A Fond Farewell To Lee 'Baby' Simm

Stories and info about those no longer involved in the industry

A Fond Farewell To Lee 'Baby' Simm

Postby Glen Livingstone » Sun Mar 01, 2015 8:22 pm

A Fond Farewell To Lee 'Baby' Simms: "The Word Man Of Ultra-Trash"
By Glen Livingstone


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I guess you'd have to be a real fan of '60's and '70's Top 40 radio to even know or care about the passing of one of its illustrious pied pipers but to those of us who remember those days, Lee 'Baby'Simms was a god.

Mr. Simms died last month at his home in Walnut Creek, California of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at age 72.

In a career that spanned 40 years, Lee worked at an alphabet soup of 35 radio stations in 22 markets including Charleston, Orlando, San Antonio, Hartford, Cleveland, San Diego, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, Santa Rosa, Honolulu, and Phoenix.

Fired 25 times in as many years, If speed dial had existed back then U-Haul would have surely occupied the number one position on Lee's telephone because he was constantly on the move.

To say that Lee Simms was good - really, really good - would be underestimating his extraordinary talent.

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.”

Lee's on-air style was unique; he was a jive talking hipster who did not follow format; in fact he was just the kind of jock that radio executives loved to hate and had no clue how to handle.

He spun his funky 45's amidst a sea of pimple cream commercials and hokey VD PSA's, somehow managing to tie it all together into a potent package of audio dynamite that was impossible to ignore.

Lee would have been the first to admit that he did not play well with others.

"I never accepted an insult from anyone,” as he told anyone who would listen, and if you wanted to be a part of his caffeine inspired lunacy then you simply had to go along with anything that Lee said or did.

All of it.

That's just the way things were in Lee's world.

According to an article posted on the wdrcobg.com website, "Lee, after reading a pimple cream commercial during his first show, unleashed a tirade of angry calls when he described how terrible it is to get close to your girl only to have a zit pop."

A Hartford Courant article a month after Simms hit town described him as "the crazy new WPOP disc jockey who doesn't like anything (including Hartford)." A Hartford Times article on January 13, 1967 quoted Lee's feelings about Hartford:

"He dislikes it 'intensely.' He thinks the kids 'dress like slobs.' He says the people are 'impolite.' On the air he contends, 'I'm rude and crude and impolite because you are....'.

Lee was the first to call downtown Hartford's new Constitution Plaza Constipation Plaza.

He was arrested for telling his listeners to go there and have a snowball fight. Simms was famous for breaking the music format, going off on lengthy tirades."

In a period of radio known for its larger-than-life personalities, Lee stood out.

Combine the topicality and humour of Lenny Bruce with the freeform ad lib genius of Jonathan Winters and you'd have a pretty good idea of Lee's on air style.

When you were listening to Lee you knew you were getting the real deal, there was nothing phony about him.

A couple of jocks from that era with a comparable approach that I can think of are the late Robert O. Smith and Lan Roberts who worked in the Seattle and Vancouver markets respectively.

According to a post on Radioinsight.com:
"In the 1980s he (Lee) 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."

It turns out that Lee also dabbled in songwriting. He wrote 'Time' for the Pozo-Seco Singers, 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.

Memories of Lee?

"Well lets see, I would buy a round, and lee would chug the whole thing, then say...where did that waitress go. Lee threw his land line (old days) phone into Biscayne Bay from his balcony in Miami...because he was mad at it. Lee liked fishing and had asked me several times to pick him up at the airport and drop him off at a bridge. I will miss him.' - Jim Kelly

"I had the pleasure of working with Lee "Baby" Simms at KORL Radio-Honolulu in the late 70s. He was cool and smooth and always kind to young folks like me. He also made me his co-taste tester of Famous Amos cookies. Amos knew Lee from LA and would ship cookies from Nutley NJ to the station. That was a most pleasant task. RIP Lee Baby, you were just too cool for words." - Bob Jenkins

"Lee was a genius. I worked with him for several years at KISQ in SF. He did most of his show prep on little post-its, usually from the local hang out spot down the street from the station. He always told the best stories and was one of the kindest people I've ever known. I am so sad that he is gone. He left us with so many funny stories that I will never forget. He will always be in my heart. God Bless him." - Yvonne Angelo

The following quote from David Remnick, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for his book 'Lenin's Tomb' perfectly sum up Lee's approach to life:

"The world is a crazy, beautiful, ugly complicated place, and it keeps moving on from crisis to strangeness to beauty to weirdness to tragedy. The caravan keeps moving on, and the job of the radio broadcaster is to stop - is to pause - and when the caravan goes away, that's when this stuff comes."

For forty years Lee's 'stuff' came until that warm California night on January 29th when a single gunshot brought it all to an end.

Lee Simms is gone baby.

Real, real gone.
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With files from radioInsight.com - wdrcobg.com - kenlevine.blogspot.com - Jim Kelly, Bob Jenkins, Yvonne Angelo & radioInk.com
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Re: A Fond Farewell To Lee 'Baby' Simm

Postby radiofan » Sun Mar 01, 2015 8:32 pm

Lee Baby Simms Airchecks

KRLA Los Angeles April 30, 1971: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGDLJORcu2I

If you're a subscriber to REEL RADIO, there's a Lee Simms Collection of airchecks: http://www.reelradio.com/ls/index.html
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.
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