Just a few fast decades ago, James Holvay, a preteen from Brookfield, Illinois, would get his first guitar. He assembled his first band, Jimmy and the Jesters, as a teenager. Swept up in his love of the early groove of R&B music, he would ultimately become a fulltime musician, songwriter, and band co-founder for the next 20 years of his life. What was at first a high school flirtation with music, saw Holvay through college and propelled him head-first into a burgeoning new Wild West known as the recording industry, and eventually, the music business.
But, if you’d have predicted in 1965, when he wrote “Kind of a Drag,” and made a rough demo recording of that song for Carl Bonafede to take back to his band, The Buckinghams, for consideration that James Holvay would be releasing his first solo music video in his career in 2021, after a lifetime of making music with a successful business career sandwiched in the middle, well, you should have picked some lotto numbers too, because indeed he has done just that.
Inside tips to check out in this brilliant video: authenticity is key in that the black and white TV retrocast of Holvay performing features the time-appropriate Continental tie you’d find on talented troubadours back in the day. Next, that gorgeous guitar is actually the one Holvay used to write his new music on—his Epiphone Joe Pass model.
Recall, in April this year, Holvay released five original songs he wrote recently, inspired by the “sweet soul sounds” of Gene Chandler, Curtis Mayfield, and Major Lance because he has loved their music so much through the years.
His EP included: “Still the Fool,” “Love Has Found a Way,” “Working on It,” “Talking About,” and of course, “Sweet Soul Song.” Fans of The Buckinghams, fans of iconic soul music, and fans of 60s Chicagoland bands alike embraced Holvay’s newest creations as being a refreshing visit to the best days of rock and soul. Since April, listeners and fans have embraced the new music on his YouTube channel and on Spotify.
Most Chicago and Midwest music fans from South Dakota to Indiana with California and Las Vegas in the mix know of Holvay’s most popular musical collective—the band, The MOB, a group of professional musicians whose live performances were their primary claim to fame more so than their recordings. This was primarily because, without video, recording the energy and stage presence (and antics) of The MOB is much like trying to capture lightning in a bottle.
Back in the days when Holvay was performing and playing a key role in The MOB, he gave three more songs he and fellow MOBster Gary Beisbier had written to The Buckinghams to launch their band's sound, which cemented their identity as they were arranged for a strong horn section, cementing their sound as a Chicago pop rock horn band. Therefore, Holvay has always had multiple pathways to success as a songwriter, both with The Buckinghams and several other Chicago acts. He and Beisbier wrote most of the hits for The MOB as well. It’s all a matter of being solid in music theory combined with a keen ear for what audiences love to hear and to dance to.
As evidence just check out the 2012 performance of most of the band as they traveled to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to be inducted in their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011:
Holvay’s sense of authenticity is as keen as his songwriting, so when it came time to take a photo for his 2021 EP cover, a light bulb went off over his head as he said, “I have an idea.” Standard Holvay stuff—pick a cover he liked of a favorite artist and recreate it as an homage to the work. Case in point, take a look at Gene Chandler’s “Just Be True” album cover and then Holvay’s “Sweet Soul Music.” Inside note—they still make those chairs! Excellent homage to the original soul man from the man known for decades as “Jimmy Soul,” his nickname in The MOB.
Paydays, you order the steak. But when you have a family and responsibilities, music often takes a back seat to the priorities of a day job and career you enter as your primary occupation for the next several decades. Most people who leave never return; they just smile and reminisce over the grand ol’ days. Still the question lingers heavy in the air: can you ever go back? Holvay’s response: “Yes, you can.”
Holvay successfully mastered two “day job” careers over a 2.5-decade time span before retiring and re-entry into the music world he loved so much. Of all the accolades and positive outcomes resulting from the successful debut of new music after a hiatus of any length, Holvay continues to receive a very warm "Welcome Back."
One should remember, though, that before the release of his EP, "Sweet Soul Music," there was new music and lyrics by Holvay that helped make the performance of the sold-out show, "Eastside Heartbeats" possible--the 2016 production about the rise of the "East L.A. Music" sound. This production included the talents of author and director, S.E. Feinberg; book writer and cowriter of some of the songs' lyrics, Tom Waldman; and an amazing cast of talented musicians and actors.
In the period of time since, Holvay has continued with several creative projects but remained consistent writing and working on new material, following his muse and his heart, so devoted to the true sounds of the soul music he grew up on.
The result is now the debut of his very first official solo video, even though his music has been preserved in numerous group videos through the years. Rumor has it that there could be more Holvay originals in the works readied for a new recording session now. Stay tuned to find out what the writer of “Kind of a Drag” has coming next. Who knows? It could be a new song for The Buckinghams. Never say never!