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VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND | ROCKTALK

Drummer Finds He's Getting More Respect

Jim Christie of Ventura has been a regular with Dwight Yoakam's band. He praises the local music scene as 'a well-kept secret.'

June 20, 1996|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Dwight Yoakam ain't doin' press this tour. No big thang--his drummer, Jim Christie is. A Ventura local who just bought a house near the heart of the Poinsettia City, the drummer has stories to tell. After all, he has played over 200 dates with the maverick country star.

Christie will be the guy in the back with the shock of wild hair, mostly hitting things and staring at Yoakam's back during the 7 p.m. Saturday gig at the tree-lined Santa Barbara County Bowl. Yoakam will be the guy in front wearing the hat.

Yoakam's first local appearance in several years will cost his fans, most of the pointy-shoe persuasion, from $21 to $33 to hear him play hit songs, including selections off his latest, "Gone." Christie discussed his fun job from the front porch of his new house.

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So what's it like on stage? What do you see besides Dwight's back?

I don't see anything. I spend the first three songs trying to get my mechanics right and to feel like I'm in the loop.

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How did you get into the band?

Around 1992 I did a record with the Lonesome Strangers with Pete Anderson, who is Dwight Yoakam's guitar player. Then about two months later, Pete called and told me they were going to make a drummer change. Two years ago, we did about four months on the road; last year, we didn't work at all, and this year, it should be another four months. We've already been to Australia, which was great.

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What do you think the band sounds like?

Dwight swings really hard both ways. He plays that strong bluesy rock stuff and then he plays straight country. But his country is not like Nashville country, which I think is like bad rock from the '70s. He's the maverick, the rebel. I'll tell you one thing, the band is loud--loud like a heavy metal band.

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Is it party-central on the road?

Everyone in the band is married except for me and Dwight. There's not as much partying going on as people might expect. Things are just mellow and easy. We do the show, go to our hotel room, watch a little TV and fall asleep, then do it again.

Sometimes Dwight hires a LearJet and we fly to the gigs. It's a pretty cush job. On the road, I work five days a week and when I'm home, about two days a week. In Ventura, I'm working on a little jazz thing with a guy named Tom Buckner, and that's about it for now.

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How did you end up being the drummer?

It's just something I wanted to do since I was 11. My dad was a boogie-woogie piano player back in Detroit and he used to take me to the bars with him. I remember the top of the piano was lined with beers people bought my dad. But what I remember most is just people having fun. I've probably been in thousands, hundreds of bands. When I was a kid, all the other kids my age had guitars and I had drums. We practiced at my house.

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You go out a lot--what do you think of the local music scene?

I think it's great. I think Raging Arb & the Redheads are a great band, and Southern Cross--I like them a lot, and may produce something with them. The other night I saw the Rincon Ramblers--Alan Thornhill and those guys are like jewels lying in the dirt. I think the Ventura scene is a well-kept secret, which is unfortunate for those who are trying to make it.

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What would you tell someone younger with rock star dreams?

Law school. Dental school. Don't get married. Buy lots of IRAs. Be sure you like it because it's a marriage for life. I've got a great job; I'm really lucky. This whole thing is pretty major league and it happened to me when I was 38 years old, but it did happen.

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How has all this changed you?

Some people seem to respect me more because of the stature of Dwight, but nothing's changed about me but my looks. I'm older and grayer, but all of a sudden, people respect me more. Now drum and stick companies want to give me free stuff, but it seems like they only give stuff to guys who don't really need it. Where were they 10 years ago?

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The Debbie Davies Band will be playing this week's Sweet Thursday gig at Alexander's in Ventura, which represents the last of the famous touring blues stars for a while. The locals will take over for the next two months with John Marx & the Blues Patrol doing five Thursdays beginning June 27, followed by Marcia Clark's favorite band, The Pontiax.

Davies is not your stereotypical Valley girl. As a touring blues guitarist, she doesn't spend much time in the mall or at Zuma Beach. Both her parents were musicians and Davies has been playing since she was 12.

Her latest album, "Loose Tonight," is 2 years old, but a new one is due in the fall. The 8:15 p.m. gig is usually around six bucks and is a great excuse to miss "Friends" reruns.

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