Jim Rodford: the Gentleman of Rock & Roll
10 days ago, rock and roll suffered a monumental loss, as Jim Rodford, who played a pivotal part in the musical journey of The Zombies, Argent, and The Kinks, passed away tragically at just 76 years old, after recently returning home from another successful tour in Florida with his Zombies bandmates. Jim will be long remembered as a brilliant bassist, champion of local music, and the ultimate family man; he was also the complete gentleman, which we at Headliner can vouch for personally, having had the pleasure of sharing a drink or three with him many times, and watching him perform effortlessly at various music venues in his hometown of St. Albans.
James ‘Jim’ Walter Rodford was born on the 7th July, 1941, and lived in St. Albans his whole life. He became active in his local music scene from a young age, where he frequented the Pioneer Club, and in the late ‘50s, he formed skiffle band, The Bluetones, who didn’t take long to become the biggest band in Hertfordshire. He performed on a washtub bass (as he couldn’t afford a double bass at the time), and even met his wife at the venue, who he was devoted to up until the end. Thanks to figures like Jim Rodford and The Zombies, The Pioneer Club is still going strong today.
Inspired by the success of The Bluetones, Jim's younger cousin, one Rod Argent, began sharing his wish to form a band of his own. Jim declined an invitation to join the band that would become The Zombies, but offered to mentor them at The Pioneer. With irreplaceable guidance, and loaned equipment from his older cousin, it didn’t take Rod Argent and co. long to secure great success with the chart topping She’s Not There. Jim put his decision of not joining the Zombies down to already being in a very popular band, not seeing any reason then to join a younger group.
After a stint as bassist in Mike Cotton Sound, Jim formed Argent with his cousin, following the breakup of The Zombies in 1967. In their seven years as a band, before later reunions, Argent scored several hits, including Hold Your Head Up and God Gave Rock and Roll To You. With Rod Argent leaving the band for which he provided the name, Jim and his remaining bandmates briefly stayed together, reforming as Phoenix.
This outfit was short-lived, however, as Jim would join rock and roll heroes, The Kinks, in 1978. Following his recruitment, the band were experiencing a resurgence in popularity at this time, as bands such as The Jam, The Pretenders, and The Knack recorded covers of Kinks songs. This brought extra attention to the group’s new material, and the next two Kinks albums that featured Jim on bass (Low Budget and Give The People What They Want) both proved commercially successful. Jim carried on playing with the Kinks until their breakup in 1996.
He diligently carried on performing with various groups, until a second offer to join The Zombies, a band he had been so intricately involved with, but never actually played with, came along. With Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone deciding to bring The Zombies back in 1999, Jim would spend the entirety of the 21st century recording and touring with his fellow St. Albans musicians, now including his son, Steve, on drums.
Jim quite literally never stopped playing and making music. In a tribute on Facebook, Argent wrote: “Often, Colin and I would compare notes a couple of days immediately after a US tour, and discuss how long it would take us to recover from an intense, fantastic, but exhausting couple of months – only to find out and marvel that Jim had already been out playing with local bands.”
Dave Davies of The Kinks also paid tribute, writing on Twitter: “I’m devastated by Jim’s sudden loss, I’m too broken up to put words together. I always thought Jim would live forever in true rock and roll fashion. Strange. Great friend, great musician, great man. He was an integral part of The Kinks later years. RIP.”
Argent also wrote that his cousin 'was unfailingly committed to local music'.
As mentioned, Jim was tirelessly performing around St. Albans in between tours, often with his family, whether it be with Zombies drummer and son, Steve, or doing a guest spot with acoustic trio, ARC, fronted by his two granddaughters, Anja and Cara, with younger son, Russ, on guitar.
Jim was recently working on an autobiography. Such was the quality of conversation you'd be guaranteed to enjoy every time you were fortunate enough to spend any time with him, we can only hope that what has already been written will see the light of day sometime soon.
Thank you, Jim, for the music - all six decades worth - which will live on in so many of our hearts forever.