Though he has covered a lot of ground through times of joy and tribulation, Jim has always sung a song as he walked softly along that winding pathway that has circled around the globe. Songs of love, hope and celebration of the art of living. He has been sharing those songs with whoever would listen. Those who have stopped for just a moment upon their hurried way to listen to Jim's music have been rewarded with sprinkles of magic upon themselves. That is the effect of the music and the company of Jim Valley. He's a one of a kind rainbow wanderer.
You can learn all you really need to know about Jim through his music. But for friends and well-wishers, here is his story.
In 1955 when Jim was in the seventh grade...Rock n Roll was born! Jim would race home to listen to the Top Forty...Bill Haley & the Comets..Rock Around the Clock..Little Richard...Buddy Holley...Fats Domino..Chuck Berry!!!! The Bop was the first Rock n Roll dance craze, jitterbug like. So dancing to Rock n Roll became his first experience with the genre, entering dance contests with his dance partner and sometimes winning.
In his ninth grade year at Jane Addams Jr. High School Jim learned to play the piano by ear from some choir mates who had begun to compose their own songs. He composed a simple Doo-Wop type song for one of these, Cassie Kenyon. The song was titled Cassandra and when his next door neighbor heard the song, it was decided Jim should form a band and make a record. The neighbor, Curt Pearson, knew a fellow, Greg Thompson, who had just received a set of drums for his birthday, and knew a friend who had an old acoustic guitar in his house. The guitar was his dad's; it lived in the attic missing at least one string and the guy, Dick Enders, didn't even know how to tune it! Then another friend of Curt's, Fred Rucker, was actually a hot saxophone player.
So the three "musicians" arrive at Jim's house a few weeks later to form a "Rock n Roll Band." Soon thereafter Jim realized the "band" now called Vince Valley and his Chain Gang needed a real electric guiartist. In those days Jim had never seen a guitar in anyone's house, much less knowing someone who could actually play. So Jim, having a summer job in his dad's laundry, decided to buy an electric guitar and become the band's guitarist.
Then in the spring of 1963, the band recorded an instrumental song called Granny's Pad, which became a huge Northwest hit, beng played by many of the area bands including a little known group in Bosie, Idaho called Paul Revere and the Raiders.
The Viceroys now become one of the "in demand" bands in the Northwest, along with the Wailers, the Frantics, Little Bill and the Bluenotes, the Dynamics, Tiny Tony and the Stactics featuring Merelee Rush. Seattle radio stations promoted dances featuring these "famous Northwest groups" Pat O'Day and Dick Curtiss, two enterprising DJs from KJR radio, also began presenting once or twice a year Rock n Roll concerts at the Seattle Opera House, featuring national recording stars like The Beachboys, Roy Orbison and Little Stevie Wonder.
It was at one of these "Calvacade of Stars" that the Viceroys were asked to perform and also to back the other artists who didn't accompany themselves. On this show artists included the Beachboys, Little Stevie Wonder, Little Eva (Locomotion) April Stevens and Nino Temple, Ray Stevens (Ahab the Arab). Stevie Wonder was to have his own band so the Viceroys didn't rehearse his songs When the rehearsals began with the receding artists that morning at the Opera House, it was learned that Stevie Wonder had arrived with just his drummer. His manager looked at the Viceroys and decided he would find another Seattle band to do the job.
The concert began and right before the intermission, the Beachboys took the stage. Pandemonium, they were incredible. Wow, excitement, screaming teenagers like Jim had never seen before. A prelude to Beatlemania. Jim's eye's spun like Mr. Toads! Maybe someday Jim could be in a group like that. Intermission.. Stevie Wonder appears backstage with only his drummer and a couple of horn players...the Viceroys would back the new star without a minute's rehearsal...Finger Tips..Part One & Two....two chords.. Hallejuia by Ray Charles, a song the Viceroys played and one other tune...It worked!!
Early in 1964 the Viceroys are booked at The Pypo Club in Seaside, Oregon where they are told they'll probably have a crowd of 800. That night 80 kids show up. It turned out that ten miles away a new group was stealing the night...Paul Revere and the Raiders, wild and crazy, three cornered hats, HOT!!!
The next month the Raiders are booked to play at the Spanish Castle, a 1930's dance hall, where the other band is the Viceroys. By this time most bands in the Northwest were fairly tame, a few steps, like an rhythm and blues band...but Paul Revere and the Raiders knocked everyone's socks off! Mark Lindsey's vocals, amazing routines by guitarist Drake Levin and bassist Doc Holiday, the unique magic drumming of Michael "Smitty" Smith, and of course the wild humor of Paul Revere himself! Jim's eyes spun around again! " If you ever need a guitar player, give me a call" was Jim's comment to Paul that night. The Viceroys would play many dances with the Raiders in the years to come.
In the winter of 1964, the Viceroys landed a four week gig at the Peppermint Tree in San Francisco's North Beach, with the help of the Raiders. By this time the Viceroys were a four piece band with a very talented R&B vocalist by the name of Nancy Claire.The repertoire was R&B with sprinklings of Jazz. It was at this time Jim decided he wanted to be in a group that was more radical...sort of like PR & the R's.
Don & The Goodtimes
That night Jim couldn't seem to fall asleep and in the morning called Don & the Goodtimes to say he had found a singing guitarist for them.....Jim Valley. He would leave the security and the popularity of the Viceroys to join the new group. Jim became the co-lead singer with Don McKinney and wrote a song for them called Little Sally Tease. "Sally" was a hit and propelled Don & the Good Times into a Northwest legend. Little Sally Tease is included in the "Greatest Hits" collections of both The Kingsmen and The Standells.
The "Goodtimes" were signed by Dunhill records to be produced by Steve Barri and PF Sloan. The group appeared on "The Lloyd Thaxton Show" and "Hollywood A'GoGo" and played one night at the Whiskey AGoGo, where the house band was Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. While they had made quite an impact on the Northwest dance scene, the Goodtimes seemed to be always just a step away from any national recognition. A year after joining Don & the Goodtimes, Jim was asked to be member of Paul Revere and the Raiders. It was a difficult decision but within the next few months Jim would trade his top hat for a three cornered hat and become Harpo!
Paul Revere & The Raiders
During the next year, Jim, now more commonly known as Harpo, would perform for thousands of teen-age concert audiences, as well being portrayed in hundreds of fan magazine stories and pictures, like 16 Magazine and Tiger Beat. The Raiders were stars on Dick Clark's daily TV series "Where The Action Is" as well as appearing on The Smother's Brother Comedy Hour, The Hollywood Palace, The Milton Beryl Show,The Lloyd Thaxton Show and other national TV show of the era.
The daily life of the group consisted of constant touring, which would be the most peaceful of the hectic schedule. After the concerts, many evenings would find Harpo, Fang and Smitty sharing their original songs with each other, playing tricks and presenting skits. When the group was home in Los Angeles, a normal day would begin at seven AM filming Dick Clark's Where the Action Is, then a small lunch break and on to several photo shoots for the fan magizines.The early evening would find the Raiders recording at Columbia studios into the wee hours of the next morning with their producer Terry Melcher, who also produced the Byrds.
Another group Terry produced was called The Gentle Soul and they became Jim's pals and mentors. Their music was lyrical, melodic and meaningful with beautiful harmonies. Pamela Polland, around whom the group was formed, was also the hub of many Los Angeles songwriters and artists. Other members of the Gentle Soul were Rick Stanley, Riley Wildflower and Sandy Konikoff. Riley and Sandy became Jim's best buds. The Gentle Soul House in Laurel Canyon became the gathering place for so many creative, magic and adventurous souls. Jim met Jackson Browne one afternoon there and listening to him sing his songs would inspire and influence the way Jim perceived music. Jackson was eighteen years old at that time.
Jim was promised by Paul Revere that the Raiders would record some of his songs. It never happened, a huge disappointment that would be one of the major reasons for leaving the group.
It was however definitely a "magic year" for Jim, like five years rolled into one! A dream come true! But twelve months almost to the day that Jim joined the Raiders..... he departed! It was too late. Within a few months, two other Raiders would opt to leave the group, Phil "Fang" Volk and Michael "Smitty" Smith formed a group called the Brotherhood with former Raider guitarist Drake Levin.
In September of 1968 Jim spent a few months in Big Sur, California getting close to nature and began composing songs for an album titled, "Walking Through the Quiet". The songs were more folksy than rock 'n roll and Dunhill never released the record. It was a "learning experience". In the Fall of 1969 Jim returned home to Washington state, working for the railroad for a year and helping raise his two daughters, Vicki and Jamie. In July of 1970, Jim's son was born..Timothy Bananas ..who when he was five years old would compose the words for one of Jim's favorite children's songs...I Broke my Bo-Wo-Wones in Louisiana, featured on the album Rainbow Planet, 1983.
The Seventies found Jim trying to live the songs he was writing. Singing for kids in a hospital in Seattle evolved into singing for teenage church groups. In 1971 Light Records released a Jim Valley album titled, "Family" along with an accompanying two-part choir book. By 1972 the rock 'n roll bug had bitten again and Jim formed a new group called "Sweet Talking Jones" with some former Northwest rockers, including Andy Parypa of the Sonics and Greg Beck from the Viceroys. At this point Jim was playing keyboards and guitar. The group mainly played club dates in the Seattle area...some classic rock 'n roll, music by the Band, Van Morrison, Beatles, Stones and some Jim Valley compositions. In 1974 Jim left the group and performed as a duo with Greg Beck who was the guitarist that replaced Jim in the Viceroys in 1965.
1974 found Jim starting another band called The Shoestring Orchestra and Choir, sort of like "A Grateful Dead" of the Seattle area. Three songwriters...Jim, Marc Willette and Don Wilhelm. Jerden Records released a single Jim had written called Rabbits in the Park in late 1974. Even though the record disappeared...the creative energy between Willette, Valley and Wilhelm would continue for decades... into present time. Willette and Wilhelm recorded with Jim on his "Rainbow Planet" children's albums from the Eighties and Nineties. Also they play with Jim on the new release..."Rolling Sea".
During 1975 Jim moved to San Diego where he began work on a musical play about the Children's Crusade of the twelfth century in France. He became the musical director as well as part of the ensemble. "It was the most incredible cooperative creative experience of my life," Jim reports. One of the songs, If I Were a Bird was later recorded for Jim's "Dinosaur Ride" album in 1989.
The summer of 1977 found Jim street performing in Europe with his partner at the time, Gretchen Vanderslice. They landed in Amsterdam and traveled to England, Scotland, France, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Austria and Germany. The song Street Dancer was composed during that period and is included on "Rolling Sea".
Back to the Sound
Jim recorded his first children's album in 1983, titled "Rainbow Planet" and received the "Parent's Choice" award. Later albums included "Friendship Train", "McFiddle DeeDee", "Dinosaur Ride" and "We Have a Dream (Friends around the World)". Jim has traveled to over forty countries bringing his message of friendship, nature, imagination and fun! Countries include South America, China, Egypt, India, France, Africa, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, as well as schools all over the U.S.
Jim has been published by the Wright Group (1996) in a series of "Rainbow Planet Big Books" that help children learn to read as well as feel good about themselves. Also Warner Brothers published an illustrated songbook and a musical play, "Wishes Come True...The Secrets of the Rainbow Planet" (1998)
Currently, Jim is working on several new projects... a new collection of songs for children...working title "Rainbow Garden...Children of the Same World", a TV Show for children which would be song and dance centered, and a new contemporary adult album.
There is a saying in India..."the universe respects me when I work, but it loves me when I sing." And Jim says, "It's true! and futhermore...keep a song in your heart, laughter near your toes, don't forget to write, ask lots of questions and plant some flowers."
Besides creating music for and with young people, Jim enjoys working in his flower garden, going for walks, sailing, gathering his friends together for Hobbit-like parties of singing, laughter and dance, reading good books and spending time with his family, which include seven grandchildren. Jim lives in Gig Harbor, Washington with his artist partner, Janice Wagner, who painted the album cover for "Rolling Sea". They live in a "cottage castle" on Puget Sound where today...the sun is shining!!!
Jim's house on Puget Sound