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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

Jim Rodford--An appreciation

Jim Rodford (Photo: Maggie Clarke)

He wasn’t The Zombies’ original bass guitarist, but Jim Rodford was nearly as much a founding member as any of the others in the pioneering British Invasion band that graced the American pop charts with 1960s hits like “She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No” and “Time of the Season.”

In fact, Rodford, who died yesterday at 76, was Zombies’ keyboardist/vocalist Rod Argent’s cousin and likewise hailed from St Albans--and was present at the first Zombies recording session.

“Jim was not only a magnificent bass player, but also from the first inextricably bound to the story of The Zombies,” said Argent yesterday on Facebook. “An enormous enabler for us, he was actually the first person ever to be asked to join the band, way back in 1961. Because he was in the top St Albans band of the time, The Bluetones, he turned us down at first, but from day one helped us chart our course.”

Specifically, Rodford loaned The Zombies the Bluestones’ then state-of-the-art gear for their first rehearsal, said Argent. He set up the rehearsal space, and even schooled Zombies drummer Hugh Grundy in his first drum pattern.

“He was responsible for the first song I ever wrote--for The Bluetones, which they recorded--the person who organized most of our early gigs, and the very first person outside the group ever to hear--and pass judgement on--our first record, ‘She's Not There,’” said Argent, adding that Rodford loved the record.

Rodford went on to become a founding member of Argent’s next band Argent (their hits including “Hold Your Head Up” and “God Gave Rock and Roll to You“), and later served for 18 years as bass player for The Kinks.

“He was much loved by all of us,” The Kinks said, via Twitter. Kinks lead guitarist/vocalist Dave Davies, “too broken up to put words together,” separately tweeted: “I always thought Jim would live forever in true rock ’n’ roll fashion--strange--great friend, great musician, great man--he was an integral part of the Kinks later years.”

Rodford, per Argent “a hugely sought-after musician” who also played with jazz group The Mike Cotton Sound and skiffle king Lonnie Donegan’s band, joined The Zombies officially in 1999 after Argent and lead signer Colin Blunstone reformed it, with Rodford’s son Steve Rodford on drums. The band has since been nominated twice for induction into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and on last year’s tour of its landmark 1968 album Odessey and Oracle, he sang backup when original bassist Chris White took over.

“When Colin and I put together our second [Zombies] incarnation in late 1999, our first phone call was to Jim,” said Argent. “He gave us absolutely unflagging commitment, loyalty and unbelievable energy for 18 years, and our gratitude is beyond measure.“

Rodford, who was presented last year with an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from the University of Hertfordshire, was “dedicated to music,” continued Argent.

“He was unfailingly committed to local music--an ever-present member of the local scene in St Albans, where he had spent his whole life. Often, Colin and I would compare notes a couple of days immediately after a U.S. tour and discuss how long it would take us to recover from an intense, fantastic but exhausting couple of months, only to find out and marvel that Jim had already been out playing with local bands--often, but not always, with The Rodford Files, made up of talented family members--or giving charity shows or lectures on the St Albans music scene.”

Rodford, Argent concluded, “was a wonderful person, loved by everybody. When Colin and I, shocked and hardly able to talk, shared the news this morning, Colin said ‘I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about him.’ He will be unbelievably missed.”



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