Harmony in a Box – 02-01

The disk whirled and stopped, signaling that it had loaded. The thick typeset words appeared on the screen of Johnny’s laptop. The transcriber had the foresight to set the text in storybook style. Johnny knew how particular Jamus was in everything he did, how important all the small details were to this incredibly gifted musician, it would be quite a story. What the hell had happened to Jamus and why? Johnny felt his stomach lurch in anticipation. Read on, he thought, buddy the answer is right in front of you:


The first song I recollect hearing was Burning Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash. I remember hearing it through a transistor radio filling in the time as I stared within the bars of my crib at patterns on the ceiling. I am a strong believer in sound, music, vibration. Somehow I have always felt that music could change the world. If everybody would just sing and dance together we could have peace and love. From childhood to present most of my memories are associated with music.

I came from a lower middle class family working family. Back in 1968 live music was vibrant. Many paid performance opportunities existed for musicians – school dances, weddings, coffee houses, anywhere you needed music you needed musicians. There is nothing like the incentive of money to get one interested in music. At 14, I performed my first paying gig. My friends were making four or five dollars a day at the grocery store. I was making ten bucks a night getting paid to have fun, sharing the limelight, partying underage. Unlike my father, music seemed a viable pursuit to make a living as opposed to watching the steel rust on the graveyard shift down at the steel-mill. That was before the DJ’s got introduced with their pre-recorded situation music (canned music) making opportunities for untrained musicians, taking it away from the real deal.

I had minimal formal music training, basic literacy. I learned what I wanted in the basements and garages of any house that would let my band rehearse. In high school I struggled with music but managed to get a passing level. My music teacher Mr. Rectall once told me, ”Jamus your head’s like platinum, worth a lot of money, but no good for music.” I somehow survived the slam but never forgot it. It made me strive harder towards my musical goals. I received a partial music scholarship at York University. I studied composition because I wasn’t formally trained on any instrument at university standard. I received my degree in music and history.

I am now 45 years old. I have a problem with always backing the wrong horse. I’ve played some big venues: Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, Winnipeg; but sustained success has always eluded me. Personal or management problems seem to plague my career. I am happiest substituting for absentee musicians in established bands. I especially enjoyed playing with some downeast Newfie bands that played some reels and jigs. Ironically, some of my most content musical experiences came from hearing heartfelt laments about the east coasters and their hardships, joys, and tales of the ocean. My story starts when I had been with Psychic Blue for about nine months. This was the first band that I felt good with.

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