Those of us who were born and raised here know well the privilege of being Canadian. But doesn’t it make us all feel a little more proud when someone from beyond our borders chooses to make Canada their home? The number of blues players who have made this choice is astounding. In this series I will profile some of them, and hopefully get some insights on what it is about this country that drew them in.
Canada’s own blues renaissance man is American Jim Byrnes.
In 1972 at the age of 23, Byrnes was caught in an unfortunate car accident that took both his legs. But as the music that he expresses so well has done for so many before and since, it gave him a new life.
Byrnes has a rich and gravelly voice, perfect for all the different emotional timbres that thrive in blues and R&B. Byrnes’s musical leanings are across the map. As versed in ’70s R&B as he is in delta slide guitar or pure gospel, there is no shade of blues Byrnes has not seen or expressed. And he comes by it naturally.
AUDIO CLIPByrnes grew up in the musical hotbed of St. Louis, Mo. Surrounded by clubs that often showcased some of the most influential voices in blues and roots music, Byrnes easily fell into the world of music.
Entertaining is also a natural part of Byrnes’s personality. He got his start in the church choir, as so many do. It is not surprising that Byrnes would eventually try his hand at acting. As the co-star of two cult classic television programs, Wiseguy and Highlander, Byrnes has found a second career that has almost eclipsed his first love of music.
Byrnes provided the voice over for the Highlander intro as well as playing the character of Joe Dawson, the watcher.
Byrnes has made his home in Vancouver since the mid-’70s. He has released six CDs, most prolifically through Black Hen Music and his friend and cohort, Steve Dawson. Between music, film and TV, Byrnes has rarely been out of work over the past 30 years. He keeps himself busy with recording, performing, film and TV work on screen and as a seasoned voice-over actor off screen. As well, Byrnes has an active interest in World Vision Canada and is on the board of directors of the Face the World Foundation. At one time, Byrnes hosted his own nationally broadcast television variety show, The Jim Byrnes Show.
Byrnes is a man of many talents, and has the resources to make the most of all of them.
Related Links of some other west coast blues folks:
Kenny 'BluesBoss' Wayne
Harry Manx at Byron Bay
on May 08, 2012