Jim Stapley is my likely candidate for the role. He’s in his mid-twenties, has the long hair, a powerful voice that’s a mixture of all the greats I’ve mentioned. So already has the look and sound of a rock star.
My first encounter of Jim on stage was as front man for the Jones Gang, led by legendary drummer Kenney Jones. The Jones Gang came together a few years ago for a charity event, but it was such a success the band now performs several times a year. The line up is made up of musicians with a huge pedigree, such as bass player Rick Wills (Foreigner, Small Faces, Bad Company), lead guitarist Dave “Bucket” Colwell (Bad Company) and keyboard player Josh Phillips (Procol Harum), and of course Kenney Jones on drums (Small Faces, The Faces, The Who).
The bands previous front man Robert Hart (Bad Company) quit the band last year and Kenney had been looking for a replacement. Kenney had been made aware of Jim Stapley through Kiefer Sutherland’s record company and was impressed enough to invite Jim to meet with him at Hurtwood Park, home of Kenney’s Polo Club and regular venue for the Jones Gang performances.
Jim and Kenney hit it off, so on May 20th, with just two rehearsals, Jim found himself facing a packed clubhouse at Hurtwood Park. Tickets had sold out for this gig, so there was a lot of pressure, but Jim confidently took it all in his stride and more important took to the stage like he owned it! Belting out the songs one after the other, and really looking like he was enjoying every minute. He had a natural ability to engage with the audience and in no time had them singing along with him.
“It was one of those pinch me moments” he told me after. “Being on stage performing not only with Kenney Jones, but the other guys (Rick Wills, Dave “Bucket” Colwell and Josh Phillips) was such a buzz. I’d been a huge fan and knew all those songs, which were influences for my own material I’ve been writing and recording.”
Kenney said of Jim “I’ve been fortunate enough to share the stage with the finest singers in the world and can definitely say that I now add Jim Stapley to that list.”
Jim was born in Manchester and is the eldest of four brothers. The family settled in the south of England when Jim was about 11. The whole family were into music with his parents being huge Springsteen fans and also into Americana. Jim’s very first band included Nick, one of his three brothers, who also still plays music.
“There was always great music playing in our house and my parents took me to see my first Springsteen gig when I was about 9 years old. That had a huge impact on me. I remember him trying to sing a bluesy version of The River, but the crowd were having none of it and started singing his original version, which he just sat back and let them do. I always thought how great that was, so it’s been a burning ambition of mine to perform in front of a huge crowd and have them sing one of my own songs back at me.”
From the age of 14 Jim started writing his own music “I can’t say they were any good, but you have to start somewhere.” When his parents realised he was serious about singing they sent him for vocal coaching for about a year with Nicky Moore, best known as vocalist with the band Samson.
“I could always belt out a song, but I needed to learn how to sing properly, so he taught me the ins and outs of it all really. Then he hooked me up with a band in London that were trying to make the big time. To be honest I never thought I’d end up doing this as a job. As a youngster I’d always wanted to be a fighter pilot”
Jim looked at me smiling “yeah I know, the complete opposite, but thought playing music would just be a hobby.”
After working in a few bands doing the London club and pub circuit Jim realised that playing and singing was what he wanted to do. Soon he found himself a manager, then an opportunity came up to record and perform in the US. This led to a recording contract with Kiefer Sutherland and Jude Cole’s Ironworks label.
“I was spending my time back and forth to the US, spending some time working in Atlanta and Nashville. I loved everything about that, the music, the people, it was amazing.”
Around early 2010 Jim decided to return to the UK for good and start up a band back home. The opportunity came along to be front man for Kenney’s band performing the gig at Hurtwood Park. Then a few months after this fronting the Jones Gang again, Jim found himself facing an even larger audience at a charity festival at the Wintershall Estate in Surrey, where lots of top named artists, such as Eric Clapton, Andy Fairweather-Low, Lulu, Jeff Beck, Georgie Fame, were all appearing. This was one of those pinch me again moments for Jim when he found himself being joined on stage by Rolling Stone guitarist Ronnie Wood. Backstage Mick Hucknell was watching and listening. It impressed him enough to compliment Jim and telling Kenney how much he’d loved his performance.
Jim has been busy writing and working on his music. Much of his previous material had been collaborations.
“I’ve enjoyed working with others, because I felt it can push you and you’re stronger for it. But I’m working more on my own these days and challenging myself. I’m my own worst critic, but I’m really enjoying the process.”
Since the Wintershall gig Jim has been performing regularly with his own band, playing his own music and things are really starting to take off. He now has new management, a live recorded album and DVD released, and is awaiting to perform at the world famous 100 Club in London on 31st August, with Dave Colwell as guest guitarist and it’s likely that other members of the Jones Gang that include Kenney Jones and Rick Wills, will be there.
Jim’s not shy about his ambition to be a rock star. “Yes, I’m ready for world domination” he laughs “But seriously, I will be happy earning a living, performing and doing what I love most.”
© Words - Val Weedon/ ZANI Media