was born James Douglas Lyon on May 22, 1955, in Tampa, Fla. The youngest
of three children, Jimmy moved from Tampa to the eastern shore near Cape
Charles, Virginia at age 2. He was involved in a tragic auto accident at
age 7, which took the life of his sister, and seriously injured his mother
and brother. This event would become pivotal, as it eventually led to the
family moving to the East Bay area near San Francisco, where Jimmy would
begin his musical journey.
was introduced to music as a listener in Virginia. The first song he remembers
hearing, at age five, was “In The Mood” by Glenn Miller. While convalescing
with his older sister and brother in law in Virginia after the accident,
he was introduced to rock and roll via Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog”. But
the East Bay would be the genesis of Jimmy's musical journey, as he witnessed
The Beatles first performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. He thought to himself,
“I want to be just like those guys”.
first instrument of choice was the drums, but being an apartment dweller,
the $20 acoustic guitar made more practical sense. Again, another pivotal
situation. A Mel Bay chord book, a turntable and a stack of pop records,
and off he went.
recalls his first public performance as a guitarist backing the fifth grade
choir, playing such tunes as Belafontes’ “Jamaican Farewell” and “Dominique”
by that group of nuns.
with his roots in rock and roll, it didn't take him long to hook up with
a band of schoolmates sporting electric instruments and a full drum set.
His first assignment was bass player, as the group already had two guitarists.
School dances, community functions, and an occasional battle of the bands
(old school equivalent of American Idol) would serve as the vehicle for
Jimmy's musical quest. As the lineup changed (as it often did), Jimmy was
recruited for his prowess as lead guitar player, and by age thirteen, he
was tearing up everything on the charts, from Creedence to Black Sabbath
to Zep to Cream and whatever else.
next few years would see Jimmy play with many various lineups (average
life expectancy of a band was 7-8 months). Jimmy recalls playing his first
nightclub date at age fifteen. He was allowed into the club, but during
breaks, he had to either sit on the stage or go out the back door into
the parking lot. (His band mate's ages ranged from 21-27). From this point
on, he would always be the youngest member of whatever band he was playing
quit high school during his senior year, and moved to the San Joaquin Valley
to form yet another band. While struggling to keep the dream alive, Jimmy
got a call from some of his former schoolmates. Seems they knew of a singer
looking for a guitarist to form a band in Oakland. This singers name was
Edward Mahoney. Pivotal?
and Eddie (Money) began to carve out their own niche in the bay area club
scene. With a play anywhere, anytime attitude, they soon were quite busy.
Jimmy recruited Gene Pardue (from the valley era) to man the drum set.
The main focus, however, was to write original material and sign a recording
deal. But nightclub (and wherever else) work would give them sustenance
and a vehicle to test the original material on a public audience.
a few years of slugging, the band was noticed by Jerry Pompili of the Bill
Graham Organization. The band had been making tapes of their original songs,
and now came the time to ink a deal. After much deliberation, Columbia
Records became the label of choice.
producer Bruce Botnick (The Doors) and record engineer Andy Johns (Led
Zeppelin), the debut album spawned two original top 40 hit singles, Baby
Hold On, and Two Tickets To Paradise, now considered radio standards. The
next few years would involve 250+ concerts per year, as well as recording
subsequent album projects. The band would make numerous television appearances,
Saturday Night Live, Midnight Special, and the like. In 1979, Jimmy bought
a small airplane and gained his FAA Pilot Certification.
fourth album “No Control” would be Jimmy's last project with the group
for a while. The rigors of constant touring became a bore, and he felt
himself losing focus. He toyed with various projects for a couple of years.
Then in early 1985, he received a call from a member of the Graham organization.
it turns out, Bryan Adams and his guitarist Keith Scott, were devout Jimmy
Lyon fans They had gone so far as to model some of their work after Jimmy's.
(Listen close; you'll notice the similarities).
was currently on tour in Europe, opening Tina Turner during her Private
Dancer tour. Tina's lead guitarist pulled a no show, never to be seen again
scenario. They got a temporary replacement for the European dates. Tina
asked Bryan if he knew of any guitarists who might fit the bill. He thought
for a while, and said, “Why don't you call Jimmy Lyon?” So she did.
embarked on an eight-month (short compared to some of Eddie’s tours) tour
of North America, Australia, and Japan. Though he did not continue with
Tina after that point, Jimmy considers Tina one of the most compelling
and sincere individuals. Jimmy is now thirty years old.
home to the bay area, Jimmy joined forces with Greg Kihn, who he had first
met in the bay area club scene. In the early eighties, Greg Kihn had his
first chart success with “Jeopardy” and “The Breakup Song”, and was now
an established national act. Jimmy enjoyed a lighter touring schedule,
allowing him to think about starting a family.
1987, Jimmy got a call from his old band mate Eddie Money, requesting that
he play some solos on his current record project. Jimmy obliged, and played
on such hits as “Walk On Water”. One thing led to another, and they took
off on a six-month tour in support of the album. This band included bassist
Don Cromwell, with whom Jimmy had played with as a mid teen. Jimmy's wife,
Elaine, gave birth to their first child, Monica, shortly thereafter.
1989, Jimmy gained his FAA flight instructor certification. No longer being
able to afford his own airplane, he felt this would keep him in the flying
game, and open future possibilities. Jimmy was recruited by a local east
bay flying club, and enjoyed 4+ years of civilian flight instruction. With
a flexible schedule, Jimmy was able to continue doing numerous dates with
the Greg Kihn Band. Flying and playing music for a living. Doesn't get
thing leads to another. After a year of experience at a local air ambulance
outfit, Jimmy was hired by a commuter airline. The company was based in
St Louis, but had a west coast operation. So Jimmy and family, now four
strong (Jessica was born in 1993) moved to Salinas, CA, as Monterey was
the origin of his assigned flight schedule. Starting as first officer,
Jimmy gained further aeronautical prowess, and was quickly promoted to
captain. Jimmy is now forty years old.
the next few years, Jimmy was able to sneak an occasional jam date with
Greg, but the airline schedule wouldn't allow full time music. Late in
the century, the airline ceased their west coast operation. Though still
employed (and quite senior) Jimmy was faced with some tough choices. Moving
east was going to have a great impact, as Elaine's family is California
based. As it turns out, Jimmy resigned from the airline, and took a chief
pilot position with a start up fractional operation (similar to Net Jets
). Based in northwest Georgia, the company business plan and startup capital
was impressive. Led by successful airline industry moguls, the compensation
package was attractive. Good salary, benefits, stock options, etc. So,
load up the truck and move to Georgia. (Company paid for the move). Things
were going all right. They bought a house, the girls had good schools,
etc. He was a regular pilot for a prominent NASCAR team. (Jimmy loves motor
sports). The American dream realized. And then, 9/11.
year later the company folded. But Jimmy doesn't see obstacles, only opportunities.
He became a member of the Atlanta Blues Society, and began to participate
in regular jam nights that are sponsored by the many blues clubs in the
area. The fire rekindled
Kihn dled?), Jimmy began to write a set of blues based music, with the
intention of recording and performing. The record is now reaching its completion,
marking another pivotal stage in the Jimmy Lyon story.