On Jan. 21, roots musician Jimmy Boyer died at age 47 after a battle with cancer. A member of the Freak Mountain Ramblers, among other groups, Boyer was a beloved fixture of the LaurelThirst folk scene. Here, Boyer's onetime bandmate, Bingo Richey, remembers his fallen friend.
"We don't have much fun, but we sure make a lot of money." – Jim Boyer
I've been wrestling with the idea of how best to eulogize my brother Jimmy, or whether to say anything at all and just be selfish with my thoughts.
I have so many memories of Jim, and maybe I should take the time to write them all down, but I don't know if I could or if I should. I could go into detail about how David Reisch, Jimmy and I became one of the longest-running and most successful bands in the history of the state of Oregon when we decided to call ourselves Freak Mountain Ramblers. I could write about the thousands of gigs and studio sessions, or the many recordings that we did together as Glowing Corn, Jim Boyer Band, Bingo and FMR. Then I think about the multitudes of all-nighters, parties with freaks on the hill and in town, random road-trips with David Reisch, and I lock up. I freeze because I realize that my brother is gone. My alibi, my witness, my loyal friend is dead, and a big part of myself went with him.
For as many years as we knew each other, he and I were friends; just a couple kids staring wide-eyed into the void, letting the rest of the world speed by while we waited for the next gig. We were friends through flashes of musical brilliance, through the desperation of poverty, through impossible experiences with suicides, overdoses, rehabilitations, depression and physical pain, and yes, we did loads of drugs and drank way too much on a fairly regular basis.
We were brothers through trust and respect. He always had my back and I always had his. Even when I decided to leave Oregon and find my way as a vagabond troubadour, we stayed in touch. We checked in. We told really horrible jokes and discussed literature and all other kinds of bullshit. We visited each other and did gigs and made recordings as regularly as we could afford.
I met Jim Boyer around '91 or '92. He had just relocated from Flagstaff, Arizona, and I had just moved to Portland from Lawrence, Kansas, where I had been involved musically with a few bands and through the university. I had decided to immerse myself in visual arts, and was painting every day during this time. I was still actively composing orchestral and symphonic music, but I wasn't playing in any bands. I was working a very large canvas in the garage at a friend's house one afternoon when Lynn Conover called me on the phone to tell me that a friend of hers was in town, and that we should meet. I said, "Sure, send him over."
He drove up in Lynn's car with Lynn's dog about 15 minutes later. He walked into the space without knocking, and was a little embarrassed because I was working with a nude model who was stretched out across a 1978 Harley sportster. The model got dressed and I brought out some beers and some weed.
(At this point I need to hit the fast-forward button, not only because otherwise would I be here for days doing this, but also because it makes a clearer depiction of how my memories actually play out: Everything goes by way too fast and it's almost blurry enough to make me dizzy. I will likely keep piling on to this tome on his memorial Facebook page with other sordid tales of youth well misspent, adding to the list of amazing characters as I go, but for now I'm going to have to reign it in and get back on point.)
My friendship with Jimmy has been a wild adventure with a unique and amazing soundtrack. The more I look back at all we experienced and accomplished together, the more I realize how special and singular Jim truly was. The guy was a fucking genius in every way. He was able to express his vision of life with simple and direct honesty. His music and his lyrics are testament to that. He always rooted for the underdogs, and was always generous, even when he was broke. He constantly tried to help those less fortunate than himself with whatever means he had at his disposal, even if it meant just lending an ear. When JB got paid, it was everybody's Saturday night.
Jim left a lot of great music and memories behind, but he also left a lot of friends that truly loved him. He was proud to belong to us. A few weeks before he died, he came to visit me and Ava in San Diego. He wanted to meet our daughter and spend some time. We had a blast in the studio at Rancho de la Luna in Joshua Tree with one of Jimmy's favorite producers, Chris Goss from Masters of Reality. We were scheduling his next trip out to finish our six new songs when he found out he had cancer.
I know that Jim Boyer will be remembered for many years to come, and rightfully so. His name is on this year's ballot for inclusion into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame. I only wish he could have been so honored while he was still alive. Awards or no, Jimmy knew how much his friends and fans loved him. He was always very open and honest with everyone that he would meet—and besides, he could see you all dancing.
The last message I got from Jim said only "I'm a rocker."
Goddamn right you are, Jim. Save me a seat by the fire.