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  • Writer's pictureJay EuDaly

Jam Tales: Karmic Buildup

This is another story about singer Jim LaForte. I introduced Jim in a previous Jam Tale, The Incredible Flying Mic. LaFortes' life is such that a novel-length book could be written about various episodes. There will definitely be future Jam Tales concerning Jim LaForte.

I met Jim in the late seventies but our working relationship began as a result of me being included in the original band at the genesis of the Saturday Afternoon Jam at Harling's Upstairs, a club in Kansas City, in 1984. Jim was the singer/frontman for that group. That jam is still going on today in a different venue, 36 years later. I'm the only original member still on the gig. For a history of the Saturday Afternoon Jam, go here.

As stated in the previous "flying mic" blog, Jim was an alcoholic who was just never able to beat it, and that was the source of a lot of the chaos and drama that consistently swirled around him. Playing in nightclubs night after night for most of his life didn't help any.

In spite of all that, he had one of the most authentic R&B voices of anyone I've ever heard. Furthermore, his love for and commitment to performing the music never wavered. The last time I saw him we were on stage together jamming away the afternoon, 6 days before his death at age 62 in 2010 (it was a miracle he lasted that long).

This particular story will begin with Jim getting sentenced to a 9-month stint at the Leeds Work Farm, a municipal correctional institution run by Kansas City, Missouri, for driving drunk one too many times. Jim spent more than one stretch there, most of them alcohol-related. That facility no longer exists.

While Jim was serving his time, Mama Ray put together a benefit to raise money for a charity she helped support (I don't remember the organisation). It was a pretty big deal; big hall, big stage, lights, sound etc. Multiple bands were booked for 12 hours, one after the other. There would be thousands of people there.

I was playing with Mama Ray and the Rich VanSant Band at the time. Jim was going to get out of jail in time to perform at the benefit but didn't have a band...because he'd been in jail the previous 9 months!

So it was decided that we would back him - we'd worked with him plenty of times and he was really good at cueing the band; he was easy to follow. So Mama Ray included his name on all the promo posters that went up all over town. This was before the internet; posters were actually stapled to telephone poles, bulletin boards at grocery stores, ads in local entertainment magazines and newsletters - marketing, old-school.

So the big day arrives and Jim shows up to do the set. We hit the stage and LaForte was doing his thing.

Unbeknownst to us (we were onstage), in the middle of the set the cops show up with a warrant for Jim. They had seen the posters and knew when he was scheduled to be there (irony strikes again!). They intended to walk right up on the stage and arrest him in front of the crowd in the middle of the set! Kinda wish that had happened, it would make for a better story!

Mama Ray talked them into waiting until the set was over and Jim was off the stage. After all, it wouldn't look good for the charity Mama was raising money for to have one of her performers arrested onstage! Remember, we had no idea.

We finish the set to thunderous applause, LaForte takes about 3 steps off the stage and, BOOM! He's spread-eagled on the floor with his hands cuffed behind his back.

He's then carted off to do ANOTHER 9 months.

The charge?

Not paying child-support for the previous 9 months.

I told Mama Ray and Rich,

"Man, there is something inherently unjust about that. How's he supposed to pay child-support when he's in jail? Besides that, how is he supposed to catch up on his child support when he’s now in jail for not paying child support?!? On the other hand, there's an example of bad karma building up to the point where you can never get out from under it."

Not in this life anyway.

I wonder what he comes back as?

With Jim LaForte - late eighties

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