Jim Ladd, the Inspiration for Tom Petty's 'The Last DJ,' Laid Off From Radio Gig

With the acquisition of Citadel Broadcasting by Cumulus Media, some 27 Los Angeles-based KABC and KLOS staffers are let go, including the country's last commercial freeform jock.

Layoffs hit the radio industry hard on Wednesday as reports emerged that Clear Channel was letting go hundreds of employees in small to mid-sized markets in favor of "Premium Choice" content; format-specific programming syndicated to stations on a regional and national basis (like On Air with Ryan Seacrest).

And now comes word that Cumulus Media, new owners of Citadel Broadcasting’s popular Los Angeles stations KABC (talk) and KLOS (classic rock) have let as many as 27 people go, among them: legendary disc jockey Jim Ladd, who is hailed as the last commercial freeform jock still working in the U.S. and was the subject of Tom Petty’s 2002 song “The Last DJ,” itself an indictment of the radio industry which was eventually banned by Clear Channel.

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Ladd began his radio career in 1969 at Long Beach rock station KNAC. He spent more than 14 years at KLOS, where his show aired from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays, consistently leading in ratings for its time slot. He released a book, Radio Waves, in 1992.

"My disappointment is I didn't have a farewell show," Ladd told the Orange County Register. "I was very stunned and I still am. I have been through this before, but it is always traumatic." His last song was Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond."

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In 2003, Petty explained the meaning of the song “The Last DJ,” off the album of the same name, telling journalist Jim DeRogatis that it’s “about a DJ who becomes so frustrated with his inability to play what he wants that he moves to Mexico and gets his freedom back.”

According to radio tipsheet RAMP (Radio and Music Pros), Jack Silver has stepped in as PD for both KABC and KLOS, with Uncle Joe Benson taking over the afternoon slot and Gary Moore expanding to midnight.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are set to play two nights of benefit shows at the Performance Theater at Cal State Northridge for L.A. public radio station KCSN's fall pledge drive. 

Listen to Ladd's 1974 interview with John Lennon below and read the lyrics to Petty’s “The Last DJ” after the jump... 

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"The Last DJ"

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
Well the top brass don't like him talking so much,
And he won't play what they say to play
And he don't want to change what don't need to change

There goes the last DJ
Who plays what he wants to play
And says what he wants to say, hey hey hey...

And there goes your freedom of choice
There goes the last human voice
There goes the last DJ

Well some folks say they're gonna hang him so high
'Cause you just can't do what he did
There're some things you just can't put in the minds of those kidsAs we celebrate mediocrity all the boys upstairs want to see
How much you'll pay for what you used to get for free

There goes the last DJ
Who plays what he wants to play
And says what he wants to say, hey hey hey...

And there goes your freedom of choice
There goes the last human voice
And there goes the last DJ

Well he got him a station down in Mexico
And sometimes it'll kind of come in
And I'll bust a move and remember how it was back then

And there goes the last DJ
Who plays what he wants to play
And says what he wants to say, hey hey hey...

And there goes your freedom of choice
There goes the last human voice.
And there goes the last DJ

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