and all of radio by abruptly dumping rock music, the call letters and the entire air staff in 1987, switching to a new age format with no DJs at all. But the loss over the years of KMET's most creative DJs made the end not that much of a surprise.
Jumping station to station, and side projects
In 1987, Ladd appeared on Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters' second solo album Radio K.A.O.S., portraying a fictional disk jockey named "DJ Jim". Ladd joined Waters on the tour that followed, and appeared in the three music videos for the album. Ladd also played an all-night DJ in Crowe's 1989 film Say Anything....
For several years, Ladd worked only on-and-off on the radio because he refused to follow a playlist, as most station owners demanded. In the late 1980s, Ladd worked at KMPC, where he helped to shape its "Full Spectrum Rock" blend of classic and modern rock, and was enthusiastic about its rebranding as KEDG "the Edge" in March 1989, but was laid off when the station abruptly abandoned its rock format two months later.
In 1991 Ladd released a semi-autobiographical book titled Radio Waves: Life And Revolution On The FM Dial (St. Martin's Press), based on his radio career and the rise and fall of freeform rock radio in LA, from the genesis of freeform on the West Coast through the demise of KMET in 1987. The names of many people and radio stations Ladd encountered during that two decade period were swapped for pseudonyms; however, Raechel Donahue has said that she insisted Ladd use her real name and that of her late husband Tom Donahue in the book. David Perry, Ace Young, Jack Snyder, Damion, and the late personalities B. Mitchel Reed and J.J. Jackson, were also among those identified by their actual "air names".
Free-form show on KLOS and the internet
Ladd and his free-form rock music returned to KLOS in 1997 and aired until October 26, 2011 Monday thru Thursday from 10PM to 2AM (PST), and on Sunday from 9PM to Midnight. His show routinely lead its time slot in Arbitron ratings. KLOS renewed his contract in January 2007. In addition, he has produced, written and narrated a number of nationally syndicated programs, including interviews, concert specials and album premieres.
Most recently, Ladd has used his MySpace and Facebook pages to interact with his listeners, who he refers to as "The Tribe." He often takes requests in the comments section, and has used the site as a source to become familiar with his listeners and promote free form radio. Beginning March 10, 2008, Ladd allowed his show to be streamed on KLOS's web site.
On November 5, 2011, Ladd gave a three-hour farewell broadcast on AM station KFI in Los Angeles.
Sirius XM Radio announced on December 2, 2011 that Jim Ladd will host a live, daily free-form music show on Deep Tracks, channel 27 beginning in January 2012. Jim can now be heard weeknights from 7pm-11pm Eastern and 4pm-8pm Pacific.
Masters of Sound TV Series
Just prior to the announcement that Ladd was fired by KLOS, it was announced that he would be hosting a new television series, currently in development called Masters of Sound. On the series, Ladd will be bringing together recording engineers and producers, and the pop and rock artists they worked with to tell the first-hand stories about what really happened in the studio as they created their greatest hits.
In speaking about the show, Ladd said “Ask any of the great musicians out there and they’ll tell you that it never would have happened without the team of people who had the vision to help bring their gifts to the world and recording engineers and producers, they’re some of the most crucial…and oh, the stories they can tell. One of the reasons why Masters of Sound is so appealing to me, is that it’s an untapped cultural goldmine and I’m excited to see what we’ll discover.” 
Jim Ladd is married to writer, poet and musician Helene Hodge Ladd.
Cultural impact and recognition
Ladd served as the inspiration for the 2002 Tom Petty album The Last DJ and its title track. In his career, he has become friends with many rock legends such as Roger Waters, Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks, John Lennon, George Thorogood, Steven Van Zandt, and Jackson Browne, along with original MTV veejay J.J. Jackson and filmmaker Cameron Crowe.
- Claudia Puig (May 27, 1991). "Jim Ladd Beats Tribal Drum for FM Rock". The Los Angeles Times.
- Steve Hochman (March 9, 2000). "He's a Deejay as Free as the Air". The Los Angeles Times.
- Gene Autry. "KMPC-FM 101.9: Full Spectrum Rock". Retrieved 10 August 2011.
- Roderick, Kevin (2011-10-26). "End of an era at KLOS: Jim Ladd out". LA Observed. Retrieved 2012-10-02.
- "Rock Radio Pioneer Jim Ladd to Join SiriusXM - NEW YORK, Dec. 2, 2011 /PRNewswire/". New York: Prnewswire.com. Retrieved 2012-10-02.
- "Masters of Sound Announces Jim Ladd To Host : Recording Magazine". Recordingmag.com. 2011-10-17. Retrieved 2012-10-02.
- "Blog Archive Announcement: Jim Ladd to Host". Masters of Sound. 2011-10-17. Retrieved 2012-10-02.
- Cashmere, Paul (2007-01-30). "Songwriter Jim Wagner Calls Tom Petty A Liar - Undercover.fm News". Undercover.com.au. Retrieved 2012-10-02.
- "Jim Ladd's Star Ceremony- Jackson Browne". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-10-02.
- "Hollywood Star Walk". The Los Angeles Times.