Yesterday I heard the sad news that Jimmy Duckworth had died. Jimmy, and his brother Larry were two of the finest rock and jazz musicians Charlotte has ever known. While I haven't seen Jimmy in about 30 years, the hurt is real.
I first came across Jimmy at one of the Battle Of The Bands showcases that would occasionally take place at the Park Road Shopping Center parking lot. I was very young, maybe 10 years old, but rock music was beginning to settle in my blood. It was the mid 60's and this particular event had little trouble luring me in.
There were bands everywhere! Most were rockin' out with gritty garage rock muscle, some were soulful and some were square show bands. I let myself drift over to the dirtier sounding garage bands. The loudness, the excitement, the gear, and the look were all seductive. Two bands stood out - The Paragons with Pat Walters and Larry's Sound Dept. featuring Jimmy and Larry. Both bands had players that could play and all looked extremely cool. I was in heaven and these were the two best bands in the world! I honestly believe that this is the cathartic moment that sent me on my rock and roll way.
I'm not sure how I got to actually visit Jimmy and Larry at their house (with a couple of buddies), one afternoon. I think we had an older friend that knew them, but regardless, there we were. I remember only three things about that visit.
1. They lived in a split level house. Cool.
2. They had a St. Bernard. Scary.
3. And they had a monkey. A real live monkey. Holy Crap!!!!
Years later, I was fortunate to have a couple of music classes with Jimmy at Central Piedmont Community College. We both performed with the CPCC Recorder Consort which was a blast! It was there that I'd like to think we became friends. Not only was he one of the best guitar players around, he was one of the funniest guys I've ever known. He always looked a bit meek and timid to me, but he had a wicked sense of humor. This led to some very funny (and at times, subversive) moments under the always watchful, yet hopelessly naive eye of music director Mary Lou Pascal!
Around that time we were all shifting into the jazz scene, some more than others. Jimmy was one of Charlotte's best jazz players and for a little while I dipped my toe into the scene playing in the Charlie Estridge Trio. I've mentioned this before, but Charlie insisted that I only play the drums with brushes and that was fine by me. I could fake it better! But there was that one fateful show that on the very first song, all of the brushes disintegrated and fell out of the handles. Both of them. Jimmy was there. Sorry I sucked so bad that night, Jimmy!
Rest in peace Jimmy. You helped this former 10 year old set a course for a pretty decent life in this crazy thing we call rock and roll. You also made me laugh. I know I'm not alone.
And you had a monkey.