January 29, 2015 at 6:29 pm #130475
Here is the story I just wrote for the DecalcoMania radio fanzine. RadioInsight gets to have it first.
Lee “Baby” Simms committed suicide on January 28. He was 72 and recovering from cancer. He went outside and shot himself in the stomach. Born Gilmore LaMar Simms in Charleston, South Carolina, he dropped out of high school at 16 and began jocking at WTMA as “Hot Toddio on the Radio.” He later worked at crosstown WONO. Simms, by his own recollection, worked at 35 stations in 22 markets and was fired 25 times because he “never accepted an insult from anyone.” While Simms was at KONO in San Antonio, program director Woody Roberts gave him the nickname “Lee Baby.” Simms also worked at WMBR in Jacksonville, WLOF in Orlando, WJBK in Detroit, WSHO in New Orleans, KTSA in San Antonio, WIST in Charlotte (where he doubled as program director), WGCL and WKYC in Cleveland, WPOP in Hartford and WMYQ in Miami. While at WPOP in 1966-67, Simms would often break format and go on lengthy tirades to complain about long hair, sloppily-dressed teenagers, rude people and other annoyances. He told an interviewer from the Hartford Courant, “I don’t like anything, including Hartford.”
On February 9, 1971, after spending three years as afternoon host at KCBQ in San Diego, Simms joined KRLA as 9-to-midnight host. He began his first airshift just 15 hours after the 6.6 Sylmar earthquake which killed 65 people and caused $500 million in property damage. After a few months at KRLA, Simms traded time slots with 6-to-9 host Dave Diamond. Simms briefly worked at KROQ and KTNQ before moving to Hawai’i, where he jocked at KKUA, KORL, KDUK and KPOI. In the 1980s he worked at KFOG in San Francisco, WLVE in Miami, KKIS in Concord and KPRQ in Rohnert Park. Simms was outraged in 1986 upon the release of an Indie film, Down By Law. Tom Waits played one of three men who were arrested and imprisoned and then plotted an escape. Waits’ character, Zack, was a New Orleans disc jockey known as Lee “Baby” Simms. The real Simms threatened a lawsuit but Waits later explained that he used the name as a tribute and had no idea Simms was still in radio. In the 1990s, Simms jocked at KOOL in Phoenix and KYA and KISQ in San Francisco. While at KISQ, his show was also heard via syndication on WUBT in Chicago. Simms retired from radio in 2002. Robert Wiesbuch, former president of Drew University, has written a book titled Hitbound chronicling the careers of Simms, Joey Reynolds, Woody Roberts and other radio personalities. The book has yet to be published.January 30, 2015 at 2:40 pm #130512
In the Lee “Baby” Simms article on LARadio.com today, Don Barrett (with my permission) included some excerpts from my story. Don added a detail that I was unaware of: Simms wrote Time for the Pozo Seco Singers. That was a trio which included Don Williams, who would go on to have 55 solo country hits. The label credited “Mouse Merchant,” which was the name of Simms’ cat. The song was released in 1965 by Edmark Records in Texas and reached #47 nationally after being picked up by Columbia.January 30, 2015 at 3:03 pm #130516
Five different websites that mention Simms’ death all say he was 72. He was 16 when he started at WTMA and that was in 1961. Depending on the month he started and the month he was born, his birth year would be either 1944 or 1945. Claude Hall says 1944. That means that Simms was either 70 or had turned 71 in January 2015. January is one of twelve months in the year so there is only an 8.5% chance that Simms was born in January. Pending further evidence, I hereby declare that Simms was 70.
None of the stories (so far) mention where Simms died: his home was in Walnut Creek, California.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.