I found out yesterday that I have lost a friend, just an acquaintance really, but someone whose interests and mine overlapped in this new ethereal world of social media and online research.
Jimbo should have become obsessed with at least the title of the old TV show “I Led Three Lives,” because the Web, online forums, blogs and podcasts certainly made it possible for him to lead many more than that.
His biggest obsession in recent years was a decades old radio show called Vic & Sade, a brief quirky daily serial that might be considered a Depression-era Midwestern Seinfeld if those weren’t complete contradictions in terms. His Vic & Sade blog was one of more than a dozen websites he created with the Blogger program, stretching it to its limits, but he also has had a career in podcasting on more general subjects. He recorded a 13-chapter online “audiobook” about Vic & Sade with a wonderfully modest introduction that mentioned how relatively new he was to the oldtime radio hobby, that he was in poor health, and that he had lost his wife in an auto accident some years ago.
If you want to “meet” Jimbo, that’s where I would start. He gave that opus a “Vic & Sade” inspired title:
The Audiobook that Choked Billy Patterson.
Someone on Twitter posted a link yesterday to what they said was Jimbo’s obituary under his real name. It is a blank except for the name, date and town he lived in, with no funeral arrangements mentioned. Did his family there near the Georgia coast really have no bio to post, and no idea of his lives online? Was his use of the names “Jimbo” and “Jim/Jimbo/James Mason” based on a real need for privacy? Were there other names he used for Old Time Radio Researchers Group OTRRG uploads at archive.org? He mentioned once that folks confused him and OTRRG’s Jim Beshires because of the first name and initial.
I have decided to let him remain “Jimbo” to me and pay my respects with this note, and listening to some of his and his friends’ podcasts, a phase of his online publishing career that began around the time we lost touch. That included not only a Vic & Sade podcast, which I new about, but a collaborative online audio drama I just learned of today, Hometownville, which takes place in Alaska and has Jimbo as “Nanook.”
I “met” Jimbo on Twitter, where he posted as http://twitter.com/jimbo_otr (his last posts there were Nov.30) … At the time I was looking for help in my research into old radio show portrayals of journalists. I used to be one, and later was a journalism professor, but his research was purely a labor of love, with as far as I know no goal of making money, selling a commercial book, or getting some arcane credit toward tenure and promotion, which had been part of my own motivation for researching old radio shows.
He helped me with leads for a blog item about the radio characters Vic & Sade as newspaper *readers* as well as Vic’s flirtation with writing for newspapers. I wrote this:
Coincidentally, both of us had been exploring the research potential of Google’s scanned-newspaper project. Jimbo eventually interviewed me about my work, and we tagged each other back and forth on Twitter for a couple of years. But since retiring, I’ve been devoting more time to music and less to radio research, and more time to Facebook and less to Twitter, so I pretty much completely lost touch with him. I’m terribly sad to hear that he has passed, and to hear the wheezing sound of his voice on a couple of podcasts I’ve listened to since getting the news.
Well, all I can say is that I hope Jimbo had as much fun and fascination — and love — in all of the parts of his life that apparently few of us knew anything about. Rest in peace, Jimbo, and in this strange new kind of internet ethereal immortality.
[This blog post is an expanded version of a note I posted in response to one of the podcast tributes to Jimbo.]
Some links into Jimbo’s world: