Higgs calls himself a “way too serious” kid news reporter in 1967.
On August 1962, just two months out of high school, 18-year-old Jim Higgs went into a 12' x 60' house-trailer on the banks of the Kalamazoo River, west of Otsego, MI, for a job interview. The building was marked with the radio station call letters WDMC-AM980. The next day, he started his illustrious career as one of the most noted voices in West Michigan radio. Fifty years later, Higgs remains an integral part of the morning drive radio time for listeners throughout the greater Kalamazoo area on AM980, WAKV.
Jim's stint in Otsego was brief and by the following summer, he'd accepted an announcer position with WHTC-AM/FM in Holland. After four years in Holland, Jim made the move to WKMI in Kalamazoo, MI, serving multiple roles including news director, program director, music director and on-air personality for the morning drive.
1965 in the control room at WHTC in Holland. This photo was taken by Holland radio legend, Juke Van Oss.
During his years at WKMI, Jim and his cast of characters, including Wolfman Jack, put Kalamazoo radio on the map -- drawing a large fan base and recognition from industry leaders, both regionally and nationally.
During Jim's years at WKMI, he helped the band The Eagles land their first #1 record. In August 1974, Elektra-Asylum released the single "James Dean," from the "On the Border" album. The band, which formed in 1971, had earned a few Top 10 hits, but really wasn't a household name -- yet. While the label was aggressively pushing "James Dean," Jim says he chose to play the flip side, a soft ballad written by Don Henley, Glenn Frey and J.D. Souther. The song became an instant hit in the Kalamazoo market; local record stores couldn't keep "On the Border" in stock.
Award from Elektra-Asylum for breaking The Eagles “Best Of My Love,” with Rip Pelli and Burt Stein.
While "James Dean" struggled (it never ranked higher than #77 on the charts), Jim was trying to convince executives at Elektra-Asylum to release this flip-side as a single. They ignored his recommendation. Yet, before long, other stations in Michigan -- including some in the high-powered Detroit market -- started getting requests for this non-released single. It took Michigan by storm. Label execs finally took notice and in November 1974 officially released this single nationally. The song flew up the Billboard Hot 100 charts and by March 1975, The Eagles had landed their first #1 of many hits: "Best of My Love."
The album itself never went platinum, but representatives from Elektra-Aslyum later that year presented Jim with an autographed copy of the cover of "On the Border" -- which still hangs proudly in his office.
Photos courtesy of Jim Higgs'' Facebook page.