|If fate had not intervened, Jim Horn might be laying bricks right now or playing The Star Spangled Banner for the U.S. Navy instead of for Garth Brooks. But thanks to a musical mom,'50s idol Duane Eddy, and a Herculean drive, Horn chose a career and succeeded in a field that is usually noted for its ruthlessness.
Born in Los Angeles, California and raised in the era of Elvis, the '50s were, literally, rocking. As teenagers bopped and twisted to the latest rock and roll tunes, Jim was playing saxophone at his junior high school dances. But it was the great rhythm and blues saxophone solos that inspired the young Horn to pursue a career in music.
While other kids were spinning Elvis and Chubby Checker albums on their stereos, Horn was practicing to the hip sax solos of King Curtis, Plas Johnson,
Hank Crawford and Clifford Scott.The practicing paid off. After sitting in high school
classes all day, Horn would sit in with bands in various L.A. nightclubs. The skills
attained from nightclub experience and a friendship with fellow saxophonist Steve Douglas
led Horn to Duane Eddy. Rock and Roll Hall inductee (1994) Eddy, of Peter
Gunn fame, was the '50s and '60s twang guitarist whose distinct sound produced scores
of hits such as the 1958 smash Rebel Rouser. While twang-struck teens were practicing their newly bought electric
guitars in hope of emulating their idol, Horn, just a teen himself, was learning all of
Eddy's songs. He eventually won a prized gig as a member of Eddy's road band, The Rebels.
Duane Eddy once turned down a fantastic opportunity to perform at The
Grand Ole Opry due to his need for a saxophone player. He explains in The Duane Eddy Anthology liner notes, "One night Chet (Atkins) took me
backstage at the Opry. Maybelle Carter was there, and Chet said, 'Mother, play a little
Wildwood Flower for Duane and she fingerpicked these beautiful, chimey licks. They asked
me if I wanted to go out and do a couple of songs, and it was like, be still my heart. Of
course I do. Let me get Jim, my sax player. They said, 'Oh, no. We don't allow no
saxophones on the Grand Ole Opry. That's the instrument of the devil'. And there was only a
little cocktail drum - snare and high hat. I could deal with that, but I had to have my
sax. I didn't want to go out there and sound that different - with a steel guitar playing a
sax solo, so I had to turn it down".
Onstage in the early years with Duane Eddy
Later, Jim jammed with the legendary King Curtis. It changed Horn's sound forever. In the early '60s, the exposure from
touring with Eddy landed Horn in the band on TV's Shindig! and into Phil Spector's Wall of Sound recording sessions. That's Jim
playing horns on The Righteous Bros. You've Lost That
Lovin Feelin and Tina Turner's River Deep, Mountain High, both
produced by the great Spector. These were some of Horn's favorite sessions to play on due
to the spontaneous recording of the musicians, comparable to the old Sun Records sessions.
Working with Elvis on Roustabout, Aretha Franklin and Jim on Shindig & The Shindig Horns
Jim, by this time, was one of the hottest reed men on either coast. During this period of the 60's, he played with countless artists and
groups who went on to become legends, including The Beach Boys, Van Dyke Parks, The
Carpenters and The Mamas and The Papas. Here's how Jim recalls being asked to play for The
Mamas and The Papas: "I remember the Creeque Alley session. Back
then, I was doing like,three and four sessions a day. Anyway, this one night, I had gotten
home about 11:00 pm, and Lou Adler called me, and said, "What are ya doin'?" I
told him that I was just about ready to go to bed. He told me that John heard a flute on
this song called Creeque Alley that they were working on, and would I come down. So I got
in my car and drove down to the studio, and I arrived there at about midnight.
all there,waiting' on me, 'cause I guess they wanted to see what I was going to do. While
they were getting the tape ready, I had a few minutes, so I went and talked to all of 'em.
They were really great. Really fun people to be around. Cass and I would talk about
everything from world affairs to babies, everything. She was really well-read. Really fun
and a lot of fun to talk to."
I was just talking to 'em, and Michelle was sitting down reading this book, and she didn't say 'hi'
or anything, and I thought, she was really into this book. But later on when we were
taking a break, I sat down next to her and we just talked and talked, she was just the
sweetest person, she was great."
John just told me to play some funky flute, so I just figured I would play something with a blusey edge to it."
Lou Adler and Bones Howe like jazz musicians, so they hired a lot of us to play on those dates. I did both. I had
played Rock & Roll saxophone for five years straight with Duane Eddy, and through him
I met a lot of contractors, who started getting me on sessions. Later on I played Oboe and
English Horn on all of The Carpenters records.
|As the '70s progressed, Horn recorded albums with Leon Russell, George Harrison,
and Joe Cocker. He was invited by Cocker to play on the infamous Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour, and followed up with Harrison's 1971 benefit
Concert For Bangladesh and 1974 Dark Horse tour.By the close of this explosive musical decade, Elton John, Warren Zevon and Steely Dan had also added their names to Horn's
Mad Dogs& Englishmen Tour/ AllAccess Pass, Dark Horse Tour
The Concert For Bangladesh
|The Concert For Bangladesh was the largest and most publicized in those
days. I was honored to be asked by George to head the horn section and write the charts as well. It was amazing that he was able to call on all his friends to help out his long time friend Ravi Shankar.
Ringo, Bob Dylan, Leon Russell, Eric Clapton, Badfinger and The Hollywood Horns were there for his support. Ravi Shankar is one of the most humble and dearest men I have ever worked with. He opened the concert with only two other musicians playing his beautiful Indian Music. We played two shows that night and the second one had the same energy as the first one. It was recorded live which makes you perform even better. I'll never forget that night.
recalls, " John Denver's music was always a
challenge for me. He enabled me to express myself on my instruments more than with
any other artist I have ever performed or recorded with." In 1979, John called and said he wanted to try something
new in his music. He thought the flutes, recorders and saxophone would be a nice addition
to his songs. From then on, I was the wind, water and birds in his music. Calypso was one
of my favorite songs to play. John would turn around a give me a big smile when he heard
me emulating the sounds of the ocean and the sea gulls. That was our way of communicating
on stage. I've travelled all over the globe with John, and
learned so much about life from the experiences we had out there on the road. I walked on
The Great Wall of China, saw the Pyramids of Egypt and tasted the foods around the world.
John respected his musicians and made sure they were comfortable and happy out there. He
always let you know how much he appreciated your contribution to his music."
John shared some great moments with all of us. One morning in Kansas City, I flew
with him in his bi-plane. He handed me a leather cap, goggles and a parachute. I said I
wouldn't need the parachute but he, in his orderly way, said PUT IT ON AND DON'T ARGUE
WITH ME. I said "Yes,sir", and we climbed up into the plane. When we got up to
1,000 feet he let me take the stick. There's not a ride in DisneyWorld that could replace
that moment in the sky with John that day."
John's music changed from country-folk to songs with
a message. He really cared about the planet, hunger and the unnecessary wars being fought.
I believe John's music will be heard for a long time to come. I'll miss John's friendship,
and his strong spirit, which I know is still here."
|1980's, A Decade of Change
Scores of musicians and music industry personalities fled the L.A. music scene in the early 1980s and
flocked to the quiet, slower-paced rhythm of Nashville's Music Row. Horn followed suit
after playing on several Jimmy Bowen sessions. His ground-breaking solo on
Ronnie Milsap's Lost In The Fifties (In The Still Of The Night), set a new
standard and added a new dimension to Country Music. Later, he played sax on the hit
tune Angel of Harlem with the Irish super-band U2 at
Memphis Sun Studios. Portions of the session were filmed for U2's musical documentary Rattle and Hum, so Jim can be seen playing his saxophone
alongside the talented efforts of the four boys from Eire.
He also produced two solo albums, Neon Nights and Work It Out
for Warner Brothers.
|Country Music Touring in the 90's
Horn continued to produce and perform into the next decade, sharing
his talents with the soulful Delbert McClinton, touring with
Japanese singer Kioshiro (1992), and crooning a superb soprano sax
on Can't Tell You Why, Vince Gill's cover of the Eagles classic.
Proving that country really is cool, Jim played sax on a number of
top-selling country albums, breaking the Titanic iceberg that
separated hip R & B, Jazz and Rock from the "We don't allow no
saxophones on the Grand Ole Opry. That's the instrument of the
devil" mentality that has pervaded the country music scene for the
last 35 years. Two giant artists helped hand out the ice-picks:
Garth Brooks and Wynonna. Brooks invited Jim to play on his #1
album, In Pieces, which features Jim's critically acclaimed sax solo
on One Night a Day.
Horn also played on Wynonna's triple-platinum album Tell Me Why. He
played on the Black and Wy (Clint Black-Wynonna) tour, and spent the
better part of a year touring solely for Wy who "is really cool
because she didn't tour with just one horn, but three".
In September of 1997, Jim was a part of
the massive Garth Brooks in Central Park HBO special, seen by millions around the world,
during which he was featured soloing with Garth and Billy Joel on
New York State Of
Beginning in July 2009, Horn began touring (alongside section-mates
Steve Herrman, Chris Dunn and Scott Ducaj)
with Kenny Chesney. Horn has composed and arranged
the horn sections for Chesney for the past several years.
|One recent project,
The HIT List, is a
collection of 14 hit songs featuring classic performances by Jim, the solos that helped to
make these records great. Among these are Christopher Cross Ride
Like the Wind, Elton John's Little Jeannie,
U2's Angel of Harlem, and The Beach Boys Good Vibrations
Chances are, when you're listening to the radio, you'll
hear Jim Horn.
|Another recent addition to Jim's discography is his
Jim Horn:A Tribute To John Denver. 12 songs penned by
the immortal John Denver as interpreted by his long-time
collaborator and friend, Jim Horn. Songs like Country
Roads......Annie's Song.....Calypso.....Sunshine On My
Shoulders and 8 more.
|Next up was a warm
collection of Christmas songs, Christmas With Jim Horn,
arranged and performed by Horn accompanied by a solid group of
musicians. Titles like What Child Is This....Angels We Have
Heard On High.....Mary Did You Know.....and 8 others
round out this must-have seasonal.
|What followed was a triumphal return to Jim's jazz
roots, this time in a 10-song collection of original smooth jazz. Called Northern
Reflections, this one perked ears at Smooth Jazz radio and is still
return of another sort is evident on Jim's latest release entitled simply
Beatles Tribute. Which is just what it is, 14 Beatle classics
served up with love and affection from the only musician who can claim to
have played with all 4 Beatles individually. You've Got To Hide Your Love
Away....Eleanor Rigby.....We Can Work It Out...Something....the list goes
on and on. Beatles fans everywhere just got a BIG gift.