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Rock radio DJ Jim Ladd talks about KLOS dismissal

He's an independent thinker in an era of market-driven, pre-programmed playlists. And he has no plans to fade into silence. On Saturday afternoon he will do a three-hour listener call-in show on KFI-AM.

November 05, 2011|By Randy Lewis, Los Angeles Times

"They used to have the 'seven plus seven' rule, which meant you couldn't own more than seven radio and seven television stations," he said. "That meant there were thousands of independent broadcasters who owned stations — not banks and not investment firms. You also had to hold on to a station for at least three years, which meant you had to be serving the community."

"In the 21st century, it's just gotten worse," he said.

Ladd likes the wide-ranging content that has come with the advent of satellite radio and thinks it may represent the future of the kind of freedom he's managed to hold on to throughout his career.

Ladd presents an image considerably younger than his chronological age. It's a combination of his rebel-with-a-cause attitude and his rock attire: a brown suede jacket over a black mock turtleneck shirt, faded blue jeans, alligator boots and dark aviator sunglasses framed by collar-length hair.

By now, Ladd well knows that layoffs are one of the occupational hazards of his chosen profession, especially as terrestrial radio's audience shrinks with the advent of satellite and more personalized online choices such as Pandora and Spotify.

He said he's nearly finished a screenplay about the heyday of free-form rock radio. ("As much fun as you think it was," he said, "multiply it by 1,000. … As young as we were then, we knew how lucky we were. We pinched ourselves every day.")

Beyond that, he's sorting through job offers with input from his wife, Helene, and his manager.

Asked why he won't simply read the writing on the wall and abandon a philosophy that in many respects belongs to another age, he turns to the words of another rock star.

"I have to quote David Crosby, who said, 'I feel like I owe it to someone.' I owe it to Tom and Rachael Donahue for what they did [as pioneers of free-form radio]. I owe it to Roger Waters for never selling out. I owe it to the Doors — they meant that music; they were not just singing pop songs. I owe it to John Lennon for what he sang in 'Working Class Hero' and 'Baby You're a Rich Man.' Mostly I owe it to my audience. It doesn't make sense for me to do it any other way."

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