Lee “Baby” Simms

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In 1968 Admiral Morrison was Commander In chief of Carrier Division Nine fighting the war in Vietnam. Clara Morrison was visiting the far east at the time and sent back gifts to us including a couple of Happi Coats, I gave one (pictured above) to Lee and we both wore them until they fell apart.

If you lived in San Diego back in 1968, and you listened to the radio, you must remember Lee “Baby” Simms, one of the top DJs of the time.

“This is K. Ceeee B. Q. Theeee number one radio station in San Diego, California.”  Lee jumped out of the radio and into your car with you. He was too cool for San Diego and he was almost part of the hit songs he spun.

Once I called in to request a song, and after a little bantering back and forth, we became good friends. I had asked him to play a Beatles tune, and at that time, I was fresh from Liverpool with a thick accent to match. During the course of the conversation, he said, “You sound like Paul McCartney.” I explained the acute differences or nuances in the degrees of Liverpooleese. John, Paul, and George all had the same accent, which was middle class rather than the distinct working-class brogue of Ringo. If you watch the movie “A Hard Day’s Night,” it is a tutorial on the genuinely hilarious expressions used by the lads and the rest of the cast, who in fact to a person all spoke with their real accents rather than an actor trying to sound like one.

For those who remember all of this, you will also remember that it was all on AM radio. FM  was still a thing of the future, and the recordings were decidedly limited when it came to listening quality.

One day Lee called me up and asked me to call in during the show and impersonate Paul McCartney. The next night, Lee made a big deal about how cool the new Beatles’ album was and that he was going to do a weekend-long Beatles marathon of all their songs. 

Together we pulled it off, he asking questions all about Liverpool, the Cavern club, and of course, the Beatles’ early days, which I not only knew, but as a lad of twelve, I saw the boys preform with a skiffle group called The Quarrymen before they even formed the Beatles.

For weeks and months after the show, people in Coronado were still talking about the time Paul McCartney called into KCBQ radio and spoke with Lee Baby Simms for an hour even waiting between commercials. I remained blissfully silent, and even though I wanted to tell everyone, it was more mysterious and exciting to keep the secret.

Ironically, when I did try to tell people that it was I and not Paul McCartney, they just would not believe me.

It saddens me deeply to report that Lee was diagnosed with stomach cancer and became so despondent that he took his own life.

“Goodnight sweet prince and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest”

From: Hamlet. William Shakespeare.  April 1564 ? April 23, 1616.

It has been widely reported that radio legend Lee Baby Simms took his own life at his home in Walnut Creek, California on January 28, 2015. He had reportedly been diagnosed with cancer. Simms was 71.

One of the most colorful air personalities during the heyday of American rock and roll radio, Simms worked at 35 stations in 22 cities and found himself on the wrong end of a pink slip at least two dozen times.

Billboard magazine - August 20, 1966 (l-r:) Lee Simms & Woody Roberts
Billboard magazine – August 20, 1966 (l-r:) Lee & Woody
The Hartford Times - October 7, 1966
The Hartford Times – October 7, 1966
The Hartford Times - January 13, 1967
The Hartford Times - January 13, 1967
The Hartford Times – January 13, 1967
The Hartford Courant - July 8, 1967
The Hartford Courant – July 8, 1967

Like many of the stops in his radio career, Lee’s Hartford engagement lasted only a year. It’s worth noting that at first his crosstown competition was WDRC’s Ken Griffin (the man he replaced at WPOP) and, later, Joey Reynolds (another ex-WPOP Good Guy who was just as unpredictable and uncontrollable on the air). It made great listening for Connecticut teens

Click here to read a tribute to Lee Baby by West Coast broadcaster Ken Levine.

Click here to read a biography from Ted Webb’s Radio Years website.

Click here for an index of WPOP personalities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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