Come Back, Jimmy Rabbit

luis

One writer's beginnings: KCBQ AM!

That's right, AM radio. I had a Craig transistor radio with a neat leather covering. Fold-out antenna. Very James Bond. It would be years until I found out that the hippies on FM were dropping LSD and playing hours and hours of bizarre free-form radio. No, KCBQ was the first crack in the impenetrable veneer of the big world, that place I peered at through bad eyes and a bad history. My friends had come from good neighborhoods. Not me. They had been born in the USA. Not me. They had happy families. Not me. They even had money, and many of them lived in two-story houses that scared me to death. Not me, not me.

I was always the last guy picked for basketball. I was picked after they picked Pete, the cadaverous madman with the laser stare who obsessed about Jimi Hendrix--Pete, who would shoot endless hoops and mutter, "Foxey lady!" and "Purple Haze!" in a loud monotone. I did OK with football games--I was probably next to last man picked, but they figured I was built like a tractor and could plow people under. I saved some dignity by gathering the dope fiends and the misfits and naming my football team "The Groundhogs" because there was no mud or filth we weren't afraid to dive through.

One refuge available to a lonesome punk-ass kid like me was radio. I suffered through the pop drivel on AM band. I barely survived "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" or "Up Up and Away!" in my byoodiful my byoodiful balloooooon! No, I waited for the afternoon to come, when the wickedly hip voice of Jimmy Rabbit took over.

The Rabbit! I knew he was my best friend. How could the jocks and the beautiful people get the better of me when The Rabbit was my pal? He of the smoker's voice and the manly laugh! He, who secretly read my mind, and played what we both knew was great music: Jimmy Rabbit loved The Electric Prunes, I was certain! Jimmy Rabbit had too much to dream last night! Forget Bread or whatever wan California girl balladress was warbling for most of the day--The Rabbit was hankering to hear Cream, The Who, Spirit, The Chambers Brothers, or the LONG VERSION of "Ina-Gadda-Da-Vida" just like me.

Back in my ghetto days, when I was the lost boy at 3935 National Avenue, I used to listen to Wolfman Jack. Oh my God in Heaven--the Wolfman scared me to death. I knew he was a skinny black man, blind, locked in a cinderblock radio station in some abandoned midnight desert, and his studio was surrounded by howling wolves and coyotes. And he played James Brown and the Wicked Pickett! He might have been dead, too, and possessed by a juju spirit. And where he was was not in color, but in black and white. Lit by a single harsh bulb. All I could do was hide under my blankets at night and thank the Lord I had survived that.

But Jimmy Rabbit was my pal, and he delivered me unto the shores of cool. I still remember him doing the Magic Bus giveaway--call when you hear the Who and win the magic bus! Something like that. In my innocence, I believed the Rabbit was so powerful, he had stolen or bought the bus from the Who himself.

He was a rebel with hot tunes. He was imparting secrets to me that the girls I was getting to know hadn't heard yet. He was teaching me the lyrics to "Sunshine of Your Love" and "I Can See for Miles." These lyrics were paving stones. The songs and the artists in the songs and The Rabiit's naughty semi-dangerous laugh were some kind of inititation and vindication. Because of Fever Tree, because of Love, because of Bob Dylan, I had these secret thoughts. I had something growing inside myself. Independence.

Thanks, Rabbit.

Wherever you are today, playing country music or soft jazz, sneak in an Electric Prunes song one time. There are other children with notebooks and pens waiting to hear there is hope. You taught me that it takes one simple thing to be cool, and that was to believe you were cool. You played the soundtrack of salvation.

I can see for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles....
L

Comments

Jay Marvin (not verified)

Jimmy was the reason I got into radio. I loved him on KRLA, KMET, KLAC, KROQ and KBBQ. I'm now proud to call him my friend. If you love Gram Parsons and Outlaw Country Jimmy started it all.

Timmy Manocheo (not verified)

Great reminiscenses... Long live El Conejo! He shed light on us too, in the vast void of L.A., after he comforted you, Luis... With inscense burning a vision of unwaivering Truths. i think a lot of folks would still be wandering aimlessly without the guidance from those airwaves. Peace, Timmy

El Conejo (not verified)

Thanks for remembering! You brought back some memories that I had forgotten! Maybe I should have forgotten! I did steal the Magic Bus...but that's another story...for another day!

charlestace (not verified)

He's in Colorado now, and I hope you've visited his site at http://www.jimmyrabbitt.com/

Prudence (not verified)

KGB Homegrown, too!

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Book club members have been some of my most enthusiastic and careful readers. I’m thrilled to share my work with you, answer your questions and tell you some of the stories behind the stories. This is our spot, just for us. Here, we can chat:  If I’m nearby, I’ll come and visit your club. Otherwise, we can Skype, talk over the phone or email. Sometimes, I’ll send surprises or hold contests.

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