Jim Johnson (Calvin James)
a.k.a Calvin James
(1962 – 2011)
Jim Johnson began his musical career in 1962 as one of the original founders of The Underbeats, playing guitar and eventually singing lead vocals. Through 1968, The Underbeats were considered to be one of the top local dance bands, packing the teen clubs and ballrooms. The group recorded numerous 45’s with local producer George Garrett and hit the local charts over the years, the most popular song being “Foot Stompin’” in 1964.
In the fall of 1968, The Underbeats headed to Los Angeles and gained a following there, playing at Gazzarri’s on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. In 1969, the band evolved into Gypsy and developed a new sound, featuring all original songs and became regular performers at The Whiskey a Go-Go. In 1970, the band released their first album, a self titled double album on the Metromedia label and received airplay with “Gypsy Queen” and “Dead and Gone.” In 1971, another album was released on the same label, In the Garden. The band recorded two more albums, both for RCA. As Gypsy came to an end in the mid 1970’s, Jim released one final Gypsy 45, with a new band lineup, “Magic in My Life”, backed with “Don’t Stop For Nothin’.” Both songs were covered by The Fifth Dimension in 1975, as a 45 and also on their album, Earthbound, produced and arranged by Jimmy Webb on ABC Records, with Florence Larve singing lead vocals on Magic in My Life.
Jim stayed in Los Angeles, following the Gypsy era, working as a songwriter and a record producer. A 1977 Universal movie called Slap Shot (starring Paul Newman) included a song in the soundtrack, “Money Side of Town”, written and performed by Jim, with Stan Kipper on drums.
Around 1980, Jim got together with Stanley Kipper (drums, percussion and vocals) and Brad Palmer (bass guitar and vocals) and put a new band together, The Steamers, that played in the Los Angeles area. Two attorney’s from New York City, Alan Shapiro and Gary Wishik saw the band perform live and produced (and financed) the bands only album, recorded at Don Casale Studios in Westbury, New York, that was released in 1982. The album was self-titled (with no label name), with ten original songs, six written by Jim, three written by Stanley and one written by all three members. Jim sings lead vocals on five songs, Stanley singles lead vocals on four songs and Jim and Stanley both sing lead on one song. Numerous songs from the album were used in soundtracks for various Universal movies. The Steamers played live and recorded songs for Universal up through 1984/1985. A song written by Jim, “Too Hard to Love You”, was recorded by Ray Charles (with Jim playing guitar) and included on his 1988 Columbia album, Just Between Us.
In 1993, Jim returned to Minnesota and played with a new version of The Underbeats and also played with Gypsy for various reunion concerts.
Eventually, Jim returned to his R and B roots, playing and recording as Calvin James. In 2003, a CD was released called It Ain’t Over , with eleven songs, including eight original songs written by Jim. The CD features local musicians: Stan Kipper, Bill Lordan, Larry Wiegand, George Hawkins, Bruce Pedalty, Jimmy Greenwell, Vince Denham, Tom Nystrom, Brian Glasscock and Doni Larson. Randy Meisner, from The Eagles, is on background vocals on two tracks. Mike Finnegin, From Dave Mason and other bands, plays keyboards on four tracks. Jim Johnson, with a career in music that spans five decades, is a true Minnesota rock’n’roll legend. The Calvin James album, It Ain’t Over is now available through minniepaulmusic.com.
Jim Johnson BAND TREE
1962 to Current
Jim Johnson The Underbeats
Lead Guitar / Vocals Gypsy
1962 to 1969 The Steamers
Jim Johnson Where Are They Now ?
Jim Johnson 1962 to Current
Jim Johnson Active in Music
Lead Guitar / Vocals Yes
Doing What ?……………………… Playing in The Calvin James Band