Jim Stringer Bio

Kansas / Greater Kansas City 
Music Hall Of Fame
Inducted 2007

plaque
roy rogers guitar It was 1956. Jim was eight years old. Elvis Presley had recently been featured on Ed Sullivan's and Steve Allenís television shows. The impression cast was indelible. An unrelenting campaign against his parents finally resulted in a Christmas present... a rough but playable 3/4 size guitar decorated with a picture of Roy Rogers atop Trigger (click for picture).
"The first songs I remember playing were Red River Valley, Sheíll Be Cominí Round the Mountain... common country-folk tunes," Stringer recalls. "They were in the book that came with the guitar (click for picture)... not exactly the rock and roll Iíd envisioned, but it was a start."

Actual first guitar book

first guitar book book1 book2 book3
 
 

Stringer progressed through several guitars and many songs and by age 12, heíd started his own band with a "bassist" (another kid with a guitar tuned down a fifth) and a drummer. The repertoire was entirely instrumental... The Ventures, Duane Eddy, Bill Black as well as some original material. The band performed frequently at parties and social events.

"I wanted to sing, too," he adds, "but when I sang at home, my older brother would tease me relentlessly... he was a little more respectful of my guitar playing. Still, it took me awhile to get my nerve up to sing in public."

The Royal Coachmen "Reprovoir" (sic)

royal coachmen bcard reprovoir  

coachmen

The Coachmen Business Card
ca. 1962

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The Upside Dawne (From left -- back: Garth Fundis, Jim Stringer; front: Scott Korchak, Paul Miller, Steve Hall, Jack Manahan.)

Though bands came and went, the music continued and while Stringer was in college at the University of Kansas, he formed a band with drummer Steve Hall called The Upside Dawne. The band featured the Midwest's first psychedelic light show and included future Nashville music mogul, Garth Fundis, and Blue Riddim Band vocalist, Scott Korchak.

While The Upside Dawne was commercially successful, Hall and Stringer hungered for a more complete artistic experience. In 1968, they joined with bassist, Paul Miller, and multi instrumentalist, Tim Smith, to form Tide, an eclectic ensemble whose sound was like no other... a mix of free jazz, country, blues and rock Ďn roll. 

The band became a regional favorite and toured constantly from Minnesota to Texas, between the Mississippi and the Rockies. The bandís one LP, Almost Live, was distributed nationally and is now considered a rare collectorís item. TIDE was known for instrumental virtuosity, original compositions and fearless improvisations. The band had itís own rehearsal space which Stringer turned into one of the first semipro equipped studios. He recorded not only TIDEís music, but dozens of other local and regional bands

tide ca-1973

Tide ca. 1973

In 1974 after several years of relentless travel , hard work and near misses, Stringer left TIDE and took a full time job with a motion picture producer. Among his duties were scoring of films.

"I learned so much about the craft of recording during those years," he reflects. "Youíre always on a time schedule, but thereís no slack cut as far as the quality required... you just have to do top-notch work real fast."

Though the full time job made touring impossible, Stringer worked as a hired gun for other bands, including The Billy Spears Band, which also counts Junior Brown as an alumnus. Stringer also continued writing and recording his own music. Over an eleven year span, he wrote over 800 pieces of film music, advertising jingles and songs, produced projects for other bands, and kept his own band working locally.

"Those years were not the most artistically satisfying... I mean, how much emotion can you put into a Toyota jingle? But it was an education, to say the least," he muses. "I played alot of jazz... there was a first rate jazz club in Lawrence, where I was living. Players would come to town and need a band... I often got the call. I played with Joe Williams, Eddie Harris, Bobby Shew, Gary Foster and others. Kansas City jazz greats Jay McShann and Claude "Fiddler" Williams would often perform as sidemen with the house band, too, so I frequently got to play with those guys as well."

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After leaving the film company in 1985, he restarted his performance career in earnest. Along with guitarist/singer Susan Hyde (now performing in Santa Fe, NM) he formed The Novellas, rejoining with former TIDE drummer Steve Hall, pedal-steel player Mike Paholski, and bassist Russ Colombo. The bandís sound was "rock and roll wearing cowboy boots and shaking a spear" according to one reviewer. While the band was not a popular hit, they became favorites with local musicians.

"We played in front of lots of people... we did one gig with Emmylou where there were 26,000 people. But we never really caught on with local crowds.... they didnít know what to think of us. I mean, were we country with the pedal steel? World beat with Steveís array of percussion? The only crowd we could count on was other musicians whoíd pop in to see us after their own gigs."

The Novellas released one record, Gladys and Other Girls, for a small label, Gardyloo Records, in 1989. Though the record received warm reviews, it went largely unnoticed by the general public.

During the interim, Stringer and Hyde had started a side project with an upright bassist, Kelley Mascher and ex-Paladinís drummer, Scott Campbell, playing just snare drum. The Stringers mission was acoustic rockabilly. Once again, the band was a popular head-scratcher, but an artistic success. The bandís life included several personnel changes which included Rainmakerís drummer, Pat Tomek. and two recordings, an eponymous EP and the full length, Rik Rak Rok. The group disbanded in late 1993 when Stringer, impressed with the music that was coming from Texas, decided to take his act to Austin. wichita
TCP In Austin, Stringer set up a small project studio in his home, and after a short, intensive time of performing and networking, he conceived an all instrumental country-jazz project with fellow guitarists Dave Biller (Dale Watson, Asylum St. Spankers), Joel Hamilton (Clay Blaker), Casper Rawls (Leroi Brothers), Sean Mencher (High Noon), Brian Hofeldt (The Derailers), and Scott Walls (Don Walser). Produced by Stringer, Travis County Pickiní was released on Hightone Records in 1997.

"This was like the opposite of my jingle recording career... we took all the time we needed to get the sound we wanted. I told the other players that weíd play it till it felt right... and just have fun! I think the proofís in the pudding on that one."

Concurrently, Stringer formed a "post 50ís rock and roll band", Git Gone, with upright bassist, Sharon Ward, and drummer, Karen Biller. The band often played six nights a week in and around Austin. After Biller left to join The Cornell Hurd Band, Git Gone added former Dale Watson sideman, Lee Potter, on drums. With this lineup, Git Gone recorded the 1998 release, Gone Rockiní for the new Music Room label. The CD was well received and quickly sold out of the initial pressing. Git Gone continued to perform, playing throughout the central US. In 1999, they were featured at the country music festival in Vinstra, Norway.

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kc skyline

The AM Band on tour

In late 1997, Stringer formed The AM Band. The band would be both an outlet for Stringerís original material, and a stable platform for more complex instrumental arrangements and vocal harmonies. Originally formed with Lee Potter and Austin journeyman bassist, Dave Wesselowski, Stringer added piano ace, T Jarrod Bonta in March of 1998. A short time later, Carl Keesee replaced Wesselowski and the band was expanded to include guitarist Boomer Norman and featured vocalist, "Uptown" Alan Barnette

Over the years, other AM Band alums include Kevin Hall (Omar & the Howlers), Jon Hahn (Gary Primich, Rosie Flores, Radney Foster, etc.), Gene Kurtz (co-writer of "Treat Her Right" with Roy Head), Charlie Prichard (Austin Chronicle Hall-of-Famer), and tour-mates, Lisa Pankratz, Brad Fordham, Vance Hazen, Bobby SnellAndrew Nafziger. The current performing band includes Stringer, Bonta, Keesee along with drummer, Ralph Power, and pedal steel ace, James Shelton

"Iím really proud of the AM Band. Itís named for a comment by Lisa Pankratz... Ďthereís only ONE band in Austin and everyone plays in it.í The AM stands for Austin Music. Also, I like the connotation of the AM band on radio... all our music is based on the time that AM radio dominated the airwaves -- in my mind, thatís the real golden age of American music!"

The AM Bandís 1999 release, Swang, was widely reviewed in national and international publications.

"I got tear sheets from all over the world... Uruguay, Norway, Sweden, UK, Belgium. Most of them I couldnít read... but I think Ďge-rockiní is a positive term."

The AM Bandís second release, On The Radio, was released in March 2001, and a third, most recent CD, In My Hand, was released in May 2204. Most recently, the band release "Triskaidekaphilia". All are available at retail and online outlets such as CDBaby, iTunes, Napster, Rhapsody.

 

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Stringer stays busy. In the last few years, he co-produced Ted Roddyís Tear Time, also released by The Music Room,  produced a CD for Karen Poston whose song Lydia has been released as a single by Slaid Cleaves, and produced a CD for Susanna Van Tassel, My Little Star. He performs regularly with his band, The AM Band, and a new vocal collaboration with Ms. Poston and Ms. Van Tassel, The Texas Hummingbirds. 

As time permits, he performs, records and tours with other artists including in recent years, Roger Wallace, Ted Roddy, Susanna Van Tassel, Marti Brom, Wayne Hancock, Charlie Burtonís Texas Twelve Steppers and others. Though he stays close to home as a rule, he and the band have played throughout the US and, on several occasions, have toured in Austria, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Norway and Sweden. Most recently, he was featured at the Mirande Country Festival in France.

"The thing I love about touring is meeting people... particularly other guitar players and musicians in general. It broadens your scope. Iíd like to do another guitar record... only on this one, each track would feature some guitar player Iíve met while touring... an international musical quilt. But, first, Iíll have to free up some time."

(c) 2010 by The Music Room