I was born "Ben James" Yokel on the island of Guam, February 24th, 1956 to Bernie and Fran who were schoolteachers for the US civil service. Due to my lack of orbital accumulation I don't remember much from that time period. Mostly I think I was busy filling diapers, uprooting local flora and chasing bugs.
Later we moved to south Florida where my grandfather introduced me to the harmonica at about age 8. He was a guitar, mandolin and harmonica player intent on passing on some of his musical talent to his grandson. Granddad played gigs with a band out of St. Petersburg, Florida called "The Rhythm Ramblers." They actually made the big time on the TV's "The Ted Mack Show." It was a cool time seeing grandpa on the old 19 inch black and white Zenith TV with The Ramblers cranking out their central Florida bluegrass.
After being given several harmonicas through childhood the music took a strong hold on me. I picked up an old Kalamazoo 6 string guitar at age 15, started learning Bob Dylan tunes and blues and playing every chance I could get. At 19 I hooked into gigs playing harmonica with several blues projects like "Blue Midnight" and "The John North Blues Band." I worked the circuit in south Florida playing gigs at places like "The Captain's Cabin", "The Oyster Shanty" and "The Open Hearth." It was an education in Chicago and delta blues styles and in the lessons of musical poverty!
Decades have passed since the days of The John North Blues Band. I've been involved in musical projects too numerous to list here. In 1978 I helped found and build a recording studio at the DeVry Institute of Technology in Phoenix, Arizona where I did my first real multitrack studio work. I became an electronics engineer and moved to Silicon Valley in north central California determined to make some money and continue pursuit of my musical dreams. In the summer of 1995 I finally escaped the clutches of the Silicon Valley, and moved to Santa Cruz, a small town on the Monterey Bay.
I released my first CD on independent label, Starlight Records. The project was recorded at Astral Sounds in San Jose by one of the bay areas best producers and studio engineers, Bill Hare. "A Life Of Its Own" is a 10-song chronicle of life.
My second CD " Second Life " released 05-May-98. The project is a blues and jazz release based on requests from fans at shows. It features 11 well-known covers and one original jazz tune. This unit has been a terrific success for our label. Positive reviews keep coming in, and sales have broken all previous records set by our first release.
We have great success with our recent live releases including "Live At 1000 Trails" and "Oasis."
Our 5th CD is currently in progress. This project will be about 75% original material and the rest covers that fans have requested we record and that didn't get on our first two CDs. Life is good and getting better in Santa Cruz. Drop us a line and say howdy, we would love to hear from you!