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:
Our Twitter and email conversations led to his interviewing me about my OTR research. He published the results on one of his blogs in 2012.
Coincidentally, both of us had been exploring the research potential of Google’s scanned-newspaper project. After Jimbo interviewed me about my work, 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, more time to Facebook and less to Twitter. As a result, 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. I had downloaded his Vic & Sade audio book, but had only listened to part if it, and had no idea how extensive his audio work had been. For almost a year he had hosted something called Overnightscape Central, as well as his Vic and Sadecast, both of which his friends plan to continue. Some of his collaborators there built a collective tribute broadcast that is almost four and a half hours long. He touched people!
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:
A “Superhuman” effort at combining all the 15-minute episodes of the 1940s Superman radio serial into “complete story arc” mp3 files… cutting down the repetitious reloading and commercial interruptions for those whose “research” interests involve listening to the full stories. (There are other Archive collections and Web pages with individual episodes in date-sequence.) To give you an idea of Jimbo’s commitment to the Old Time Radio “hobby,” there are 80 stories here, ranging from one to six hours long!
Dec. 21 addition… I finally got to hear Jimbo’s podcasting friends pay their respects — with more than four and a half hours of memories, excerpts from his broadcast, and other tributes!
It’s not “like public radio,” “like talk radio,” or like anything I’ve been listening to elsewhere. Unfortunately, it was his death that made me finally give a listen to this aspect of his online career.
Addressing the Facebook note to tge?erudite Chris Lyndon also prompted me to observe that “Jimbo” was like a Joe Gould who didn’t need a Joseph Mitchell — and whose biggest secret was his real name. In fact, I wish The New Yorker would get someone as obsessive as Mitchell to tell the story behind Jimbo’s online publishing career! (The way Mitchell did about Gould, making him perhaps the worlds best known unpublished writer half a century ago.)
I had only listened to a few episodes of Jimbo’s Vic & Sade audiobook, and had no idea how far beyond that one podcast his podcasting career went, and now I am just a little fascinated by the non-OTR online community podcasting made him part of.
I’ve just spent the morning finally listening to his fellow-podcasters’ memorial program… almost four and a half hours of tributes and clips from his past programs! And that is only part one! Quite the memorial.
It reminded me that some early podcasts about old-time radio shows were what got me started listening to and writing about them (at jheroes.com)… something I discussed with Jimbo when he interviewed me for his blog almost 6 years ago. (I just tracked down that piece too… his questions got me composing a better explanation of what I was up to than I had written on my own blog at the time…
His death also prompted me to dust off this general purpose blog that I haven’t been using as much since retirement, and since getting over-involved with Facebook.