Jimmy Fleming first picked up a guitar at the age of 3. Raised in a musical environment which included being on the road in the 1970s and 1980s with his parents working with Bluegrass Legends there was no such thing as life without music. Bluegrass was gradually eclipsed by The Rock and Blues of The Stones, Rush, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and a wealth of others, as well as the Film Woodstock.
All the possibilities were now open. At 16 he got a driver’s license and began playing HonkyTonk Bars learning trial by fire the diversity of music required to make sure a crowd of all tastes was properly entertained. 15 years of the Proverbial Human JukeBox on the roads was the Education.1990 brought him to tread the boards on Columbus, Ohio’s World famous Newport Music Hall as a guest of Guitar Master Frank Harrison on the first annual Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial. 1991 his work had placed him in a Management office in Los Angeles, California. He was about to sign a major recording contract which would have placed him working with Vocalist and Bassist Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple. The terms of the recording contract had been suddenly changed to benefit the company in an 80/20 finance split. Jimmy walked out the door and thought there has to be another way.
The second 15 years were applied in learning to write his own music and become an Indie record producer and Label owner.10 albums later the story continues.
Now currently 33 years after first setting foot on the professional stage constant Rebirth and Reform has seen Jimmy go from the bars and clubs to Featured nights in Nashville, Live radio interviews with Woodstock Creator Artie Kornfeld and Angie Bowie, and due to Dystonia advocacy in-person conversations with Legends like Alice Cooper. Jimmy has opened for Grammy award-winning acts such as The Kentucky Headhunters, The Late Jani Lane of Warrant, and Country star Martina Mcbride.
Due to a unique tuning Jimmy can create a sound alone with no loop pedals that sometimes sound like 2 guitar players at once and when applied to for instance with a drummer as with Roger Downs during the album Uncle Mont’s Quandry “Sorrow in Full Strut” has brought attention from Rock journalists as far from Ohio as the U.K and Australia.
Jimmy is not only an advocate for the aforementioned Neuro Disorder “Dystonia” he suffers from it personally and has been sidelined a few times due to its Destructive nature of firing of the Brain and Loss of Motor skills. Yet he continues to get back in the ring and fight for his music. A Documentary of this Battle “Witness the Rising ” is slated for release in the near future.2018 brought a co-write and production with Miss Maya Calvert Granddaughter of Hawkwind Legend and solo artist Robert Calvert.
The following is an interview with Musician and songwriter Jimmy Fleming looking back on special circumstances of his beginnings in music and things that happened that brought him to his first Musical form, Bluegrass, and his evolution from it to become a Blues Rock Player.
“I have often said I never knew life without music in it. My parents were both heavily into what on one hand was a conflict of musical tastes. Dad is a Buck Owens, Johnny Cash Buddy Holly fan. My Mom listened to anything and everything current. They had one place of common Ground that being Bluegrass.”
It’s one thing to like a musical style and another to be an insider with the artists that made the Music.
HOW AND WHY DID BLUEGRASS MUSIC ENTER YOUR WORLD?
“My exposure to it was different In that I was seeing it live at people’s houses during Jam sessions or at full-on Bluegrass Festivals.” “The Kicker was that I was not listening to your local bands, I was growing up under a foot of the Legends.”
Jimmy was even at the age of 5 and 6 often Backstage at Major Events such as The annual Festivals at the Stanley Brother’s Homeplace in McClure, Virginia.
“My Dad worked in the clothing industry as an executive and sold a lot of Suits to many of the acts of the time as it was the tradition of these bands to look dignified without being overstated. He was the Vice President of the company and the President and his wife were actively involved in that music scene, which led dad to become friends with People Like Ralph Stanley, The Marshall Family, and Bill Monroe.”
“The Lion’s share of the time was spent with The Marshall Family. They were a Gospel band and Having started their careers as teenagers with their Mother and Father being involved, by the 1970s had already made a name and had become close personal friends with the likes of Ralph Stanley. Their family became our extended family.”
“The amusing Truth of it all was my Dad being a person of the organization was asked to step in as their concert schedules were absolutely insane. It was like someone with a Blindfold on threw darts at a map.
They might have to be in Kentucky and Virginia and then back to dates in Ohio and turn around and be in Georgia in the space of 2 weekends. There was also the matter of driving an RV and some hesitation of members of the Group to attempt driving one-lane backwoods roads where if you made the slightest error you may roll off a mountain and be Meeting Jesus before you expected.
Dad took his driver’s test in a Log Truck in rural Kentucky, so he knew how to do this act of precision.” My Mom worked the record Table for them and Had the personality to do that job as well as diffuse any Grumpy audience or Band member for that Matter.”
WHEN DID YOU BECOME A TRULY DEDICATED MUSICIAN?
“Well, I was initially interested in the Banjo and Learned it to a small degree. There were two playing styles on the five-string banjo. The Original Frailing style that was Truly an ancient form of playing was Taught to Dave Marshall by Ralph and then taught from Dave to me. It’s more widely referred to as “Clawhammer”.
No finger picks, you are literally running your bare hands across the string and snapping at the 5th string with the thumb, it could and often did draw blood. Then you had a different tuning more known as the Earl Scruggs style. I got the “Clawhammer” down which I use on the guitar today if I drop my pick and have to continue playing until I can get another guitar pick. I wasn’t very proficient in the 3 finger roll of the Scruggs approach. So the interest in the banjo was already kinda going away.”
“The Guitar was something I began to play around with but not seriously yet. Around 1977 even though I was only 5 going on 6 I had already been able to absorb a pretty good bit of knowledge of what was happening around me. I had been through some interesting things with Bill Monroe and had been to Ralph’s house a few times but it was that year I had really zoned in.
I had been around Ralph Stanley’s band many many times and during the time frame, he has a guitar player and singer that was one of the best singers I recall hearing anywhere. He also was very Charismatic, Big smile almost always and he just really stood out. His Name was Keith Whitley”
Somehow or another I stumbled across him in the backstage area in Xenia, Ohio and he had his guitar what I thought was “Torn apart” I just kinda stood there wondering what in the world he was doing. It wasn’t the first time we had talked, but this was different. He looked up and said, “ How is ya doing there Captain?” I just walked a bit closer and said “ Did you break it?” The 5-year-old mind considered a broken string was a Catastrophe and the banjo or Guitar was done for. Ruined. Ha!” So Keith sat me down and patiently explained the reasons and process of Changing Guitar Strings.”
The timing of it was perfect because shortly after Keith Left Ralph and Joined J.D. Crowe and the New South by 1978. This was a transition because he had not yet gone to Nashville and become the Country Legend he ultimately became. So I suppose it’s fair to say I got into the guitar more because of Keith, he was too cool for school. “
HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO MOVE AWAY FROM BLUEGRASS AND INTO ROCK GUITAR?
“I continued on learning the speed and trickery of being a lead Bluegrass Guitarist and we continued in our Travels with these players so I got to be Proficient by the early 1980s. Then the Bomb Dropped.
That Bomb was The Rolling Stones. 1982 they released the live film from their 1981 Tour and the VCR was now coming into people’s homes. I saw that Movie and in a combination other bands such as Rush, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, and the film Woodstock I now wanted an ELECTRIC GUITAR!”
HOW DID A BLUEGRASS BACKGROUND HELP BECOMING A ROCK PLAYER?
“Well I didn’t analyze or recognize it until later but there’s a kinship in the Blues and Bluegrass, Bluegrass in certain situations is just faster. That became helpful because playing an acoustic guitar aggressively makes your hands strong. The speed and dexterity came to the dance when I got an Album Called “Couldn’t Stand the Weather” by a guy named Stevie Ray Vaughan in July of 1985 and he came to Play Columbus, Ohio September of 85 and I saw in that 2 hours my ambition for the rest of my life.”
“Now this scared the Daylights out of my Parents as Keith Richards was NOT the kind of Role Model they had in mind. So that began the journey, I did get Electrified.”
“I don’t want to be a Dr. or Lawyer, I wanna learn how to do THAT!”
You find Jimmy’s music at https://amazingradio.us/profile/jimmyfleming
More insights by Journalist Pete Feenstra