The Radio Maverick ‘Jim Ladd’ Who Inspired Tom Petty’s ‘The Last DJ’ Passes Away at 75

The Radio Maverick ‘Jim Ladd’ Who Inspired Tom Petty’s ‘The Last DJ’ Passes Away at 75 | Society Of Rock Videos

via George Thorogood & The Destroyers Official / YouTube

Los Angeles lost a broadcasting legend as Jim Ladd, the veteran radio host, passed away on December 16 at the age of 75, succumbing to a heart attack.

The sad news was confirmed by DJ Meg Griffin on SiriusXM, who replaced Ladd for what would have been his regular Deep Tracks show on Monday.

Griffin, addressing the audience, expressed her condolences, stating,

“I am so sorry for the shock that just hit you as you’re listening right now.”

“Tom respected and admired Jim Ladd and considered him a friend,” read a message from Petty’s estate. “His insights into rock ‘n’ roll were priceless. Jim’s voice will be missed on the airwaves. Our family joins his in mourning his loss.”

Known for his unwavering dedication to music, Ladd’s impact on the radio industry was profound. Griffin emphasized that Ladd “never stopped caring. He delivered the truth. He lived for the music.”

Jim Ladd embarked on his radio journey in 1969 at Long Beach station KNAC before making his mark at L.A.’s KLOS in 1971 and later at KMET in 1974.

He became synonymous with “The Mighty Met” until a controversial format change in 1987 disrupted his tenure.

Despite the challenges posed by his refusal to adhere to playlists, Ladd’s commitment to his unique “free-form radio” approach endured. After a hiatus, he returned to KLOS in 1997, captivating listeners until 2011. Subsequently, he transitioned to SiriusXM.

Ladd’s influence extended beyond the airwaves, forming close friendships with music icons like Roger Waters. In a unique turn of events, Ladd inspired Waters’ second solo album, “Radio K.A.O.S.,” released in 1987, where he portrayed the fictional DJ. Additionally, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers drew inspiration from Ladd for their 2002 album “The Last DJ,” criticizing radio commercialization.

The title track pays homage to Ladd with the lyrics:  “Well, you can’t turn him into a company man / You can’t turn him into a whore / And the boys upstairs just don’t understand anymore.”

Jim Ladd wasn’t just a voice on the radio; he was a multifaceted talent, delving into writing, producing, and hosting the interview show “Innerviews” for many years.

His cinematic presence included roles in films such as “Say Anything,” “To Die For,” and “Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out!”

Tributes from fellow musicians poured in after Ladd’s passing. Neal Schon acknowledged Ladd’s pioneering influence,

“God bless Jim, as he was the best and paved the way for many to follow. My sincere condolences to family and friends. RIP, brother. I will always cherish the great memories of our friendship.”

Robby Krieger of the Doors highlighted Ladd’s enduring support,

“He was the best friend in radio the Doors ever had. Even when people forgot about us in the late ‘70s, he kept playing our music.”

As the music community mourns the loss of Jim Ladd, his legacy as a radio maverick, friend to musicians, and advocate for authentic music experiences will resonate for years to come.

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