Jim St. James rings in 2019
MICHIGAN CITY – Zorn Brew Works was the venue for area singer/songwriter Jim St. James’ band, The Jordans and James Band, which helped ring in 2019 on Monday night.
Going until just after midnight, the band entertained a full house with originals and cover songs, including Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” Dave Dudley’s “Six Days on the Road,” Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” Collective Soul’s “December,” and Roger Miller’s “King of the Road.”
“It is a nice place and we love it there,” St. James said of the brewery in the Elston Grove neighborhood. “Great vibe, great music lovers. Our favorite venue. Good times at a great, historic venue. Zorns is to be commended for their investment in Michigan City and their perseverance in following through with their vision.”
Zorn Brew Works has been around for quite some time. Philip Zorn Jr., a Bavarian immigrant, opened the brewery in 1871. They managed to survive prohibition by converting to a soda parlor. The business then closed in 1938, and sat vacant for the following 77 years. It wasn’t until 2015 that Zorn opened back up, and is now known for its large selection of craft beer, open mic nights on Wednesdays, and on weekends.
St. James has become a local celebrity as well. Many young people remember Java Jims, which was James’ coffee house on Pine Lake Avenue, and later Lincoln Way, in La Porte as a place to get away, experience live music and enjoy craft coffee. Java Jims was open for a total of 22 years.
As for his musical career, St. James began playing guitar at 11, growing up in Gary. He has a unique style of playing, an unorthodox way of picking and strumming an acoustic guitar and keeping a rhythm by thumping his palm on the body of the instrument.
His style is described as Americana, blues, folk and rock. James has an extensive list of some 200 original songs, of which he regularly performs 40, mixed in with his set list of hundreds of covers. He currently has seven CDs for sale, and has even gotten radio time, earning two RMR (Roots Music Report) charts for his original song “Caroline.”
One of his best-known originals, “Caroline” was a song St. James wrote after a vivid dream.
“I was at home watching a Carole Lombard movie from the ’40s, and I fell asleep. I had this dream I was hanging out with Carole, the next thing I know I’m going up an escalator in the mall and she’s trying to hide her face with a book, the closer I got the further she was, and I woke up and I went to my paper and pen, got the guitar out at four in the morning and I wrote not Carole but “Caroline.” It ultimately got a lot of radio play and in 2007 went on the RMR charts to be number one.”
While St. James is rooted in Northwest Indiana, he and his band tour the country – particularly Nashville, Tennessee, where he has lived on and off since 1997. He has played all over the country, and internationally in Canada, England and Mexico. In 2014, James was contacted by musician Zkott Jordans while in Nashville. After speaking, they learned that the both were from Northwest Indiana. Zkott tried out and became a co-writer, singer and guitarist for the newly created Jordans and James Band.
“I was a solo artist for many years,” St. James said. “One day I’m sitting on the porch, and a guy calls me up. He had gotten my number off the internet. I was in Nashville at the time, and he says, ‘Hey man, my name is Zkott Jordans I’d really like to jam with some Nashville cats’...
“I told him I’m not in Nashville, I record there, but I’m from La Porte, Indiana. He said ‘What? I’m from La Porte, Indiana!’ Come to find out he lived on my street. We started rehearsing and he’s been with me now for about a thousand shows.”
In 2018, they played about 200 shows, making Zorn their final stop for 2018. Their next shows are Jan. 10 at Dick’s Bar in La Porte; Jan. 11 at Casey’s Lanes in La Porte; and Jan. 12 back at Zorn. They have 30 shows lined up for 2019 already.
When asked where his favorite place to perform is, St. James said, “Home.”
Drummer Bobby Nixx grew up with Jim St. James in Gary. When he was 11, he asked for a drum set for Christmas, but was gifted a guitar instead – however he persisted and was later given a drum kit.
He and St. James first performed together at a talent show in Merrillville. Nixx’s influences included Led Zepplin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Def Leppard and the Scorpions. As a left-hander, he had to learn drums on a right-handed kit, which was all that was available at the time. He officially joined the Jordans and James band in 2015. His favorite venues are those down south around the Gulf of Mexico.
Zkott attributes influences by the Allman Brothers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Gypsy Jazz and Flamenco. He has been playing guitar for seven years.
As for St. James, some of his influences are On The Rocks, America, Eagles, Jim Croce, Harry Chapin and Gordon Lightfoot.
The Jordans and James Band’s distinct bus can be seen driving around Northwest Indiana – a black 1989 school bus converted into a furnished tour/live-in bus, with a mural painted by an artist named Wayne Sydni, who also owns Ivy’s Bohemian House in Chesterton.
“We’re really glad he did it for us,” St. James said. “He traveled around the country doing murals. You can see his work all over, such as Mighty Mick’s in Winfield, and all over downtown Valpo on the walls.”
At conclusion of the New Years show, James said, “Overall it was a great night. As usual, plenty of our music followers were in attendance and many new fans were made. It was nice to see which of our fans came to hang with Jordans and James at Zorn for NYE.”
Spectator Jordan Wilson, of Westville, said this was the first time he had seen the band. “They were pretty good, I liked them, I haven’t seen them before but I’d definitely go again.”
Bartender Stephanie Sullivan enjoyed having them there. “Jordans and James are in my top three bands to see here, I was glad to see they’d be here for New Year’s Eve.”
You can look up information about the band, and find out when and where they will be performing, at jordansandjames.com.