Jim's parents divorced when he was still an infant, so his youth was divided between his mother's native state of Texas and his father's home in California. Jim's mom was into doo-wop, honky-tonk and early rock 'n roll, while his father - himself a semi-professional guitarist - leaned more toward the jazzabilly of Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys and Spade Cooley.
Jim began learning guitar at the age of 5 and as he got older was attracted in particular to the guitar parts and sounds in early Elvis Presley and Ricky Nelson records. His California roots led him to early '6O's surf music, again especially fascinated by the guitar sounds of early surf/rock groups like Dick Dale and the DelTones and the Champs.
When Jim was only 17 and a senior in high school, he was asked by a local deejay who had heard him play, to assemble a band and produce albums on two new artists the man was working with. Unsure just what producing even meant, Jim knew that he knew music, and he readily accepted the offer.
Though both albums made beelines for oblivion, the studio's engineer was impressed with Jimmy and asked him to stay on as his assistant and protégé. Over the next few years Jim became a knowledgeable and skilled recording, mixing and mastering engineer as well as musician and producer.
Jim had given up on playing professionally by then, content with the satisfaction he received from the technical side of making music, and having graduated to the position of second engineer at Hollywood's famed Sunset Sound, working with superstars-to-be, among them the Doors, Lee Michaels and Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass and later Buffalo Springfield.
After engineering their second album, Buffalo Springfield Again, on which he also served as something of an uncredited producer, Jim joined the group playing bass and producing their final album, Last Time Around. When the Springfield splintered in 1968, Jim and Richie Furay, along with Rusty Young, who's played pedal steel guitar on the original "Kind Woman," were already formulating a plan to hang onto the rock 'n roll shoes while adding some spin from the country influences they'd loved and grown up on.
"Rusty was really into using the pedal steel to play rock 'n roll," recalls Jim. "It was the natural instrument to add to the band to create the feeling we were looking for."
Jim remained with Poco for less than two years, but in that short tenure Poco had not only carved out a previously unknown genre of music called country/rock, but also nurture the talents of Eagles-to-be Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmidt. "There really was a sense of something new and exciting in the air at that time," Jim says. "By the time we showcased for the heads of a number of the labels, we were tight and rehearsed and the program was sequenced, and we came on that stage like a freight train." While Poco's chart performance and commercial success was less than their historical importance, their impact was nonetheless profound.
Jim departed with hopes of returning to the producer's chair, and was soon rewarded with a six-album production deal with Columbia Records.
His first project was a young singer-songwriter named Kenny Loggins. Jim became an integral part of Loggins' debut, Sittin' In, and felt a desire to join the newcomer on his first tour until Loggins was firmly and confidently established. The credibility Jim brought from his days with both the Springfield and Poco cemented the relationship in the label's eyes.
Loggins & Messina went on to release nine albums in the next seven years, amassing sales of over 14 million units. "Poco had been some real good-time music," says Jim. "Loggins & Messina just took that a step further and made it more sophisticated and attainable, because it was so musically diverse - from folk to country/rock, to jazz or classical. Through the years, the Loggins & Messina period yielded the stuff I'm most proud of."
After a few years off for the rest and self-exploration, Jim made three solo albums in the '80s, as well as recording and touring with the original, reunited Poco when they released the album Legacy in 1989.
Solo acoustic performance dates by Jim were well-received and led to his forming a new band to tour with and do the best of his own material and as well as that of some of the illustrious company he'd kept over the years. With an album of all-new material on River North, Jim says he's enjoying discovering who he is, where he's been and where he's going.
"After all my years as a producer shaping other people's music to be the best it could possibly be, I'm just enjoying focusing my efforts and abilities on my own identity musically," he concludes. "I've just wanted to do the best work I possibly can and then let it be what it's gonna be, because there are no guarantees in this business. The only thing I hope for is that what I do will be inspiring to enough people that it will become a part of their lives and create a life of its own."
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