Yet another cornerstone spirit has left the Minnesota folk music scene. Jim Miller of Bemidji died last Saturday at the age of 66. We last saw Jim about a year ago when he came to town to enjoy the Minnesota Fiddle Tunes Project concert and he stopped by to grab a quick banjo lesson with Bruce.
One of Jim’s friends in Bemidji was thoughtful enough to send us a link to his obituary as it appeared in the local paper and asked that we share it with all of you. We will give you that link at the end of this post so you may send your condolences to Kristi and son Amos via the on-line guestbook provided. Many of you will want to read the entire obituary, and we hope you will, but we are pleased to give you some of Jim’s background as it appears therein.
Jim was born in Brainerd. He attended Nisswa elementary school and graduated from Brainerd High School in 1965. Jim’s parents owned the Deauville Landing and Resort on Gull Lake. The resort was frequented by a variety of musicians and bands which provided the stimulus for Jim to take up the guitar and become the musician he was until the day he died.
Jim’s college days were spent at Brainerd Junior College and Bemidji State. It was during those years that Jim got more serious about writing and performing music. Notable among his early visits to the big city was an appearance at the Scholar Coffeehouse. After attending Woodstock in 1969, Jim travelled west hitchhiking and doing a bit of surveying in Colorado. Jim returned to Bemidji in 1973 and married his wife, Kristi in October of 1974.
Musical congregations that Jim was notably part of included the bands “Known Only Locally” and “Blew Monday”. In the late 80s, Jim participated musically in Bemidji’s Mississippi River Revival and Mardi Gras celebrations. He co-wrote and performed the music for the Minnesota History Theater’s production of “Mesabi Red”. Jim was involved in several Bemidji area theater productions.
In his last years, Jim worked on a documentary film series about explorers on the Mississippi River headwaters. He took up the gourd banjo for the project and composed historical ballads for the production. Jim appeared with his son Amos in the reenactment scenes of the film and served on its crew throughout. Jim had just finished recording a series of instrumental pieces for the soundtrack.
Jim had been in failing health in recent years and had a kidney transplant in 2010. Another empty chair in the Minnesota folk music roll call. Thanks for the memories Jim and for your countless contributions to the music we love. The link I mentioned earlier where you can learn more about Jim’s life and send condolences to the family is http://www.ceasefuneralhome.com/fh/obituaries/obituary.cfm?o_id=2145282&fh_id=11968.