Candy Loving, Playboy’s 25th Anniversary Playmate holding the November 1979 issue of JAM Magazine — issue #3
If one the greatest musicians in rock n’ roll gave you advice, would you take it? Perhaps for most it might depend on the advice. What if that advice was business advice such as “go for it”? Would you consider it then? There are at least two Oklahomans who said yes and 40 years later that advice turned out to be sound. Two college kids in the late 70s who loved music and concerts had an idea. This love of music and a little advice from the “Red Rocker” Sammy Hagar helped create an iconic legacy that can still be enjoyed today. Many of you may remember Hagar from his anti-speed limit anthem, ‘I Can’t Drive 55’ and his amp thumping lesson to 80’s teens, ‘There’s Only One Way to Rock’.
I wrote about one of those Oklahomans back in 2018. His name is Vernon Gowdy III. In that article, I wrote how he and I had become instant friends. We still maintain that friendship and I even have his most iconic concert photo hanging in my office. At that time, I focused on his incredible career of music photography. Recently, I became interested in the history of JAM magazine that he helped create 40 years ago. Although, I mentioned the magazine in the 2018 article, I have learned there is much more and would like to share it.
It would be another friendship in 1978 that would produce the brainchild for JAM. He and fellow OU college student David Huff both worked for the OU Daily newspaper, Gowdy as a photographer and Huff as sports editor. Although Gowdy admits that there was a lot of luck involved in the beginning, building the foundations for JAM magazine had a great deal to do with some creative thinking and a few broken rules. Gowdy used his position as a university photographer to gain access to concerts even when the paper wasn’t going to use the photos. He also had access to the dark room which allowed him to develop photos and then using the school postal system at no cost, mailed them to record companies establishing working relationships with them.
These photos would become the basis for JAM magazine after Gowdy graduated from college. His relationships with record companies would pay dividends in the sense of gaining concert access and interviews with musicians. Although at this point, JAM wasn’t a thought. It would be another music publication the two read in Dallas and a chance meeting with Sammy Hagar which would change that. Gowdy and Huff knew they could produce a better magazine than what they had seen in Dallas. It would, however, be a few words from Hagar though that would push it into reality.
“I was allowed to shoot Sammy right in front of the stage on a special platform that was built about one foot lower than the stage. (This was the Texas Jam in 1979) It was during this performance that I took my most famous iconic photo; a jump shot of Sammy Hagar that would later appear on his single release Piece of My Heart from the Standing Hampton album and virtually every major music magazine in the world, t‑shirts, posters, buttons, etc.,” Gowdy said. He was able to secure such an opportunity by giving Hagar’s road manager a photo of Tanya Tucker he had taken back stage at one of her shows. As payback, he was given access and a photo pass to the Texas Jam.
“After the show in Hagar’s dressing room we told him about our idea of starting our own music publication and he said he thought it was a great idea. He mentioned that there was a publication in California called Bam Magazine that was doing quite well and was free. And if we didn’t give it at least a shot in the Southwest, we would be sorry later on that we didn’t at least try.” Those few words would lead to a meeting of the creators in a trailer, a case of beer and the plans to create JAM Magazine.
Interviews and subsequent stories from Huff with members of Van Halen and Journey, some photos of Joni Mitchell at the Zoo Amphitheatre in Oklahoma City and a logo for the magazine created by a graphic artist Gowdy had befriended, set up the first historic pages of JAM magazine. Unbeknownst to the University of Oklahoma, they too played a part. Being fresh out of college, neither of the entrepreneurs had any money to initiate the actual production of a print magazine. To solve the main problem of typesetting the first edition, the two came up with a plan.
“There was only one place to typeset the first issue of JAM Magazine and that was to use the facilities of the journalism department at the University of Oklahoma. It seemed like a logical choice to David and so I went along with it. The only problem was it is against state law in Oklahoma to use state funded institutions for commercial endeavors, which JAM Magazine was. In order to get around that, David and I didn’t tell anyone what we were doing on the computers in the journalism department when we were there. We figured what they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them,” Gowdy quipped.
The first edition came out in September 1979 and with the success of that edition came an office at the Boomer Theatre, an 800-seat concert hall where up and coming musicians would often perform. As luck would have it, their office was next door to the dressing rooms making getting interviews convenient and easy. It was as if everything was falling into place. The new publishers were also able to make a deal with the program director at KXXY 96X (a local rock station), to sponsor the magazine with free radio spots promoting the new magazine. In return JAM would sport the radio logo on the front cover each month. In addition, Gowdy called some of his friends who worked at the local television station to inform them about the new magazine. Soon he was being interviewed and filmed delivering the magazine into a Sound Warehouse. The four-minute spot ran on the 10 o’clock news.
JAM Magazine was officially off and running as a music publication after that September in 1979 and would continue a great run up into the 1990s. The magazine would take a brief hiatus before finding a new home in cyberspace. In 2000, the magazine went online coming a long away from its humble beginnings of typeset and a small distribution area. Photographers and writers from all around the US now submit requests to cover concerts from around the country giving music lovers concert experiences they would not otherwise have.
Gowdy explained that the online edition has also become an archive of concert reviews and photos from over the years. Currently, many of the photographs from Gowdy’s career beginning in 1976 are being uploaded. He admits he has not kept track of all the musicians/concerts he has shot, but estimates it into the several thousands. One can only imagine what historical treasures he will find for the magazine as he continues searching his colossal library of photos from all those shows.
Today, Gowdy is listed as co-founder and senior staff photographer on the magazine site, but stepped out of the daily operations years ago to pursue other interests. He now opts for select shows to shoot and review and to comb through his personal archives for vintage shots to use on the magazine archives section.
I think most would agree that the big picture of what was started by two Oklahoma college concert lovers is much like a work of art on one of those vintage magazine covers from a time when the experience was tangible with our senses of touch, smell and visual stimulation as those editions came alive by what jutted out from the pages of print and photos. Gowdy, Huff and others who have been associated with JAM Magazine throughout the past 40 years created a track of history that has been adored by music fans and appreciated by musicians the world over. With countless readers now and in the past and a legacy of recording music history as just as a beautifully produced album, JAM Magazine has become the quintessential definition of what photos and articles truly are…moments in time preserved in a time capsule that every generation has the opportunity to open.
To view the magazine, visit jammagazine.com