Jim started playing guitar at age 16. His early guitar influences were Chuck Berry, Scotty Moore and Jazz guitarists Charlie Christian and Barney Kessel..
His first Country music influence was Hank Williams (Don Helms – Steel).
During the Korean war, short wave radio was able to pick up the “Phillip Morris Country Music Show” which was beamed to the USA troops. The artists and groups heard on this show also left a lasting impression.
After realising (painfully).that the audience for Jazz was sparse especially in post war Queensland, Jim’s music direction turned to dance band playing which provided opportunities to play regularly (up to four nights a week) and also to get paid for doing so. This era was a good base for learning to read music and to develop a grounding in band playing with the required disciplines.
Around 1980, after many fruitless attempts at playing lap steel (could never come to grips with the tunings), Jim bought a second hand Sho Bud Maverick. The expanded tuning capability of the E9th with pedals was to his liking and from then on it was pedal steel that became his primary musical interest. Contact with John Minson (‘Mr. Hoedown’ on radio 2SM) who encouraged Jim’s playing, led to their developing a single neck utility E9th model which John built. The original guitar of this type – a JEM – was played for several years, however the less than desirable mechanics and less than acceptable wood stability led to the abandonment of the project. The next step was to move to a 12 string Universal JEM with much more advanced mechanisms and with the addition of a Peter Williams pickup, this guitar is still playing well. Jim currently plays a GFI single 10 E9th Universal 3ped + 5knee which is fitted with a Lace Alumitone pickup – “it’s sustain is outstanding, the tone is bright, it’s light and I can carry it around”.
Being based in Dalby (Queensland), Jim played in various local bands and in 1983 formed his own group – Hell 4 Leather. This band worked constantly including a 3 year stint one night/day every week at the ‘Settlers Inn’ in Toowoomba then in 2000 it disbanded, having played all over Southern Queensland and in Tamworth . Jim also played (pedal steel) in the backup band for the Coca Cola Show in Tamworth for a few years until the sponsorship changed as well as a similar role at the Gympie Muster. He was a member of the Dalby Country Music Club for many years concentrating on the backing band support. He lists his pedal steel influences as many including Sonny Burnett, Norm Bodkin, Ralph Mooney and Dicky Overbey – “I love the ‘Honky Tonk’ Texas sound and having a good jazz grounding has always been an asset for ad lib and backup playing. I have always listened to Sax players to learn ad lib phrasing ideas too. I rarely try to play the Pedal Steel favourites as they have already been played by the best players. I play with a plectrum and two finger picks (not a thumb pick) – probably a product of doing fast changes from guitar to pedal steel. Playing backup as compared to solo playing on pedal steel is almost two different worlds”.
Jim has played backup for many name artists over the years including Jimmy Little, John McSweeney, Anne Kirkpatrick, Evelyn Berry and Kerry Kennedy to name a few of the better known artists, and can remember backing Troy Cassar-Daly on the Coke show when Troy was about 16 and just starting out.
Jim was also an active member of Steel Guitar Australia when it was going. Later working with Peter Williams on the Qld Steel Guitar newsletter. He once interviewed Doug Jernigan when he came to Brisbane and this interview was published in that newsletter.
These days Jim’s playing is mainly as a guest artist, some recording work for various vocalists and he also does guitar workshops for music clubs.
Equipment: GFI 10 Keyless, JEM 12 Universal, Fender Strat 1979 25th Anniversary & 2004 50th Anniversary Custom, Peavey Special 160 Amp (with custom EV 12” speaker), Hilton Volume Pedal, Zoom Effects.