Crimmins’ album ‘Zoom’ was a long time coming
By Ben Rodgers
GREEN BAY – Jimmy Crimmins took advice from a Pulitzer Prize winner, rubbed shoulders with the biggest names in music, and spent four solid years perfecting his craft, the end result – his new album “Zoom.”
Crimmins, a 1971 Preble High School graduate, has been playing guitar for most of his life. Those four years are what he estimates for actual practice time.
“’Zoom’ is the result of a musical journey over the last 50 years – an accumulation of over 35,000 hours of practice and 2,500 gigs steaming from coast to coast,” Crimmins said.
After losing interest in UW-Green Bay and the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music in Milwaukee, Crimmins hit the road and did what anyone looking to become a star will do, head to Hollywood.
On Sunset Boulevard in 1976, he picked up a hitchhiker because he was carrying a guitar. The man wrote music for RCA Records and Eddy Arnold. He also shared a manager with Maya Angelou.
The songwriter set up a meeting with the guy from Green Bay and one of the most celebrated poets in American history.
Angelou told Crimmins there is one place he would need to hone his skills and break into the music business – the Guitar Center.
“She coached me and taught me how to fill out the application and taught me how to have more self belief in myself,” Crimmins said. “Her message was you got to make your mark wherever you go.”
At this time, 1977, the Guitar Center only had three stores, all in California.
After six months, Crimmins became the top salesman and in the process became friends with some of the biggest names in entertainment.
“At the Guitar Center we treated everybody as a friend, whether they were a celebrity or not,” he said.
But being located in the heart of the music scene, Crimmins sold guitars to big names.
The guitar Prince played on “Purple Rain,” that was sold by Crimmins. He palled around with Eddie Van Halen and Nikki Sixx. He also sold guitars to Marlon Brando and Doris Day.
Crimmins was with John Belushi in the Guitar Center the day he died. In fact, he played in the last ever Blues Brothers show with him.
“He was into blues and so was I,” Crimmins said. “He hated acting by the way, but he loved improv, that’s why he was into blues so much,”
During his time at the Guitar Center, Crimmins was also practicing whenever he wasn’t working.
One of his career highlights was playing two shows with legendary bluesman Albert King in Hermosa Beach, California.
“I remember playing with Albert King, what he said and he said it best, ‘If you don’t dig the blues, you got a hole in your soul,’” Crimmins said. “It’s the most soulful music and it’s what created everything from rock and roll to jazz and country. It all started with blues.”
By the time he left the Guitar Center in 1986, Crimmins said he had a master’s degree in psychology and a bachelor’s in business.
“That was my education, and I never took advantage of it, but believe me I learned from it,” he said. “I learned business, and I also learned every one of these guys could sell themselves. They were great at marketing and selling themselves.”
Crimmins, who returned to Green Bay in 1992, now sells real estate and owns the Guitar Cellar, where he gives lessons.
But, he still plays the same cherry sunburst Les Paul guitar that he’s had for nearly 40 years.
“Zoom” from Rockin’ Jimmy Crimmins & Friends contains 10 songs he wrote himself and was recorded live at the Rock Garden Studio in Appleton, with no guitar overdubs.
“I’m going to keep true to my art, I don’t need to play other people’s art or even borrow it,” Crimmins said. “I’m going to create my own art.”
The album was a launch for Crimmins to tour in Europe this fall and winter, but before then, he is going to keep doing what he has always done – practice.
“We all have genius traits and I believe that,” he said. “I believe genius is having a high tolerance for repetition, and anybody that I know from Eddie Van Halen to Robben Ford, it’s how those people practice. You’re seeing the result of somebody in how they practice.”
Crimmins will be playing from 3-7 p.m. Sunday, June 16, at Black Sheep Pub and Grill on Bay Settlement Road.
He welcomes people to come experience his brand of the blues, and also pick up a copy of “Zoom.”
For those who can’t make it, they can still find a copy online at cdbaby.com or through Spotify.
His last few local shows before the Germany tour can be found on Fans of Rockin’ Jimmy Crimmins on Facebook.
“I’ve played from coast to coast,” he said. “I need a new challenge and new goal, and Europe has been calling me for a while.”