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     Rabbitt, Jimmy

    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 industry. 

     

    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 theory.

     

    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.

     

    Sources:

    1. http://www.jimmyrabbitt.com/rabbittbio.htm
    2. http://www.garagehangover.com/?q=jimmyrabbit
    3. http://www.therabbittreport.com/
    4. http://www.radiodailynews.com/rabbittchapter12.htm
    5. http://radiolidarity.blogspot.com/2009/08/jimmy-rabbitt.html
    6. http://1650oldiesradio.com/pgfive.html

     

     

     

     

     

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