Published July 17, 2020

Part 4 in our series called The Day the Music Died, featuring tales from people across the music industry sharing how the pandemic has affected them, their art and their life’s work.

In this week’s edition, Jim Rea — Springfield, Missouri-based singer-songwriter and founding member of The HillBenders — is our teller of tales of music and pandemia. Jim shares a wistful poem about lost pains-in-the-ass, names the harsh reality that music will endure this pandemic but many great bands, venues and festivals will not and brings it all home to home and gratitude for time to spend with those who await there.

~NWM

The Hillbenders

Formed in April of 2008, and still touring (pre-apocalypse) with the original lineup, The HillBenders. L-R: Gary Rea, Chad “Gravy Boat” Graves, Nolan Lawrence, Jim Rea and Mark Cassidy. Photo courtesy of Jim Rea.

Note: Jim provided us with the poem below in a stream-of-consciousness, single-paragraph form and referred to it as poetry when asked. We present it in this form.

I wish I was on a tight connection.
Running through an airport
like the out-of-shape,
stayed-up-too-late,
slightly baked
show-business imposter
I’ve become over the last 20 years.
Yeah, a tight connection with a broken escalator.
Or maybe a delay?
Another two hours for a greasy slice of pizza and a Coke.
Nowhere to sit,
“Boarding Group 6” and “That guitar won’t fit.”
Middle seat, can’t move my feet.
Larry David on a tiny screen.
Bumpy landing, feeling green.
Pelican case, van rental place,
and off we go.
Scooby noob, a text from Lou,
Gravy spins his latest tune.
Taco Bell then hotel,
that lonesome cleaning product smell…
the pillows suck, I sleep like hell.
Wake up sore, rush out the door,
100 miles maybe more,
sit-down lunch, a high Yelp score,
load-in @ 3, soundcheck @ 4.
The venue’s nice, some old church,
meet the owner, set-up merch.
Foxy runner, burn-out crew,
Jameo drinx, big Green room.
Eat a dinner, then get dressed,
restring the Martin, tuning checked.
Jumping jacks, stretch my back,
sweatband tucked up in my hat.
Quick hit of green then a Scalapeen,
walk on stage and do our thing.
Man, I wish I was on a tight connection.

Music will endure this pandemic but many great bands will not.

Music will endure this pandemic but many great bands will not. Many great venues and festivals will not. Many will have to redefine what it takes to make a living or hang up their hard-earned dreams. 

Personally, I’m trying to be creative and cultivate a decade’s worth of song ideas I’ve had pile up in my iPhone’s voice memo app. But it’s hard to be creative to be honest.

But among the obvious pitfalls, having lots of time with my wife and son has been great. Being forced to slow down has been good — even though I struggle with it. I’ve been floating and fishing. Dreaming. Tiny bursts of inspiration keep me going as another month of touring cancels. 

I hope it all works out. I know that I have been helped out financially by some great organizations, friends and fans — The Grammy’s MusiCares, International Bluegrass Music Association, The Acoustic Shoppe and live-stream tips. Big thanks to all of them. 

~ Jim Rea

“We’re Not Gonna Take It/See Me Feel Me” from Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry by The HillBenders

Jim Rea

Jim Rea

a Springfield, Missouri, native, is a singer-songwriter and performing and recording artist. He is a founding member of the HillBenders, a nationally recognized progressive bluegrass band. The band received widespread critical acclaim (Rolling Stone, Billboard) for its interpretation of The Who’s groundbreaking rock opera with Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry.

To learn more about the HillBenders and to buy stuff go to: https://www.hillbenders.com

Oh, By the Way:

“As I finished a new song in my studio, I was hoping to cool down by listening to [The HillBenders’] new record. But it has had the opposite effect, I am surrounded by the angels and excited as hell. I really like all of it. The recording is very special … Clean, dry, and intimate. It should win a f—cking Grammy, it’s that good!” ~ Pete Townshend, The Who 

 “The HillBenders prove to be the perfect group to execute this WhoGrass concept.” ~ Rolling Stone

You may also enjoy our previous entries in The Day the Music Died.

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