What's Your Name? Who's Your Daddy?
The Zombies Jim Rodford has his own music odessey tale to tell. That of an up and coming musician who hit fatherhood and rock icon status simultaneously. Decades later, he finds himself in the same legendary band — The Zombies — with his son Steve as his bandmate.
The Zombies Jim Rodford and son Steve Rodford are currently finishing up a world tour for the 50th Anniversary of Zombie’s album Odessey & Oracle. Father and son have been playing with the Zombies since the band reformed in 2000. We caught up with Jim recently to unearth the Rodford Music Odessey from the beginning. Here’s the backstory:
Jim Rodford, (born James Walter Rodford) hails from the town of St. Albans, in Hertfordshire, England. His humble beginnings include playing in several local bands including The Bluetones. His many credits include playing bass guitar with The Swinging Blue Jeans, The Mike Cotton Sound, Argent, which he founded with cousin Ron Argent, The Kinks and The Zombies.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: Every father’s dream is to have their son go into their business. Did you ever think you would one day actually be playing in a band with your son?
JIM: I must first explain how the current situation has come about!
“When Colin Blunstone (Zombies’ lead singer) decided to pursue a solo career, he used Argent as session musicians for his first two solo albums. Years later, he decided to rerecord his greatest hits. On the tracks that Argent were on, we rerecorded. On others — through the recommendation by top keyboard player, Don Airey – he used my son Steve. When, in 1999, Colin asked Rod Argent and me to do some live gigs with him, he said to me, ‘do you think Steve would do them?’ This was the beginning of the current Zombies. It is more than a dream come true!” — Jim Rodford
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: When Steve was born, where were you in your career? What band were you playing with?
JIM: Steve was born in 1962. By then I had been playing for seven years with my top local band, “The Bluetones.”
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: As an aspiring musician, were you touring or were you around for Steve during those formative years?
JIM: We were amateur and played mainly locally, but in 1964, I turned professional with a nationally known jazz, soul and r&b outfit called “The Mike Cotton Sound”. With this band, we played all over the U.K. At weekends, we were always touring, but during the week regularly played all the hip London clubs. This allowed me to see Steve during the day, and drive only 20 miles into central London, and drive home after!
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: How old was Steve when you noticed he first developed an interest in playing music? ie: Toddler, Teen, later?
JIM: When Rod Argent and I formed “Argent” in 1969, we would rehearse at the local youth club. Steve would often come along to watch us, and was transfixed by our drummer, Bob Henrit. From the first moment he heard us, he wanted to play drums. I told him to have piano lessons first — which he did — but my wife, Jean, remembers him saying, “your wasting your money mum, I want to be a drummer.”
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: What age did he start playing the drums?
JIM: He was 11! We got him a cheap second hand kit for Christmas in 1972. I sat him down at it, and just as I did with Zombies drummer Hugh Grundy 11 years earlier, showed him a basic rock & roll pattern on bass drum, snare drum and hi hat. Like Hugh, Steve picked it up effortlessly, and in a very short time, was playing along with some of my progressive rock albums.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: Were you a “backstage” kind of ‘Papa’ (meaning did you teach him about music? Or did he have lessons from someone other than you?)
JIM: He is entirely self-taught, and learned a lot from my album collection! His favorite band at the time was Led Zeppelin and John Bonham — his favorite drummer.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: While raising your son, did you take him to the studio or to shows while you performed? Did he grow up as a ‘backstage’ son of a rocker? If yes, at what age did you start bringing him to work with you (so to speak)?
JIM: Through the ‘70s, he would come to Argent shows in and around London, and to the recording studio, occasionally. I would take him out on local gigs where I was playing bass with other outfits, and the bandleaders would ask for Steve to play drums for the gig. He got into recording very early on, and every spare minute, he would be in our garage studio.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: Did you know by then, that he truly had the ‘drummer’ gift?
JIM: In his earliest years of drumming, his concentration would drift a little, and I would signal ‘your speeding up’ or “slowing down,’ but as he matured, he became rock solid.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: We all know that raising a teen can be quite challenging. Care to comment on your experience with raising Steve during the ‘teenage’ years.
JIM: His teenage years were a breeze!
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: How do you handle giving Steve constructive criticism – if you ever have? Does your son receive it well or does it cause temporary rifts in your relationship?
JIM: Through playing with older seasoned musicians, he rapidly improved his sense of dynamics, and light and shade, and always took constructive criticism well.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: You two have been playing together in the ‘Zombies’ as band mates for nearly two decades now. And, you’re just coming off of a world tour together. How did being on the road with your son fair? An amazing bonding experience? Were there rough patches?
JIM: We’ve been playing together as a rhythm section for over 40 years and, in my experience, your sons and daughters, become your mates. Steve and l listen to what we, and what all other band members are playing, and react to each other. We think the same way, and rarely discuss how we play together. It’s instinctive. It’s a dream come true that we tour the world together. No rough patches.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: Best way to describe the feeling of playing with your adult son on stage?
JIM: It’s more than a dream come true! We are totally locked in!
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: With the Zombies recent tour coming to a close, besides recording in studio, any plans to do more with The Rodford Files* band?
JIM: We Rodford Files, sons’ Steve (drums), Russ (guitar ) and me, just played at a 90th birthday last weekend. And, granddaughters Anja and Cara (Steve’s daughters), played also. We may record together in the future.
SOCIALLY SPARKED NEWS: Best Father’s Day present ever?
JIM: The gig we all just did last weekend!
Jim Rodford died two years ago on January 20, 2018, months after this interview was first published. His death was sudden due to a fall down the stairs; days after a performance. Socially Sparked News spotlight feature with the legendary bassist for The Zombies, The Kinks and others was one of his last interviews.
At the time of his death Zombies fellow bandmate and Jim’s cousin Rod Argent paid tribute on Facebook saying, “Jim was not only a magnificent bass player, but also from the first inextricably bound to the story of The Zombies. An enormous enabler for us…Jim was a wonderful person, loved by everybody. …I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about him…He will be unbelievably missed. Goodnight and God Bless dear friend. – Rod x”
Legendary British band The Kinks who Jim played with as the bassist for 18 years said in an official statement, “It is with deep sadness that we have learned that Jim Rodford passed away – he toured and recorded with the Kinks for many years and will be greatly missed. He was much loved by all of us.” — Twitter.