Rooks gone from our lives, I feel as if I’ve lost a part of my
voice. Wherever Paul and I jammed, we could always
count on Jim to help us get a jam going and devote his full attention
music and the people in the jam. He
eagerly led tunes and took breaks, provided solid harmony support,
folks to the campsite and made them feel welcome, and also humored us
ready wit. He was like Waldo, popping up
everywhere, and a welcome sight when we arrived because he never had
excuses not to jam. He knew a lot of
songs--or at least the choruses--and if he didn’t, he’d do his best to
lips and sing the harmony part on the fly.
started playing with us in our weekly jam sessions at the Cornelius
Roadhouse about seven years ago and soon became a solid regular--a
really--in our jam. One day he showed up
with a bass because he was fed up with not having a bass player on a
basis, but as soon as we got one, he happily went back to playing
guitar. He also bought a mandolin but often shook his
head and laughed with disgust after he took a break.
always count on him to provide the third harmony part for the songs we
sang. In fact, I didn’t like to sing
certain songs without him, especially “Blue Ridge Mountain Blues” (in
sang the three different choruses because, as Jim pointed out, how
leave out the old dog Trey?), “Seeing Nellie Home,”
Missing Me,” and “I Wonder Where You Are Tonight”(to which Jim added a
verse at the end: “You took the washer
and the dryer/There’s not a thing to wear in sight/But now it’s cold
dear [I’m not sure I’ve got this line right]/So I’ll wear your
I was jamming, I waited until Jim showed up before singing those songs
I knew he would make them sound so much better.
It wasn’t just his harmonizing but also the energy and joy he brought
the song, thereby supporting me in the best way he possibly
could. The only song he would not sing harmony on
was “Going to the West,” because he felt very strongly that it should
performed as a duet. This was another example
of his reverence for the songs we sang and his respect for those who
"A beautiful life"
many other songs in which Jim played an essential role. "The
Rose,” “Sing Me Back Home,” “Once More,” and “A Beautiful Life”
him. Paul often sang “Sing Me Back Home” as the last song of the
night Jim said he wanted to add something to it. Towards the end
of the song, he inserted a
portion of “Amazing Grace,” which he
thought the song deserved.
loved to sing “A Beautiful Life” a
called it) at the end of the jam. He
sang the baritone part and coached others on the bass part, which I’m
would have sung too if he could have cloned himself. That was the
last song he sang with us. “Each day I’ll do a golden deed/By
those who are in need/My time on earth is but a span/And so I’ll do the
way Jim was like a brother to me. We
gossiped like friends but argued liked siblings. He wanted me to
sell him my guitar because he
thought it sounded better than his, and since I didn’t play it enough,
as well play it for me. We also commiserated about politics,
although not often
Jim. He was very upset about the war in
Iraq and about the takeover of our government by the “neocon cabal” in
Washington, and he felt that it was important for us to discuss openly
happening, even if we disagreed. He cared about what is happening
our country and the world with an intensity that affected and troubled
lighter side, one of the last memories I have of Jim was watching him
camp at Moograss in Tillamook on the Labor Day weekend. He hated
camping with a passion, but needed
to stay overnight because he was performing in a band. He took
out his fury on his camping gear,
grumbling, and flinging things about impatiently. His untethered
tent tumbled in the wind and
got caught on the fence, and the pump for his air mattress broke down,
had to waste even more precious jamming time by going out to buy
pump. Of course he swore he’d never camp
despite his dislike for sleeping on the cold, hard ground, he showed up
bluegrass festivals we attended, even if he had to drive hundreds of
get back to his bed. He often called me
on his cell phone to ask when we’d be arriving or to find out where we
camped or where we were jamming. Our
campsite often served as his home base, and sometimes when Paul and I
to our canopy, we’d find Jim there jamming or just waiting for us to
up. As I think about it, I realize that
in his own way he was home to us. He was
giving us the best possible welcome by just being
recently at Ridgefield a week before he died, I jammed with Jim and a
friends in the beauty salon in back of the antique shop in town.
We were all giddy at how good we sounded
because of the amazing acoustics--like singing in a chapel--and our jam
was relaxed, intimate, and very special.
When I left, Jim was gratefully helping Ed and Vicki devour their
there was our last jam together at Papa’s Pizza, the night before Jim
collapsed. I wish I could remember all
the songs he sang that night. I’m hoping
to learn some of his songs. “Moonlight
Motor Inn” is the first that pops into my mind because when Jim was
a song, I often held that one in my thoughts and was delighted when he
it. It’s a quiet song with a chord
progression that evokes a sense of moody dissatisfaction and yet hope,
think it conveys the essence of Jim’s complex personality.
now that there was so much I didn’t know about him, stuff he kept
or tucked away when he picked up his
guitar. Sometimes he wore me down with
his intensity and impatience to make things right in the world and with
himself, but I knew I could be myself
him. Jim was a
progression and knew all too well what it means to be human. He
sang and played as best as he could and as
often as possible, he took risks and made mistakes, and didn’t seem to
about impressing anybody. He wanted very
much to be in a band in which he could sing all the complicated songs
including the potential jambusters. And
yet he also showed me that it’s enough to try, enough just to be real,
as you give it all your heart and soul.
night at our Monday night jam, Jim asked me if he could share my
pitcher of water. After that I always requested
a second glass for him. This seemed like such an insignificant
thing, and yet
to me like communion, sharing that humble pitcher of water with
him. It was like the music we shared--such a
simple pleasure and yet so basic and so essential to life. Now I
wonder, how can I ever stop asking for
that extra glass?
confess that I had hoped Jim would sing at my own memorial service,
thought I would go before him. One of
the last songs he sang with us was “Who Will Sing For Me?” I know
the answer now. I think we all do.
Jim. Go in peace.
Jane (November 3, 2005)
I met Jim over five years ago, and got to know
him better while jamming at Harvey Roger’s house. The people in
our jam eventually formed a
band named Hawthorne Lane
Our band spent many hours practicing together
and played at a few gigs. In addition to
the band, I would see Jim at Monday night jams and at festivals.
At the jams and festivals, Jim would make me
feel like part of the group when he would request one of my songs, and
sing harmony with me. Jim would
generously share his knowledge of music with beginners like me.
He patiently helped me with the harmony part
to “A hundred years from now”. At the
jams, he would always ask me to sing harmony with him even if there
singers in the group. I always felt like I had a stronger singing voice
sang harmony with me.
I used to harass Jim about talking too much at
jams (he had so many stories to tell).
Now I wish I could hear a few more.
I had a great time jamming with him at the Laundromat in Ridgefield
the week before he passed away. We miss
Jim at the Monday night jam and we’ll miss him all through the festival
You knew when you found Jim; you’d be in a welcoming jam.
November 3, 2005
Rich (November 3, 2005)
I remember Jim,
Until the last few weeks, I didn't even know Jim's last name! As with
most members of the Monday night Rambling bluegrass jammers, I knew him
first as "Jim, guitar & vocals", later to become "Jim, guitar,
vocals, & bass"' then "Jim, guitar, vocals, bass, &
mandolin"! We go back to the "early days" of the jam when
it was way out on Cornelius Pass Road (a long way from
Vancouver). It was great to have Jim around because he also
picked great songs for vocalizing. We have jammed together for
over seven years and it has been a wonderful experience.
I recall one humorous event that took place at Wintergrass a few years
back. One of the "upper rooms" was suppose to be hosting a
jam. I trotted on up, entered the room and saw Jim with some
others playing. I proceeded to get out my guitar and stand
in with the group new to Jim. After only a few seconds, Jim
leaned over to me and said, "Rich, this isn't a jam, we're spotlighting
our band." Boy, was I embarrased. I tried to causually slip
back out of the room and proceed to hang myself! Talking to
Jim about this later, he just brushed it off and told me, "we really
probably could have used your help, we weren't that good!"
Jim had many great songs that he introduced to the group. I especially
liked "Moonlight Motor Inn". After hearing Jim sing it I went
home and immediatley downloaded it from the internet. I always
think of Jim when I hear it. There is a song that I've sung a
couple of times over the years called "Come and Sit By the River With
Me" by the Country Gentlemen. I sang it way back in the early
days, but just a couple of years ago, Jim asked me to sing that song
again. I was so surprized he even remembered me singing it.
Another more recent song was "Mill Towns". Even though this is a
somewhat difficult tune for standard jams, I really liked it and Jim
did also. Every session he asked me if I was going to sing
it. He wanted to get the "echo" part in the chorus just
right. Jim always strived to improve himself and to encourage
others to improve also.
So long for now, Jim. I look forward to meeting you back stage in
the hereafter. Let's make some great harmony!
(November 3, 2005)
Rick (November 14, 2005)
When I decided to try to play bluegrass, I searched for any
conveniently close jams that looked like that might be open to
accepting a total bluegrass neophyte. I found the Rambling Bluegrass
site. The first thing you see on the Home page is a picture of the
jammers in action. Perfectly centered in the picture is Jim. I figured
that this guy was important and looked for him as I walked into the
Papa’s Pizza’s jam for the first time. Yep, Jim was important. Since
that day, I asked many musical questions and received many answers from
Jim. It was clear that he loved the genre and had learned and was still
learning a great deal about bluegrass: song origins, who or whom
recorded a particular song, keys it has been performed in, new tunes,
on and on. He loved to talk about it and loved to play it.
This last summer I hooked up with Jim at Odell (Mt. Hood Bluegrass
Festival). Jim had driven down from Seattle to attend for the evening
with guitar, mandolin, and Einstein his parrot. He needed to take care
of Einstein so had to bring him. Well, it was very early evening and
Jim was ready to start jamming and was pumped. Unfortunately Einstein
wasn’t ready to quite call it a day at such an early hour and he began
to complain vehemently, squawking up a storm. Jim was not about to let
a bird interfere with his jamming so Jim shook his finger at Einstein
and said “NO”! Einstein fought back squawking and then snapping a bit
at Jim. This time Jim gave Einstein the evil eye, another more serious
“NO” and then got nose to beak with Einstein! Big bird, big beak. But,
Einstein quit squawking and gave up. Jim, having kept his nose, put the
bird in its cage, placed a blanket over it, grabbed his guitar and
anxiously headed into jam country. No bird was going to prevent him
I played with Jim in the band Bluegrass In The Grove. The first gig
with Jim was just a four-piece (we didn’t have the fiddler yet). We
played a set for my company picnic. It was obvious Jim was a born
performer. Couldn’t wait to get on a stage. During the set I noticed an
odd clunking sound occasionally coming from the PA. I eventually
discovered the source. Jim, who was playing bass with the greatest of
enthusiasm, was pivoting the base on the floor pin and as the
right-side of the bass swung out it would whack the bass microphone (I
cautiously adjusted the mic so Jim could just keep on swinging). I
think rockabilly bass players would love to be able to do that with
their basses. Pretty showy!
Jim was big on singing. Harmonies were a big strength of his. I had the
opportunity to sing harmony with him on the three songs he was featured
on in our sets at the Tillamook County Fair and at Moograss. I really
looked forward to trying to get a good blend with Jim so I recorded a
rehearsal and sang harmony along with Jim on his songs over and over
again. At Moograss, while harmonizing with Jim on one of his great
tunes, I saw an odd look on Jim’s face. He dropped out on bass for a
bar or two and then came right back in. I stuck with Jim the best I
could and man I believed we nailed the harmonies. Later, Jim explained
why he had dropped out on bass. He told me that the harmony sounded so
good that he was stunned and had to just listen so he accidentally quit
playing the bass! He recovered very well, really. Hearing Jim’s
pleasure in this performance was the highlight of the night for
One of the songs I got to sing with Jim was “Moonlight Motor Inn”. This
is one of the fine songs that Jim made many of us aware of at the
Monday night jam. I thought that this song would be a fine one for me
to learn and kept alive. I bought Steve Spurgin’s version, the one Jim
had mentioned to me. Steve’s vocal on this tune is great. Studying and
learning it has improved my very humble singing. I’ve just realized
that Jim hasn’t quit teaching me yet. Class is still in session and
Professor Rooks continues to inspire!
Jim, every measure was a pleasure. You’ll always be in our hearts and
in our songs.
Sam (November 16, 2005)
Hello all... this is Sam. I just learned of Jim's
passing, and am saddened by the news. What can I say about
him? He was always a friendly sight. I remember when he
first showed up at the Roadhouse looking for a place to play. All
he ever wanted to do was play. I liked him from the start because
we shared that common drive. I remember how encouraging he was
towards me while I was still learning the basics of the Bluegrass
genre. I remember how he used to encourage me when I would give
the big old bass a try. What stuck out most was how he was
supportive of my military service and never said an ill word towards me
in that regard. He had his opinions and I had mine, but that
never got in the way of our mutual love of playing music. I very
much respected him for that. I had the opportunity to play a few
live shows with Jim, including my very first performance as a member of
the Rogue Bluegrass Band. That was one of the best times of my
life! His enthusiasm brought the best out of me. He
continually called me out because he knew it would make me a better
picker. For that, I say thank you, Jim. I wish I could
attend the memorial, but I am now stationed in Athens, Georgia.
However, my thoughts are with him and his family. I will be sure
to pull out some of our recorded material and play along.
Rest well my friend.
Tony (November 16, 2005)
We were saddened by the news of Jim's passing, but also have some
unique memories of him, as well.
First and foremost, I (Tony) remember his hands. Why ?
Because I picked up his big ol' bass one night and tried to keep a
rhythm going for an entire song. I don't remember my hands being
that tired in a looooong time. Yet Jim could play that thing for
hours, it seemed. Way to go, Superman!
We loved to watch him take a break on his guitar, too. He was one
with the music. He could feel it and it showed...mostly in his
face. His expression would change with each individual note, it
seemed. It was amusing and definitely was part of what made Jim,
Mostly, though, we also recall him being a walking, talking, bluegrass
jukebox. There seemed to be no end to the songs he could sing and
play. When I (Tony) would get tapped to lead a song, I had to
think long and hard to remember the name of even just one tune.
When it was his turn, Jim thought, too, but most likely because he had
so many in his head to choose from.
We don't want to say goodbye, so we choose to say "See you later"
instead. We'll see you again down the road...in that big ol'
bluegrass jam in the sky.
-- Sam & Tony
Charlie (November 19, 2005)
Jim played bass and sang for "Hawksview" with Bill Francis, Pat
Connell, Gene Alger, and Charlie Williamson round 2001. We played
at the old Snake and Weasel opening for the Stragglers and up at the
Salmon Creek Brewery in Vancouver and in the Stevenson Festival Band
Contest. Jim did some great high harmonies with Bill Francis and
with me on Greenville Trestle. I jammed with Jim at
Wintergrass just this year. He was always fun to sing and play
with. He was a good man. I will miss him.
-- Charlie Williamson
On Saturday November 19, 2005, we organized a memorial jam session at
the Frog Pong Grange Hall in Wilsonville, Oregon. About 50 people
attended, including Jim's wife and a daughter who lived close enough to
be able to travel to the jam. There was no ceremony -- just a lot
of jamming as many in the bluegrass community would like to have
it. A very special moment was having the whole group join in on
singing one of Jim's favorite songs: "Who Will Sing For Me?".
Thanks to everyone that joined us to sing for him and to say goodbye
the bluegrass way.
The Rambling Bluegrass Jam