He is a radio DJ, guitarist, singer-songwriter and
actor born Eddy Payne from Washington DC
who settled in Tyler, Texas
with his grandparents while he was young. Busy from the start, he attended
school and spent the rest of the time working as a shoe salesman and
playing in a band.
While he was still a teenager in 1961 he was given the
chance to host his own radio show for KGKB AM and soon became known as
“Fast Eddy Payne”.
The following year he was broadcasting a night-time show in Corpus
Christi at KRYS AM when he got noticed by a radio
and record promoter who took him down to KOLE AM at Port
Arthur in Louisiana. Before long he was back in Tyler
working at KDOK AM and remained there until 1964.
While broadcasting in Tyler
he was listened to by Johnny Borders of McLendon
Broadcasting and soon he was whisked off to a job in Dallas
at KLIF AM where he changed his name to Jimmy Rabbitt
and learnt many of the tricks of the radio presenter’s trade. At the same time the British
Invasion was erupting in America
and he began playing a huge range of local music mixed in with many of the
new British and American songs that were now sweeping the country. He has also been credited with
giving many groups and singers their break. These include The Five Americans,
John Fred & His Playboy Band, The Sir Douglas Quintet, B.J. Thomas and
Z.Z. Top among others. He was
an immediate success and got himself the accolade of being named
“Number One Radio Personality” in Texas
and the singer Leslie Gore became his girlfriend.
At the same time as all of this he was still
performing with his band and making appearances at venues that ranged from
local clubs to much bigger concert venues. He became acquainted with The Beatles
and he suddenly saw his star status hitting great heights when he brought
them on-stage at the Dallas Memorial Auditorium Concert.
He had sung when he was younger as a rockabilly artist
using his real name and issued several singles. He decided to try again in 1965 and
released “Pushover” in three versions where they were credited
to Jimmy Rabbitt, Jimmy Rabbitt
with Ron & Dea, and Jimmy Rabbit & The
Karats. It was also used for
the soundtrack of the movie High
Yellow, in which he appeared, along with it’s
flip-side “Wait and See”.
Other movies he appeared in during the 1960s included Cajun Cowboy, Hot Rod Fever, Motorcycle
Mamas and Sindy.
Also in 1965 he issued “Wishy
Washy Woman”, credited to Jimmy Rabbitt or
Jimmy Rabbit & The Rowdies, which climbed up the KLIF charts to No.
31. In 1966 he recorded
“Psychotic Reaction” as Positively Thirteen O’Clock
which was possibly his most successful release.
By now his radio show was cornering around 65%-70% of
the market in Dallas and Fort
Worth and he was promoted to the position of music
director. He was then asked to
be the programmer of KLIF FM which evolved into KNUS FM and became one of
the first FM radio successes in the world.
In 1968 he was given the opportunity to become the
Music Director at KCBQ AM/FM in San Diego, California. He jumped at the chance and then
moved to Los Angeles in 1969 to
work at KRLA AM in Pasadena. This gave him almost superstar
status and was named “Rock Jock” of the year by the L.A. Times.
A couple of years later in 1971 he began working for
the ABC FM Network at KABC FM in Hollywood,
which was internationally broadcast and started a massive Billboard
campaign. His shows which promoted the “Top Ten” were aired all
over the world and his following was so massive that he was included on the
Hot 100 of Rock in Esquire
magazine and rubbed shoulders with the top stars in the music
He began working at KMET FM in their Metromedia “underground radio” and he was
then tempted to play rock and country music mixes. This was the start of a new phase
for the Number One DJ when he started promoting new names in the business
such as Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings and he was soon advertised in
Southern California and his show at KLAC brought the station the honour of
being the first country music station to top the popularity polls in Los
Angeles. He later worked for
KBBQ AM in Burbank and remained with them after the station was sold off
and became KROQ which was a change from country music to rock.
Always performing at the same time as broadcasting, he
formed the band Texas”
which found popularity straight away in local bars and before long they
were given a recording contract by Atlantic Records. His band changed its name to
Renegade after having lost in a legal suit over the name “Texas”
and they changed to Capitol Records with the production being done by
Waylon Jennings. During the
second half of the 1970s he co-wrote a song for David Allan Coe’s
album Long Haired Redneck and
this propelled Renegade into playing at bigger and better venues. They
released their album Jimmy Rabbitt and Renegade which produced the singles
“Someone to Miss” and “Ladies Love Outlaws” which
both made their way into the charts and got them recognised as a pioneer of
“progressive country” music.
The band toured for several years right into the start
of the 1980s and he also went back to his shows at KGBS FM and KMET FM and
then on to KROQ.
Saying goodbye to California,
he relocated to KSNO AM/FM in Aspen, Colorado,
where he became their operations manager and program director. He was there for about a decade
before he was persuaded to return to Texas
to be a presenter of Pure Gold on
Satellite Music Network’s worldwide broadcasting show.
His return to Texas
also saw him working with various other radio stations and going back to
college and taking up studies in computing, English composition and music
He has most recently been heard on The Rock and Blues Lab at KAFM-FM in Grand
Junction, Colorado and El Conejo’s Back on the Beach at in Newport
Beach/Costa Mesa, California,
on KOCI FM.