Farewell and R.I.P. To Native American Blues Legend Jim Boyd

Jim Boyd Performing at the NAMA Ceremony
Singer, songwriter, musician and producer Jim Boyd reportedly died due to natural causes on June 21, 2016. He was 60 years old. As one of the most active Native American recording artists, Jim Boyd’s music career spanned over four decades in the roles as; musician, performer, songwriter, and producer. He has worked on projects for Miramax, Warner Brothers, Mega International Records, Dixie Frog Records, Sound of America Records, as well as produced audio-visual projects for businesses and colleges. Jim has released 15 records to date;  Reservation Bound, Unity, Reservation Blues, First Come Last Served, AlterNatives, Jim Boyd w/ Alfonso Kolb Live At The Met, Kyo-t Live, Going To The Stick Games, Them Old Guitars, Live At Two Rivers, Blues To Bluegrass, Voices From The Lakes, Harley High, Living For The Sunny Days, and most recently Bridge Creek Road​.  Jim also managed his own career and continued to perform as the business owner and operator of his label, Thunderwolf Records.
Jim has received multiple nominations and awards for his work from the Native American Music Awards over the years. At the Second Annual Native American Music Awards, he took home the award for Best Compilation Recording for the Smoke Signals soundtrack; at the Fifth Annual Awards, he won Record of the Year for his recording, AlterNatives. The next year he took Best Pop/Rock Recording for Live At The Met; at the Seventh Annual Awards he received Record of the Year for Going To The Stick Games; he received Songwriter of the Year at the Eighth Annual Native American Music Awards for Them Old Guitars; he won Best Short Form Music Video for Inchelium at the Ninth Annual Awards; and he received the prestigious Artist of the Year Award at the Tenth Annual Native American Music Awards.

Jim first started playing gigs in junior high in his older brother’s band, The Benzi Kriks, around Sewart Air Force  Base in Tennessee. In 1968, the family moved back to the Colville reservation where Jim continued to play gigs with his lifelong friend Jerry Stensgar, who played bass.  He started playing cover music in bars by the age of sixteen.

At the age of 23, Jim was recruited as a guitar player in the group XIT, which was one of the first rock groups in Indian country to have success.  Boyd played for two years with XIT.  Boyd also appeared in the documentary, XIT: Without Reservation, which was a live recording filmed at the Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake, Minnesota. Boyd and XIT bass player, Frank Diaz, started a cover group called Greywolf with drummer, Ed Banning. This group continued in many forms throughout the next fifteen years, and eventually added drummer Alfonso Kolb, who continued to play with Jim afterward. After Diaz’s departure, Jerry Stensgar joined as bass player until Greywolf officially disbanded.

With intentions to become a recording engineer instead of a songwriter, Jim attended the Recording Workshop in Chillicothe, Ohio in the early 80's.  He didn't start writing his own songs until the age of thirty, penning lyrics about Native American issues placed to contemporary music. He met Sherman Alexie at the Columbia Folk Festival in Spokane when Alexie was preparing his first movie, Smoke Signals on Miramax. He asked Boyd to write songs for the soundtrack. The first song Jim wrote, "Father and Farther," became the movie's central theme. "Music is Jim's voice," Alexie had said. "With his music, he is more courageous, more passionate, more extroverted. He is a gentleman, tender and funny in his private life, and brash and courageous on his public stage. I love them both."

Jim had four songs featured in the Miramax motion picture Smoke Signals, which were also included on the TVT Records soundtrack. He also recorded music for Warner Bros. books on tape, Indian Killer. Not all of Jim’s songs dealt with Native American issues or Native American genres for that matter. His songs ranged from folk to country, rock and blues all while balancing his commercial and artistic sides. A music magazine said he was "a mix of folk, rock, blues, thoughtful lyrics with great guitar riffs and strong vocals".

At the time of Jim’s death, he was serving his second term on the Colville Business Council as Chairman and was standing for reelection.  He was previously the Culture Committee Chairman, Vice-Chairman of the Business Council, and Chairman of the Law & Justice Committee.

In addition to his wife Shelly, Jim Boyd is survived by his mother, Violet Boyd; brothers Lanny and Michael; sisters Pam, Luana and LaDonna; sons Joel, Dakota, Brian and Michael Carson, and daughter Stevey Seymour; nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

As we mourn the loss of Jim Boyd with his family, we will also celebrate the many amazing songs and recordings he has left us and the world. And wherever you may be, remember to bring out your guitars, your hand drums, your big drums, your flutes, your voices and sing Jim on his way.