Jim Ladd, an American disc jockey, radio producer and writer, is one of the few notable remaining freeform rock DJs in United States commercial radio.
Unlike his contemporaries, Ladd personally selects every song he plays on his weeknight show on KLOS-FM in Los Angeles. Station management gives him complete control over show content. He combines music with atmospheric sound samples and social commentary, often inviting listeners to participate on the air. Most of his music sets center around a theme or story-line, such as Wild West outlaws, beautiful women or fast cars. He regularly adds appropriate listener requests to his themed sets; sometimes a request will inspire an entire set.
He has two theme-based shows every week, on Wednesday and Friday nights. On Wednesday at midnight, he performs an hour-long, uninterrupted segment called “Headsets.” This is a theme-based collage of music blended seamlessly together, with one song leading into the next, incorporating sound effects such as voice overs and quotes from movies relating to the theme. On this program Ladd creates what he calls the “Theater of The Mind”. A “Headsets” album, done in collaboration with Billy Sherwood, is forthcoming.
His second theme show on Friday night is called “Theme of Consciousness”, where Ladd plays listeners’ requests for songs based on a single theme, such as “Colors”, “Fire”, “Dance”, etc. This show recreates what Ladd calls the “Tribal Drum”, describing the communal effect of radio in his pioneering days of FM radio. His repertoire combines classic rock standards by artists like the Beatles, the Doors and Led Zeppelin with songs and artists not normally heard on commercial radio. As was once standard in radio, most of his broadcasts end with a long song, such as the Doors’ “When The Music’s Over,” Led Zeppelin’s “Achilles Last Stand” or even Pink Floyd’s 23-minute-long “Echoes.”