James Reams (1956-2022)
Mr. James C. Reams, aged 66, of Litchfield Park, Arizona died June 17, 2022 in Litchfield Park. He was born January 10, 1956 in Japan to Olin “M” Reams and Dorothy Eva Reams. He is survived by his brother, Olin Mark Reams. He was preceded in death by his parents Olin “M” and Dorothy Reams, and his soul mate Tina Aridas.
So many songs to sing; and so little time to sing them. That was the mantra of James Reams, beloved and well-known bluegrass performer and songwriter. Because of his driving promotion of Bluegrass and Americana music, he had earned several nicknames durning his lifetime that reflected his contributions to the genre; Kentucky Songbird, Father of Brooklyn Bluegrass, and Ambassador of Bluegrass.
Unfortunately for those of us who loved him, and the many people who were impacted by his zest for life and music, he has passed on. On June 17th at 4:30 in the afternoon he passed away at home, surrounded by family and friends who loved him. Just a few days before his death, he commented to those sitting by his bed, “Dying – this gives me an idea of a new song.”
James, who was raised in the hills of Appalachia, was exposed to Bluegrass from the time he could walk. At an early age he showed a talent for writing and performing the music of the region. James spent many an hour watching the regional variety show “Cas Walker Farm and Home Hour”. The Farm and Home Hour featured many of the pioneers of bluegrass and launched many emerging stars. This, along with his father’s love of bluegrass, had a profound effect on him.
James earned the nickname Kentucky Songbird by building an extensive library of work during his three-decade career and ten album releases. IBMA nominated him as Emerging Artist of the Year. The same year he was also nominated for Recording Event of the Year for his album James Reams, Walter Hensley and the Barons of Bluegrass.
His latest album release occurred early in 2022. It is a massive 2-CD release with thirty songs – Like a Flowing River & Soundtrack Album on Mountain Redbird Music. This highly- anticipated project follows the release of a documentary film from the previous year. The documentary celebrates the long musical performing and songwriting career of James.
Father of Brooklyn Bluegrass
This James identifier was conferred on him because of his role in being a founding father of the Park Slope Bluegrass Oldtime Music Jamboree in Brooklyn, New York. This music event, started in 1998, was organized by James, along with his long-time partner Tina Aridas.
The event was a glorious celebration of Bluegrass music. It accomplished this by combining live performances and workshops over a two-day period in September each year. The event was popular and attracted top performers from the Northeast, and hundreds of participants every year.
Ambassador of Bluegrass
James promoted the spread of Bluegrass beyond the release of his albums and extensive touring. A major accomplishment of his was the releasing of two documentary films that sought to spread the music he loved to people who otherwise not had an opportunity to sample this foot-stomping music. In 2021, the documentary of James’ Bluegrass life in was released, Like a Flowing River: A Bluegrass Passage. The film captures the spirit of what it means to be a musician, documenting all of the twists and turns that occur on a musician’s journey.
In 2013, James released the documentary film Making History with Pioneers of Bluegrass: Tales of the Early Days in Their Own Words. This film preserved the recollections of many of the pioneers of Bluegrass music. James interviewed over 40 musicians who were key contributors to bluegrass in this highly-acclaimed peek into the early days of bluegrass.
On top of the previously mentioned accomplishments, James was also an ex-president of the Arizona Bluegrass Association. James has been a busy contributor to bluegrass from the early days his career. His passion for the music can be seen in his everyday life. You can be sure if there is a kitchen table in heaven, James will be sitting at it singing a soulful tune.