Jimmy Stallings: I grew up in Farmington, New Mexico, born in 1942. I’m part Native American, Navajo. My younger days, growing up were very good and I was so happy in those times. I grew up by a river called the San Juan, and it had a swamp where I hunted and fished all day long. It was a great life, and I loved every minute of it. I finished high school in 1960 at Farmington High School and then worked in the oil fields for about three months to make enough money to go to L.A. and see if I could make my dream come true: being a successful music man in the business. It took me 25 years to do that and I did do just that. But it wasn’t easy, if I may say so.
JTR: How old were you when you started playing music, and what was your first instrument?
Jimmy Stallings: I was about seven or eight years old when I first picked up a guitar; my cousin let me play his guitar, and that’s when my life as a musician started.
JTR: Please tell us about when you became a professional musician in New Mexico and the gigs you played there before you migrated to L.A.
Jimmy Stallings: I became a professional musician after playing about 20 years in L.A. One of the ways to become successful is to learn your craft as well as you can. I was pretty lucky, not knowing how to read music in those days. You see, I play by ear. But it has taken me a long way in this lifetime. I love writing songs and playing the few instruments that I do play. I’ll go to my grave doing it, but it’s what I want to do. I love the music of the world, and I thank God I’m part of it.
JTR: I have to ask what everybody always asks me: how did you meet Doug Sahm, Augie Meyers and connect with The Sir Douglas Quintet and make rock history?
Jimmy Stallings: It was back in the late 60s, 1968, I was doing a recording session with a group called The Truth. Dave Hassinger was producing us at that time. It was at Wally Heider’s studio in Hollywood (Studio 3) when I first met Doug Sahm (19411999) and the boys. Johnny Perez (19432012) was the first drummer of the SDQ. He was playing drums for me at that time, and he introduced me to Doug, Augie Meyers and Frank
JTR: People ask me about your friendship with Little Joe & La Familia, and I remember when you opened for him at the world famous Palomino.
Jimmy Stallings: About Little Joe & La Familia. It’s true I did open for him, twice at the Palomino Club in North Hollywood. Joe had a great band then and still does. We stay in touch. He’s a very good friend of mine, a great entertainer, and a great singer. God bless him.
JTR: I met you through world famous steel guitarist, Red Rhodes, and your friend bass and fiddle player, Douglas Steers.
Jimmy Stallings: Red Rhodes: a wonderful steel player who was great at fixing amps and guitars. We worked together quite a bit in good old L.A. (Red Rhodes had a guitar-and-amp shop across the street from the Heider Studio. All world famous musicians gravitated to Red's shop. Rhodes built a guitar for the likes of James Burton, repaired amps for Johnnie Rivers and other famous musicians. He also recorded with Michael Nesmith, Merle Haggard, The Ventures, and many others.) I miss Red Rhodes. He was one funny man and knew a thousand jokes. He made me laugh a lot. About Doug Steers, (19432011) Douglas Steers, was the “outlaw musician” contact-service up in the Hollywood Hills. I knew him; he was a great musician himself. Miss all my old friends like Red and Doug. God bless them all.
Jimmy Stallings: My Native American music goes way back when I was a little boy in Farmington, New Mexico. My Mother used to take to to Gallup, N. M. to watch and listen to the Navajo Indians do their ceremony. I remember the way they did their chants - “Heya, Heya, Heya…” - It was really something to see and hear especially when they would do their snake dance. I wrote a number one song from their chant called HEYA. It was released under my band name of J. J. Light. My first album, I had a big hit with it in Europe at the same time I was still with The Sir Douglas Quintet. Quite crazy in those days. A lot of magic came from all of us.
JTR: Tell us about your time traveling with Sir Douglas.
Jimmy Stallings: Traveling was quite hard and crazy back then. We weren’t too organized at the time, and it was difficult for all of us to be on the road doing the best we could with our music we played. It was fast and furious, but we made it, thank God. The five of us were close together: Doug, Augie, Frank, Johnny, and me. We were like Revolutionary Cowboys! We worked hard and did a lot of good things for the fans and the music world. The SDQ was and still is a great rock and roll band of the 60s as far as I’m concerned. It was soulful, down to Earth, and good times rock ‘n’ roll. That’s what we were all about. I miss that groove we laid down in those days. Long live The Sir Douglas Quintet!
Jimmy Stallings: CISCO PIKE was done in 1972. It starred Kris Kristofferson, Gene Hackman, Karen Black, and Doug Sahm. The Sir Douglas Quintet was also in the movie; that’s how I was in it, because I was a member of the SDQ. I hear it was a good movie, although I wouldn’t know, because I’ve never seen it. Gonna’ have to do that one day and by the way, JT Robert, I’m no movie star, (laughing) But I am a musician.
JTR: You and Augie Meyers have remained fast friends since the 60s; you introduced me to Augie for which I thank you and 30 years later, he recorded one of my best Tex-Mex songs. I want to tell you how much I appreciate you recognizing my Tex-Mex ability.
Jimmy Stallings: Augie Meyers is a helluva musician and a wonderful person to know. He is down to Earth and a great friend. He was the foundation of The Sir Douglas Quintet with his style of organ and piano playing. He is one of a kind. I’m so proud to have him for a friend all these years. I’m glad to see he did one of your songs on his album. Good luck with that and keep writing those songs, Robert.
JTR: Now without getting us all put in jail (laughing,) tell us about “the 60s” and all the partying.
JTR: Tell us about your friendship all the years with Doug Sahm until his passing.
Jimmy Stallings: Yes, my good friend Doug Sahm. One helluva’ musician and so full of talent with a voice like silk, and he could sing any style of music, Blues, Country, Rock, anything. Doug was the most unique and one-of-a-kind person I’ve ever known. He was a little crazy but, hell, who wasn’t? He lived with me and my family for a few months in California; he lived in my garage. Doug Sahm was “The Texas Tornado." We all sure loved him. Many good memories and now that he’s gone, I sure do miss him and his good vibes. He was a great songwriter and all-around good musician. Knew what he was doing. God bless you, Doug. I pray someday we can be together again somewhere out there. I’m so proud to have known such a musician, and I’m proud to have been a member of the SDQ. I’ll never forget those “Mendocino Days.” Like Doug would say, “Far out, man.”
Jimmy Stallings: My current project is writing a collection of songs and recording them all here at my home in Albuquerque. I’m also trying to finish my biography. A work in progress.
JTR: The last gig you and I played together was at the James Boys Saloon in Sylmar owned by a friend of Ritchie Valens’ half-brother, Bob. I remember when you played Heya! there and the place went wild.
Jimmy Stallings: Okay, about The James Boys Saloon, I remember it was a hard core bike bar. It was a lot of fun back then playing for all the bikers. The Blues is what I played back then. I had a lot of drinking buddies in that bar. Tequila and beer was the drink of the night. But I made it home every night. Good days! But all in the past now, thank God. But I still recall those days with great pride and affection.
JTR: New Mexico is not famous for jazz. How did you gravitate to jazz there?
Jimmy Stallings: New Mexico has quite a few good jazz musicians, and I was lucky to play with some of them when I first moved to Albuquerque. They have a good positive output. For all types of music, especially The Blues scene. Lot of good Blues players here in Albuquerque. It’s hard making a good living here with music, but somehow they do. I’m so glad I’ve got my own recording studio in my home. I sing and play all the time here at the house. Yes, I write a lot these days, and I love it.
JTR: You’ve been friends with Delaney Bramlett. Did you and the quintet ever play with Delaney, Bonnie, and Friends?
Jimmy Stallings: About my good friend Delaney Bramlett, what can I say, except he was one of a kind musician. He could do it all himself. I met Delaney at the Palomino Club in North Hollywood when he was the bass player for the Palomino’s Rider’s Band. A lot of artists played there at the Palomino Club. I knew Tommy and Billy Thomas who owned the club real well. They were great owners and very good people to have for a friend. Miss that club a lot.
No, The Sir Douglas Quintet never played a gig with Delaney, Bonnie, and Friends, but one night in Santa Monica at a club, Delaney and his band were playing there, and my wife and I went to see him play that night, and Doug Sahm was there to see him play. Doug didn’t know Delaney, and he asked me to introduce Delaney to him. I did, and that was a magical night with Doug and Delaney and me.
JTR: Have you appeared in any other movies aside from the great CISCO PIKE?
Jimmy Stallings: Movies, I did… Yes, I was in CISCO PIKE in 1972 with The Sir Douglas Quintet. I also was in a few more like PENELOPE with Natalie Wood, Peter Falk and Ian Bannan; THE LOVE-INS with Richard Todd and Susan Oliver; also SOL MADRID starring David McCallum, Telly Savalas and Stella Stevens.* (See entire filmography)
JTR: Talk about J. J. Light.
Jimmy Stallings: About my career as J. J. Light, yes, I had the number one song called HEYA that I wrote back in 1968 all over Europe. I also was a member of The Sir Douglas Quintet, playing bass as my real name Jimmy Stallings. It was very magical in ‘them days.’ I had two successful careers going for me at the same time. As a writer/singer and bass player.
HEYA was a Navajo chant that I wrote. I recall the chant groups up in my Mom’s town, Farmington, New Mexico. I love the Navajo people, and their simple culture life they live. They are a strong, proud, and great people of the world, and I hope my music expresses the love I have for them. It was put down in my album called HEYA that I was like a young Bob Dylan. J. J. Light is a good name and artist trying to write songs about the people he loves. There are a lot of untold stories to be told yet. I hope I can keep on writing about them. I played HEYA all over the clubs in L.A. through the years.
JTR: When did you first start performing, what is now referred as Navajo Rock ?
Music to me is a universal language that the whole world can understand. It’s my Sunshine Friend that has taken me all over the world, and it is truly love to me. I treasure my music that I create and play. I write my life stories around music, and that is how I stay sane and in touch with myself. I thank my God and Father in Heaven for all the blessings he has handed down to me through this lifetime. He has bestowed upon me a powerful instrument inside me to bring out his love through me, and I want his will to be done, not mine.
Music is a great medicine for the people of the world to express all the feelings we have, and I’m so grateful for him to trust me with such a Holy Fountain of love to give to the world. My saying about music is, if you’re good to music, it will be good to you, and I believe that with all my heart. HEYA is a spiritual chant that seems to hit people in their souls. I pray that I can write more chants like HEYA.
I thank you for these questions and hope the answers I’ve given you are true and honest from my heart. I love all my brothers and sisters all around the world. God bless and take care.
A Selection of J. J. LIGHT Songs on :
JIMMY STALLINGS LIVE PERFORMANCES WITH THE SIR DOUGLAS QUINTET ON :