Typically, one might think the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame is reserved for corn-fed rockers, but Newton radio DJ Jamie Grout is a rockstar in his own right.
While bands perform rockin’ tunes onstage in front of a live audience, Grout plays those same hits to an arguably wider audience on a daily basis from the comfort of his studio. The 64-year-old DJ’s long and storied career even surpasses some of the oldest rock bands still playing today, like U2 and Def Leppard.
Of course, it’s not unheard of for radio DJs to be honored by the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Music Association. In fact the organization goes out of its way every year to honor the many promoters, radio stations and support persons who bolster rock ‘n’ roll music in Iowa, in addition to musicians and bands.
It was announced last week that Grout is the next radio DJ to be inducted into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. The DJ will be officially inducted at a Labor Day weekend ceremony this year in Arnold’s Park. Grout said Dennis Farland, Steve Barnett and Kyle Martin were instrumental in getting him in the hall of fame.
Grout is greatly humbled to be inducted and thanked those who nominated him and support him on a daily basis, including Lynette Neubauer Baker, who he said has been the “wind beneath my wings” in his personal and professional life. With several months to go before the ceremony, Grout is already feeling grateful.
“I’m thankful that I’ve been able to survive in this business,” he said. “It doesn’t always pay the best in the world, so you gotta have a passion for it. And I’m glad my passion has stayed alive all these years for radio.”
LIVING OUT A CHILDHOOD FANTASY
Before he ever stepped foot into a radio booth, Grout was playing DJ as a kid in his bedroom. When all the other kids in his hometown of Newton were begging their moms and dads for G.I. Joe figures, electric race cars or plastic army men, Grout asked for a microphone and a subscription to the Des Moines Register.
The little DJ used old radios as his makeshift control board and spouted off headlines into a microphone his mom found at an antique store in Missouri Valley. Headphones covered Grout’s ears as his mom snapped a picture; photographic proof that Grout is living out his childhood dreams.
If his father wanted to, he could have forced his son into his successful real estate and insurance business. But the family was supportive of his radio fantasy.
“I recorded commercials off the radio so I could play it back on a cassette recorder,” Grout said. “…Those old radios had buttons on them so I would just push those buttons and I was ‘on the air.’ I’ve been very blessed to be able to live out my childhood fantasy.”
GROUT’S BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT EXTENDS OFF AIR
Honing a good radio voice is great and all, but Grout’s proudest accomplishment as a DJ was when he worked for MIX 96 and founded Jamie & Jim’s Kids, a charity that regularly helped bring sick kids and their families to Disney World. Grout said he got the idea from a radio convention in Texas.
Grout and the station manager of MIX 96 Morning Show, Jim Colofff, launched the program to huge success. For seven years, Grout took over 100 families to Disney World. The nonprofit continued as Magical Mix Kids after Grout left the station. In January 2019, Grout spoke at the charity’s 20th anniversary benefit.
It was a lot of extra work, but it was gratifying for the radio DJ.
“That, to me, was near and dear to my heart,” he said of the charity. “It’s still going strong and that’s great.”
LONG CAREER IN RADIO INDUSTRY
About the only thing Grout doesn’t enjoy about working in the radio industry is getting up at 4 a.m. to go to work. Of course, the day he sleeps in will be the day he finally retires from radio. Which might not happen for another few years; if it ever does. Grout truly loves his job, which spans nearly five decades.
Early on he was given his first job at KNIA radio in Knoxville before working at KPLL in Pella and interning at Go 95 KGGO. After attending Brown College of Broadcasting in Minneapolis, he worked at KWBE in Nebraska before returning to Iowa to working for KPLL again, which had become KXJX.
Grout floated around other radio stations on the weekends in other areas around Iowa, Illinois and Michigan. Eventually, he would find his way back to Iowa and worked at stations in Des Moines, Ames, Waterloo and Cedar Falls. Of course he would find his way back home in Newton, where he works to this day.
For the past 15 years Grout has served as content manager and co-host with Sarah Jorges of the live morning show, The Jolt with Sarah & Jamie, on KRTI-Energy 106.7, and has also hosted afternoons on country KCOB-FM. Grout said he basically gets to go to work every morning to have fun.
“I love what do,” he said. “I was talking to a friend of mine in Des Moines who works in another radio station, and my philosophy is kind of his philosophy, too: As long as you’re having fun, I might stay with it over 50 years.”
‘IF YOU MISS A DAY OF THE MORNING JOLT, YOU MISS A LOT’
Ron McCarthy, general manager of KCOB, said Grout brings a lifetime of experience to the Newton radio station, and with that an ability to communicate naturally with listeners, to know what they want to hear each morning and to be so engaging that audiences are glad they tuned in.
“Forty-eight years is reflective of how much Jamie has enjoyed working in the radio industry,” McCarthy said. “His 15 years at Energy FM, the last seven with Sarah, has built a very strong following. Listeners love to start their day with them. If you miss a day of the Morning Jolt, you miss a lot.”
Grout’s passion behind the microphone and his ability to both inform and entertain listeners are what McCarthy believes factored in to him being inducted into the hall of fame. McCarthy added that Grout has always agreed with the mantra: “Love your profession and you never have to work a day in your life.”
McCarthy said, “He is genuinely likable — whether they’ve met Jamie or not, listeners consider him a friend who is always there.”
Listen to Grout from 6 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday on Energy FM and 2 to 6 p.m. on KCOB FM.