22 August 2009

From Garage Band to Opening Act: A Remarkable Man’s Journey Through Life in Music

Gold Coast Bluenote is glad to welcome guest contributor novelist Barbara Washburn (Chasing Carole, 2008). This post is entirely her work.

Jim Tilton was born in Baltimore City, MD on August 30, 1950, and grew up there and in the surrounding county. His interest in music began around the age of five, when he received the gift of a set of toy drums. It wasn’t long before he moved on to the real thing. He could soon play his Ludwig drums, the trumpet, and keyboards. Piano lessons were part of his education at Catholic school, and trumpet mechanics followed at the Peabody Conservatory (of Music).

He grew up surrounded by music: Glenn Miller, the Dorseys, Benny Goodman, Lawrence Welk, and then Elvis and the fifties artists who followed. His personal influences were the big bands, jazz, the British Invasion of 1964 and onward.

Jim married on January 18, 1974, and joined the Navy on January 12, 1976 to support his family and further his educational goals in electronics. Taking advantage of the Navy’s emphasis on higher education, Jim studied electronic engineering and computer science.

The music was always there, almost part of his soul. From his days at the Peabody Conservatory he’d loved the music media of the past, collecting 78, 45, and 33 RPMs, and his collection of LPs is staggering. He also has a dazzling collection of cassettes, CDs, and sheet music.
Jim is not simply a collector and appreciator of the works of others, he’s a gifted musician in his own right, a drummer par excellence. His first real garage band was King Solomon’s Minds, a playful tip to the times.

And a fine band they were. They opened, in 1969, for the Jeff Beck Group, back when Rod Stewart was a member. They next opened for BB King and Canned Heat at the Baltimore Civic Center. In 1971 his new band, Theodus, opened for The Association at Towson State College.

As happens to most of us, life grew hectic. In the late sixties and early seventies, Jim moved from group to group, doing tours handicapped by poor booking agents, recording sessions with lost masters, and five nights a week gigs.

Jim changed with music, adapting easily to the advances in technology. Quality improved with better electronics processing, better and improved instruments and microphones, and new recording techniques.

The music remained topical – boy meets girl – but it also took on social commentary and current events. New musicians sprang from the groundbreakers of the sixties. “It’s good to hear new and creative music,” Jim said. “Riffs still being developed, and not being just transposed or plagerized.”

He was there and part of it when the music that spoke for a generation broke free and flew. Looking at today’s music, he says
I find it inconceivable to have a life without music, even if one can’t sing or play an instrument. You can still contribute by supporting musical artists. Music can channel feelings, sooth emotions, and provide stress outlets. Music is an outlet and an accompaniment that, if appreciated, can last from the beginning of life, throughout, and to the end, and provides comfort in each stage.
Sitting in Jim’s garage, watching his feet move to the music in his head while listening to his stories and absorbing his knowledge, I believe him. I feel it. And I so wish I’d been part of his journey from garage band to opening act, living the dream. Jim Tilton is a strong, remarkable man who lived and played in remarkable times, that era we all call, with some nostalgia, the sixties. I dream it, he did it, the drummer with the feet that still play even when he’s just chatting. Had I been so lucky, so gifted, I doubt I’d be so modest about it.

1 comment:

Barbara Washburn said...

Jim Tilton died on Wednesday, November 18, 2009 of a lengthy illness. I will miss him.