Lucky Jim Rodford and his life of rock'n'roll

PUBLISHED: 10:57 29 August 2009 | UPDATED: 14:24 06 May 2010

Jim Rodford with Argent in the 1970s

Jim Rodford with Argent in the 1970s

A ROCK and roll lifestyle is usually connected with drugs and sex and all that goes with it. But Jim Rodford - bass player with The Zombies and ex-Kinks to name but a few - is testament to the fact it is possible to stay grounded and withstand the many te

Jim with his wife Jean

A ROCK and roll lifestyle is usually connected with drugs and sex and all that goes with it.

But Jim Rodford - bass player with The Zombies and ex-Kinks to name but a few - is testament to the fact it is possible to stay grounded and withstand the many temptations that cross a musician's path.

Proof of that is that he and Jean, his wife of 47 years, are still together after practically falling in love at first glance.

Jim, 68, said: "We met at the old Pioneer Club and I straightaway thought who is that and apparently she thought the same. Jean was almost engaged to someone else although we were only 16 but we got talking and ended up going out a little while later."

Although their marriage got off to a modest start, living with Jim's mum and dad in New Greens, Jim soon left factory life behind for a full-time career as a musician after playing since the mid 50s with local band The Bluetones.

It certainly wasn't a case of rags to riches and the couple had hard times bringing up a young family in a council flat in Fleetville - the couple have three children Steve, now 47, Paula, 44 and Russell, 30.

As Jim said: "Jean stuck with me through thin times and thinner..."

His first big break nearly was his last as he made his way up to the Hammersmith Odeon to play in The Mike Cotton Sound opening up for The Beatles in their Christmas concerts in 1964.

Jim said: "I left myself two hours to get up there but there was such a massive traffic jam that I got there with just minutes to spare."

His band leader was at the door waiting for him flanked by George Harrison asking what was delaying the concert.

Jim said: "Mike replied 'This little runt that's who'."

Jim quickly donned his jacket and took his place on the revolving podium as he opened the show singing Georgie Fame's hit Yeah Yeah.

Jim said: "I couldn't believe that I left my factory job one day and two months later I was working with the most famous band in the world."

Now he is matter-of-fact about meeting the likes of Paul McCartney whom he describes as a really nice bloke.

As we spoke about the various huge names he has worked with like Ray Davies of The Kinks and Eric Burden of The Animals he is very unfazed by the greats. But the one name that seems to ignite a bit of passion is the late great Jimi Hendrix whom he met twice.

The first time they met Jimi was wearing a black velvet coat and hat and he told Jim that She's Not There was the classiest single he'd ever heard.

Although it was not Jim's work it was penned by his cousin Rod Argent with whom he still works all over the world today in The Zombies.

Jim was instrumental in helping the then 15-year old Rod set up the internationally-famous band.

He said: "I remember driving them and their equipment - such as it was - to the Pioneer Club and we had to pick up Colin Blunstone en route who had broken his nose playing rugby. When I pulled up I remember thinking I hope it's not him."

But it was Colin Blunstone's ethereal voice that helped make She's Not There a hit across the world putting St Albans musos firmly on the map.

Once The Zombies disbanded, Rod and Jim went on to form Argent in 1969 through to 1975.

He spoke about the night Argent played the Whisky A Gogo in Los Angeles in front of an audience including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Burden, Frank Zappa and The Monkees. He said: "That was pretty daunting. You really felt like you had a lot to live up to."

That led to them conquering the States with Hold Your Head Up (top five in the UK and USA) and God Gave Rock'n'Roll To You.

After Argent Jim stepped in to The Kinks in 1978 to fill in for someone else but ended up staying with them until the mid 90s.

When The Zombies re-formed in the late 90s Jim had to get back into the touring lifestyle all over the world but at least he has his son Steve and cousin Rod with him.

The lifestyle they now enjoy means some of the gambles Jim took with his career paid off royally.

When their children were young Jim would often be jetting around the world on tour while Jean remained behind but now she can fly out to join him at exotic locations like the latest one in The Philippines.

In between these main projects Jim has toured and recorded extensively with Lonnie Donegan, Barbara Dickson and is also a guest bass player with The Swinging Bluejeans.

Jim and Jean have resolutely resisted the drug culture which goes with rock'n'roll but they still enjoy the odd drink around town in some of St Albans many music pubs.

That's when Jim is not playing in his family band The Rodford Files with son Steve on drums - also a member of The Zombies - and Russell on guitar.

Lately Jim has done some charity work giving illustrated talks on the history of music in St Albans and Jean helps out at the local Oxfam shop when she's not busy with their three granddaughters

They are a happy couple who know how lucky they are to have found each other and to have created a warm, loving family. They would probably have enjoyed life without Jim's successful career and are certainly not smug about the lifestyle it has enabled them to have.

Their granddaughters Anja and Cara are now showing signs of wanting to pursue musical careers and have started performing live at family gigs.

Jim is a popular figure around St Albans precisely because he has no airs or graces and is always keen to encourage other musicians.

Lloyd Grossman would have a field day trying to discover who lived in his beautiful St Albans home. The only sign of Jim's playing days are the discreetly placed four gold album discs given to The Kinks and an Ivor Novello award for services to music. He also has a gold single disc for Hold Your Head Up which sold a million copies around the world.

All in all, a modest man who has always put his family above everything else, Jim is still closely in touch with his two sisters Christine and Carol who also live in St Albans.

Jean, who clearly adores her husband, has the last word: "Jim really is a lovely man who lives for his family."

MARY BROSNAN

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