Happy birthday Jim Barrett. And thank you...
Free column today because my friend Jim Barrett does not belong behind a paywall! But still. I need more paid subscribers so if you can….please do.
If we can all gather on a Sunday afternoon and play music with each other, that's a win. If there is beer and food there, that's a win win. And if we're gathering to celebrate the birthday of our ageless friend Jim Barrett, well there ain't no place else any of us would rather be.
Jim is the youngest 63 year old in the world. He's in the kind of shape that should make the rest of us hate him. He puts Doctors out of work and makes nurses swoon.
He's a great husband. A legendary Dad. I once stood next to him at the front of the stage as his 2 sons (guitarist and band-leader James and drummer Tyler) were playing, and tears were streaming down his face. That's how happy and proud he was. "This is the good stuff", he kept saying. "This is the good stuff".
And he can pull off a Trilby and wrap-around shades like a rock star, which he also is. I should have stated that bit up front. Rocking back and forth onstage like a newbie on a cruise ship. He just loves to play. He started late, but has been making up for lost time ever since.
He's the un-elected mayor of whatever town he happens to be in. You can't walk 8 feet with him without having to stop and talk to somebody he knows. He stops grocery store check-out lines dead. Chances are he knows the cashier. And not just here. He leaves a trail wherever he goes. Delaware beach? "Hey Jim! Remember us from last year? You sang Bruce songs for us all night from the hotel balcony!" "Of course I remember you!".
Why were we at this particular bar? Jim is good friends with the owners.
I would have been more surprised if he wasn’t.
You could have said the same thing about a dozen other places. So I hope the folks at the Thirsty Elephant read this.
And so it goes. I don't just know Jim because of Jim. I know Jim and 100 OTHERS because of Jim. Jim has a network, and we're all a part of it. I don't think he has a "best friend". I think he has scores of 'em. Guys like Jim Barrett just make the world a better place, and I know he's gonna get all squirmy reading this but I don't care. We take him for granted right now because he hasn't changed at all. He's not some reclamation project. He’s as reliable as my Doc Martens. When he's in a room, the room is better. When he leaves a room, the room is worse. When he enters a room? Forget it. It's like he's walking the rope line. Hand shakes and hugs everywhere. And he's never in a hurry. The coolest ones never are.
We have no problem calling out the worst of us. And that's a good thing. But I think it's time to start calling out the best of us. And Jim is that.
So here I am. Calling out my friend. Which I apologize and promise not to do again. Until the next time.
Now, more about the day itself.
Transitioning from a painfully blue sky to a darkened afternoon barroom is always a bit jarring. It took me a good 15 seconds to even determine if I was in the right place. It was like walking into a coal mine.
But there were guitars strewn all over the place, and guitar cases and cables covering the pool table, which had been moved out of the way. Folks were 2 deep at the bar. Surely this was the place. Jim was at the center of it all. Surrounded by his family. While I was still furiously blinking the sun out of my eyes he was there to greet me. The food was already laid out, he told me. Everybody was gonna play a few songs. Cool?
Cool. And so it went. He was off the greet the next person through the door.
Everybody played. We dive-bomb each other’s sets on a whim. Our friend Rob coaxed Jim's lovely wife up to the stage to sing "Happy Birthday (Mr President)" in her best Marilyn Monroe voice. Myself and my friend/duo partner Wiggy played a few together. Wiggy reminded me that since I didn’t have my Ipad with the lyrics I can never remember nearby “we can only pick from 3 songs”. He wasn’t wrong. We did all 3. Then all the musicians gathered for a group shot. And then Jim wanted everybody to sing "The Weight" to close out the show. And we all did, surrounding the 3 mics, and at one point Wiggy and the always impeccably dressed Shane Ely shared Shane’s new Strat ("you play for the first 3 verses, then I'll take it and do the last 3..."). Jim stood center stage, blasting out some harp, leading this makeshift band of misfit toys who would never in a million years have found each other without the manic force of Jim's personality making it somehow inevitable. Everybody was smiling. Everybody decided to have one more. To make it last just that much longer. That’s how it goes.
All in a day’s work.
So for that, I wish to give thanks. From ALL of us. It's a pretty special group. One of the best I've ever belonged to. C’mon aboard. Everyone is welcome here.
In a bit…