"Quiet power. I could listen to this guy all day long" Barry McGuire ("Eve of Destruction", "Green Green")
This disk came together over two years in Gilbert, Arizona. Barry McGuire came into Talmage Music to work on some New Christy Minstrels recording projects, and ran into Arizona performing songwriter Jim Pipkin. The upshot was Barry's sitting in on harmonica on "Fireline", and AMAZ Records (the Minstrels label at the time) bringing in a few choice session players like Joe Bethancourt, Billy Kneebone, and Deb Hilton to round out Jim's sound.
When AMAZ Records transitioned into a booking agency last year, Jim purchased the rights to the entire project and carried on with the help of Jason Barney, the owner of Talmage Music. Jason himself sat in on piano for "I Should be Dancing with You", and even lent a hand designing the artwork.
A true labor of love, "Rebel Souvenirs" was completed with funds Jim earned loading and unloading trucks in the heat of an Arizona summer. Every single disk is packaged on his kitchen table in between work, trips to the desert, and live shows around Arizona.
Jim Pipkin's music is heavily influenced by his childhood on a small self-supporting farm in central North Carolina. His grandfather, Clifton White Pipkin, was a roadhouse musician during the Great Depression. The sound of these tunes may not be "Country" to some, but what we call "Country" now is a comparatively recent invention. The Sandhills style goes back into the dim mists of history, drawing on European ballads, African rythms, and even some Latin and Classical influences.
The Pipkin family settled in North Carolina when it was still called Carolina Colony, moving south from their first farms in Suffolk County, Virginia, to plant corn along the Little River. The Pipkins, Withers, Wendells, and Merediths still inhabit this region, although new waves of immigrants are changing the face of the land once again.
Jim is a direct descendant of Jesse Pipkin, a DAR-listed Patriot of the American Revolution. His Great-Grandfather Isaac Pipkin fought and lost an arm in the War Between the States while serving in the Sixteenth Volunteer North Carolina Infantry, CSA.
Jim's father and mother both served in the US military during World War II, and he himself volunteered for a stint as a US Navy Gunner's Mate during the Cold War, receiving a Presidential Letter of Thanks for his service.
A brief bio in Jim's own words:
In 1968 I was ten years old, living on a small self-supporting farm in Lee County, North Carolina. I fed chickens, gathered eggs, milked our cow twice a day, took the bus to and from school, and got my picture in The Sanford Herald wearing black horn-rim glasses, holding up a 34-inch Chinese Cucumber. Up to now that has been my closest brush with true fame.
In 1970 I inherited my grandpa’s mail order Stella guitar, and got the hook in deep.
By 1974 I had made my first trip to Union Grove Fiddler’s Convention, a now defunct hoo-raw of which present-day MerleFest is only a dim shadow. We were wild mountain boys - banjos, moonshine, and all-night pickfests like you wouldn’t believe.
Rounder Records started there in the back of a van, and there I was, stumbling by with a jug and a guitar.
When I got back home that year I moved my bedroom into our barn loft, arranged the hay bales into furniture, and started burning up the strings on my old Stella. Some nights I wouldn’t sleep at all, I’d just pick straight through. My fingers bled, healed, bled again, then decided to toughen up and get along.
By 1976 I was working at Kentucky Fried Chicken, paying off a brand-new Ovation Balladeer. I played pig-pickings, family reunions, and clandestine parties out on remote logging roads, wherever people would sit and listen. Cats loved me, because I smelled like chicken.
I played my first professional gig at The Flame Steakhouse in Sanford, using a sound system borrowed from a local band and my brand-new Ovation. A cover band soon replaced me. In despair, I joined the Navy.
The late 70s and early 80’s I spent either in the Navy, drunk, or in Mexico, drunk, trying to get over being in the Navy. Let’s face it; I was a terrible sailor, a complete discipline problem. That I got my honorable discharge was due more to the generosity of my officers than any real effort on my part.
But I kept pickin’, right on through.
While stationed at Yorktown I even lined up gigs at the old Ivanhoe Lounge in Virginia Beach, spending many nights playing originals and cover tunes right out on the water. I ran into Danny Teagarden while I was there, he once sold me a kazoo from his music shop at 2am. A cover band soon replaced me.
By 1982 I was playing music and working as a bouncer in Flaherty’s Saloon on Colorado Boulevard in Glendale, California. It was a biker bar, but just quirky enough to have a place onstage for a singer who would kick your ass if you heckled him. A cover band soon replaced me.
In the mid-80s I pulled up stakes and moved to Arizona. Smartest move I ever made. In between day job stints on construction sites and in mines, I managed to record four albums and tour pretty constantly from 1989-1994. At one point I even got to play a full set at the Bluebird Café in Nashville. I don’t think anyone noticed but me!
In late 1994 I came in from seven months on the road with a decision to make. I could either remain married to a wonderful, loyal woman building a life together, or pack my bags and head back out on the road. Hey, I love you guys, but…I got a serious day job and focused on it for thirteen years.
I was still writing, even performing now and again, but with equity and fruit trees instead of a beat-up old suitcase.
Now it is 2008 and I’m still here, and despite constant efforts Alice and I haven’t explored a fraction of the West. I now record on my own dime. I play the local festivals, even an actual venue now and then.
I’ve had some small success getting my music out onto Americana radio, and also had the intense pleasure of playing a writer’s spot at the Bluebird Café again in 2005. The place seemed smaller.
Still, I have yet to relive the giddy heights I enjoyed with the monster cucumber.