Geoffrey Nimmo, a second generation Cincinnati broadcaster who captained the WEBN-FM's airwaves in the 1970s, died Wednesday.
"In a group of really strange, talented, lunatic-fringe characters that were WEBN at that time, Geoff was the outer fringe of lunacy," says Frank "Bo" Wood, former owner and manager of the rock station founded by his father in 1967. "He was warm, creative, and absolutely nuts, in a positive way."
He died at 3:25 a.m. July 8, according to his Facebook page. No cause of death was mentioned.
Nimmo, son of Cincinnati TV pioneer Bill Nimmo, made his TV debut at age 3 as Betty Clooney's "baby" on her early 1950s WLWT-TV show. After riding the WEBN airwaves from 1969 to 1978, he worked at competitors WSAI-FM and 96 Rock (WSKS-FM), and managed WNOP-AM in the early 1980s, when the tiny Newport jazz station broadcast from the "Jazz Ark," huge old drums floating in the Ohio River.
Jay Gilbert, who started at WEBN-FM in 1974, recalls an album by Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band that started off with a guy saying in a raspy voice, "Let it happen, cap’n." Nimmo "would drop that into his show all the time," says Gilbert, now WOFX-FM (Fox 92.5) afternoon host.
"Words can't express how much I learned from this man when I first came to Cincinnati, fresh out of college," wrote Eddie Fingers on Facebook. Fingers first worked here at 96 Rock before joining WEBN and later WLW-AM. "His effortless brilliance was always never less than inspiring. Sleep well, Captain."
Nimmo was a fun-loving, eclectic entertainer who played in a rock band; loved to play the saxophone and flute; and was fascinated by history, music history, political science, visual arts and physical sciences.
He was in the studio when Mary Peale made her Cincinnati radio debut on WEBN in 1973, after much debate on whether women would listen to a female DJ. They did. Soon after Peale came Robin Wood, Frank Wood's sister, who made the transition from WEBN's front office to the hugely popular Dawn Patrol morning show.
"One of my most vivid memories of Geoff is that he lived directly below me in an apartment building. He was quite the night owl and liked to play his saxophone at 3 a.m.," says Robin Wood, owner of Robin Wood Flowers on Dana Avenue. "I had to bang my shoe on the floor on more than one occasion to get him to stop so I could sleep. He would comply with apologies but do it all over again night after night. He was a very passionate musician. "
Gilbert, whose first WEBN job was producing commercials and comedy bits, called Nimmo "a heaven-sent one-man band of character voices. More often than not he would ad-lib extra phrases that improved anything I wrote. He worked nights, so I’d often just leave him a script, looking forward to hearing the tape in the morning, but also dreading that he might not have done it at all. Geoffrey’s clock was different from the rest of us."
"He was a very unique fella… (and) a terrific on-air personality," says Brian O'Donnell, the WEBN-FM veteran who now hosts mornings on classic music WGUC-FM.
Mark Tipton says he was "immediately drawn to Nimmo" listening to his WEBN show while growing up in Cincinnati.
"Little did I ever guess I’d be working with him (at WSAI-FM) … as an equal, which now I never felt with Geoff. It would be like a musician growing up with the Beatles but eventually playing guitar with Paul years later," says Tipton, now retired and living in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
"His ingestion of wine, etc., was legendary. I remember coming in early to do my morning shift on 'SAI FM, and finding him dead asleep (passed out?) on the production studio floor, with an empty gallon jug of wine nearby. I remember seeing him, on air, taking a bit hit of nitrous oxide as the record was ending, and then he’d open the mic and (talk) high as a kite on the laughing gas."
Peale tried to get Nimmo's unique voice on WNKU-FM after she started at Northern Kentucky University's adult alternative album station in 2009, but they could never work it out.
"I just wanted to him on to do a show with me. He was a lot of fun. He was crazy," Peale says.
Since 2008, he was involved with the WorldNetRadio steaming service. He called himself a "sonic ambassador" on WorldNetRadio, which he described on LinkedIn as "an interweb radio program created and platformed just as its title suggests...with no more program directors involved. From now on, it's 'Captain Nimmo' unchained!"
This was posted on his Facebook page early Thursday by Ellen Deaton:
"Yesterday at 3:25 a.m., my dear charismatic, artistic, kind, loving, compassionate, intellectual, entertainer extraordinaire soulmate transitioned to a new world. To all of the many people who followed him here on Facebook, to those who knew him from his radio days, before and beyond, I know he will be sorely missed. He was one of a kind. I am too distraught to post much more than this currently but will be posting many videos and pictures depicting his incredible life journey on my Facebook account Ellen Deaton in the days to come. The extreme grief that I feel I know will be felt by many. We shall get through this together. If you would like to leave a remembrance here to honor Geoffy, please feel free to do so."