Fitz.jpg - 11693 Bytes

From Entrepreneur To Ratings King
Copyright 2002 Radio & Records Magazine
Written By Carol Archer  - Aug. 9, 2002 - Used With Permission
 
KJJZ/Palm Springs, Ca. Program Director Jim Fitzgerald
brings Smooth Jazz to the desert
 
KJJZ Palm Springs, CA signed on as a Jones Radio Network Smooth Jazz affiliate 5 years ago.
Today the station is JRN's top-rated Smooth Jazz outlet.
There's no question that Jones provides a quality product, but KJJZ's astonishing ratings are also
the work of PD/Morning Personality Jim "Fitz" Fitzgerald.
 
Entrepreneurship, event promotion and radio all intersect in Fitzgerald's
success story. "I probably made some stupid moves along the way, because
I wasn't thinking about money, just about being a creative spirit, " he says.
Before we trace Fitz's extraordinary journey, let's take a look at KJJZ's
numbers. Ranked market No. 158, Palm Springs has 20 radio signals, several in Spanish.
KJJZ is particularly strong among women 35-64. In that demo, according to
the fall '01 Arbitron, KJJZ was No.3 with a 9.9 share
and tied for No.2 middays with a 10. 7. Using the same data, the Smooth
Jazz format's dramatic qualitative story is undeniable: Among women 35-64 in households
with income over $75,000, KJJZ is No. I with a 24 share. Pretty incredible.
And, in morning drive in the same demo, Fitz earned an 8.5 second among 
English-language stations in the market.
Jones Radio Network's Smooth Jazz PD Steve Hibbard says, "Fitz is a great air talent,
and he's one of those people who has made a huge commitment to Smooth Jazz.
Following his tour at the late SW Networks' Smooth PM format,
Fitz has spent years hosting the morning show at KJJZ, and he's been a key player in
promoting smooth jazz concerts in Palm Springs."
 

BIO_ONE.JPG - 4733 Bytes

Bio_two.JPG - 7065 Bytes

Bio_Three.JPG - 7294 Bytes
Bio_Fourteen.JPG - 6932 Bytes

Bio_Sixteen.JPG - 7897 Bytes

Bio_Five.JPG - 6775 Bytes

Fitz & Wendy with from Top Left: - Al Jarreau, Steve Tyrell, Jane Monheit, Barry Manilow, Tiger Woods, Michael Franks.

From Groupie To Air Talent
 
"I was born in the Washington, DC suburbs," Fitz says. "My first interaction with radio was
as a groupie for a local R&B station, WUST. There was a jock there -'Soul Poppa the be- hopper,
the prognosticator, the love-maker, the heartbreaker'- and I was a high school reporter for him.
He was on the air when my mom would wake me up. I'd tell him what was going on
at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, MD. That was when I became
fascinated with radio.
"1 left home when I was 17 and went to broadcast school a couple of years
later. I got a gig at Washington's first progressive Rock station, WHMC-
AM Gaithersburg, MD. It was my first paying gig. I sold during the week, and
they allowed me to go on the air during weekends for $100 a week.
"This was progressive - everything from Roy Head to Steve Stills'
Manassas. My first time ever on the air I filled in as the newsman in afternoon drive for this guy
Barry Richards, who was an idol of mine. Brian Ferry and Roxy Music were in the
studio, dressed in drag and smokin' weed during my first newscast.
"From there I got into Country radio, working at WWOK/Miami, then I worked part-time at
WWDC Washington. I got into promoting country concerts too. First it was in clubs, and
then I produced some very successful shows at the Capital Center, which was a 19,000 seat arena.
I was just 24 years old, and I ended up selling NBC on doing a big country television special with
Kenny Rogers, Dottie West, Lany Gatlin and The Oak Ridge Boys called The Worlds Largest Indoor
Country Show."

 

Bio_four.JPG - 11706 Bytes

Bio_TwentyTwo.JPG - 4203 Bytes

Bio_Eighteen.JPG - 7176 Bytes
Guitars & Saxes 2002 and Babaloo Fitz at his weekly Soiree and at an ESPN Dinner with William Devane & Michael Bolton
 
TV And Beyond
 
Turning points in life are seldom recognized when they are happening, but Fitz's penchant for entrepreneurial
entertainment showed itself at this point and would later provide the underpinning of a successful radio career.
A series of other projects moved him forward in the meantime, however.
"I did television, including several specials for Showtime, like one with Crystal Gayle," he says. "I was repre-
sented by William Morris. I was the youngest executive producer of a prime time network television special.
I made the first pay-per-view movie shot on videotape, . Don t Miss the Boat. , which was a spoof on old
Humphrey Bogart and Charlie Chan movies.
"It was a lot of fun, but I missed the music.
In 1980 I produced a concert at Giants Stadium called Country Sunday, with Johnny Cash,
Waylon Jennings, Eddie Rabbitt, Tammy Wynette, Larry Gatlin and The Oak Ridge Boys,
whom I ended up going on the road with for a year. I recorded rock records with their backup band.
"We were just having fun, but APA made me an offer I couldn't refuse as an agent in New York,
working with Rodney Dangerfield. They were grooming me to be a big muckety-muck, but
after a year I told my bosses that I didn't see being an agent as my life's work, so they fired me that day.
Fitz continued his recording career and landed a deal with an Italian label. "I had a dance-pop hit called'
Audio Video' in Europe," he says. "I produced a couple of videos and became the first unsigned artist to
air on MTV.
I was supposed to open for Joe Cocker in Europe, but my dad died. Then my mother died six months later; it
was the very week my record went to No.2 in Italy, just as my dreams were coming true. It was the worst.
"I kicked around New York for a while teaching broadcast announcing at the Center for Media Arts, which is
where I met my wife, Wendy. I'd been a successful producer and agent and threw it all away for music. I was still
making music, but I decided that it was more important to throw my lot in life in with my wife rather than be
a starving musician."

Bio_Eight.JPG - 8746 BytesBio_Eleven.JPG - 6216 BytesBio_Fifteen.JPG - 7054 Bytes
Bio_Nineteen.JPG - 9381 BytesBio_Seven.JPG - 8604 BytesBio_Seventeen.JPG - 8236 Bytes
From Top Left: Euge Groove, Arte Johnson, Brenda Russell, Santa, Steve Madaio, Tom Saviano & Phil Mickelson

 
Coast To Coast
 
Fitz re-entered the pay-per-view world. "Wendy had a friend who was producer of Manhattan Centerstage,
which was the forerunner to Entertainment Tonight," he says. "Her partner wanted to get into pay-per-view,
and she knew Howard Stern. Wendy and I ended up producing and directing Howard's first pay-per-view, The
Negilgee and Underpants Party, in 1988."
After the Stern special, the couple moved to California. "We moved here with the idea to do a music special
for ABC featuring new country artists with rock influences, but that ended up on pay-per-view after a
shakeup at Procter & Gamble. Around the same time I hosted a show for Westwood One called Rockin. the
Night Away. Sonny Bono was a big supporter of the show, and the Palm Springs Tourism Department was its
main-title sponsor.
"The show was eventually canceled, and I did more pay-per-view producing. But Wendy wanted to be closer to
her folks in New York, who were getting on in age, so we moved back. SW Networks was just starting up, and
[then-Smooth FM execs] Paul Goldstein and Mike Fischer liked my voice and music background, so I got the gig.
I was well-aware of the format from living in Los Angeles and felt I would be suited to it I loved the experience.
"After SW downsized, I had offers from a New York Classic Rocker.
There was also some discussion about a Smooth Jazz gig in Boston and some film marketing offers in L.A.,
none of which interested me much."

Bio_Six.JPG - 9077 BytesBio_nine.JPG - 5870 BytesBio_Ten.JPG - 7184 Bytes
Bio_Thirteen.JPG - 6548 BytesBio_Twelve.JPG - 7220 Bytes
  From Top Left: - Jeff Kashiwa, Julia Fordham, Howard Keel, David Benoit, Rick Braun, Barry Manilow & Dave Koz

 
Community And Concerts
 
Through networking, Fitz found his way to Pahm Springs. He says, '"Through the years I kept up my relationships
with friends in Palm Springs, including Todd MaIker of RM Broadcasting, which bought Classic Rock KCLB in
the market I was trying to convince him on Smooth Jazz from the start of SW Smooth FM. Wendy and I moved
back to the desert, and as soon as SW got out of the business, Jones created its Smooth Jazz format and picked up
many former SW affiliates.
"I pushed Todd, because the potential for Smooth Jazz success in Palm Springs is based on the fact that the
city is a melting pot with great demos -people who left cold-weather markets with great Smooth Jazz stations.
Todd agreed to take Jones and offered me a job as an independent contractor who did morning drive and
had a vested interest in making the station go.
 
"Wendy and I love the town, and the job allows me to call my own shots, program the music on my show, run
my own deal and create a Smooth Jazz famchise based on what I already knew."
Fifz's workday doesn't end at the station, however. "I work my tail off," he says. "I produce all the jazz
concerts at [the very prestigious] McCallum Theater [including Diana Krall, Jane Monheit, Colors of Christmas
and Richard Elliot & Marc Antoine].
 
We get out in the community a lot and are involved with many charities, like the American Cancer Society, City of
Hope, Guidedogs for the Desert, Coachella Valley Boys and Girls Clubs, the Desert AIDS Project and
Variety Club's Children's charities.
"I produce a breast cancer fund-raiser at Saks Fifth Avenue plus a music series there, which has included female
artists like Joyce Cooling and Gabriela Anders. We do another American Cancer Society event - the Relay for
Life - which is a 24-hour walk."
 
Fitz At The Ritz
 
Fitz also puts together a small listener-appreciation party at the Ritz Carlton hotel called, appropriately
enough, Fitz at the Ritz. "Warren Hill was at the first one," he says. "It's a small listener-appreciation party that
we hold in the ballroom. Khanie Cole and Marion Meadows appeared at the second one.
"The series has been going on for over four years - the first weekend in April, Memorial Day weekend and
the Fourth of July. The hotel is now called the 'Lodge at Rancho Mirage'."
"This is one of the most beautiful venues in Southern California for an outdoor smooth jazz event. It's the
only cliffside resort in the area - 650 feet above sea level - with lighted palm trees and the mountains in the
background. For Guitars & Saxes we got close to 1,000 attendees. "The McCallum Theater box office
sells tickets to Fitz at the Ritz, which is a tremendous help. Craig Chaquico, Tom Scott, Jeff Kashiwa, Harvey
Mason, Hiroshima and Jeff Golub have all performed."
Fitz notes that the audience is comprised of fans of all ages. "From 30-year-olds to retirees, all diggin' it and
all rockin ' ," he says. "There's a dance floor outdoors, and it's always packed.
The other thing I do is present live music at regular Fitz at the Ritz After- Work Social Soirees, because
what's more fun than having a cocktail and listening to jazz?"
 
Bio_Twenty.JPG - 9558 BytesBio_TwentyOne.JPG - 7032 Bytes
Steve Tyrell visited Palm Springs three days before his concert and surprised the 300 Fitz Soiree regulars with
an impromptu set with Steve Madaio and his quartet. The concert Sold Out and the Soirees have continued
to attrack more and more listeners. Fitz's says his schedule is so busy it's 'like being on tour without leaving
town!"


Photography by John R. Rowlands