I was driving around looking for lunch–as I often do in the 12pm – 1pm timeframe–listening to Steve Jones‘ radio show on Clear Channel’s take on indie radio here in Los Angeles, 103.1 FM, when Jonesy said that J.J. Jackson had died of a heart attack last night. It was like someone hit me with a hammer.
J.J. for those you of who don’t know was one of the original MTV VJs. He, Martha Quinn, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, and Nina Blackwood started it all off in 1981.
I still remember that day in 1983 when we first had cable television installed in our house in Farmington Hills, MI. Tom Mitchell, my neighbor and sometimes babysitter, came in when the installers finished and said, “You have to check this out.” He turned on MTV and changed my life. I was only in 3rd grade. Tom was in high school. I looked up to him.
I proceeded to watch MTV non-stop for years. Back then they only showed videos. No gameshows. No spring break beach parties. Just lots and lots of videos. Now at the tender age of 9, I was more interested in catching the latest Weird Al Yankovic video than Duran Duran’s next big hit. But since there wasn’t a heavy rotation playlist in place at the time, I got to see a lot of different videos by a lot of different artists while waiting for the next showing of “Eat It” or “I Lost On Jeopardy”.
I spent a lot of time with J.J. and Martha and Nina and all the rest. They were my friends who showed me what was cool and fun. They told me about bands that I’d never heard of like J. Geils, The Rolling Stones, The Police, Joan Jett, David Bowie, Eurythmics, Toto and Queen. It was because of J.J. and the others that I went down to Perry’s Drug Store with my allowance that I’d saved up and bought my first cassette tape, the Ghostbusters soundtrack. Hey, I was 9! Ray Parker, Jr. was awesome.
The point is that J.J. Jackson introduced me to this amazing world of music. He exposed me to all kinds songs and artists that my parents didn’t listen to at home. (Though it’s hard to go wrong with The Beatles and Motown.) He helped me learn to appreciate a much wider range of music than was played on the local Top 40 radio station.
Flash forward nearly 20 years and I’m living in Los Angeles. Imagine my surprise when I turn on the radio one Sunday evening and there’s Triple-J hosting “The 7th Day” on KLOS. It’s a show that plays albums in their entirety. J.J. would introduce each album with an amazingly insightful look at the band, the impact of the album, and society at the time. He would always take a break at the point when you would have to flip over the original vinyl and talk some more about album. His presentation of The Who’s Tommy was one of the best pieces of radio I’ve ever heard.
So long J.J. You will be missed.
NOTE: I was looking for some web links to throw into this piece and I was glad to see that KLOS had a little piece on remembering J.J. Jackson. But I was sorely disappointed to see that MTV didn’t have a single thing to say about the loss.