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Jim Rowdy, left, and his son Jimmy Rowdy perform at Blondies Bar and Grill in Vacaville as part of the Vacaville Singer-Songwriter competition. The finals will be held March 19th. (Adam Smith/Daily Republic)

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Homegrown talent: Father-son earn last spot in Singer-Songwriter competition

By From page D1 | March 16, 2014

VACAVILLE — Dreams were realized, and dashed, as the fifth annual Singer-Songwriter contest wrapped up its preliminary rounds.

Twelve acts gave it their all in hopes of securing a spot in the finals. The judges decided it was the father-son team of Jim and Jimmy Rowdy and their tune “Jinxed With a Broken Heart” that should have a shot at the $300 prize money. They will compete against other preliminary winners in the Singer-Songwriter contest.

Jim Rowdy, a diehard Elvis Presley fan, started playing simple covers of Elvis and the Stray Cats on the street corners of downtown Vacaville. From that, the Jim Rowdy Show was born and began performing at The Elmira Cabin and other venues in the area.

The sound was psychobilly, which mixes elements of punk, rock, rockabilly and other genres.

Now, the focus is on a father-son unit, with Jimmy Rowdy, 14, on the upright bass, a Christmas present from his dad.

“It has bought us closer,” Jim Rowdy said, with regard to the bond over music. “He reminds me of me when I was younger. We like all the same bands. He’s the real deal.”

Jimmy Rowdy attends Willis Jepson Middle School. Prior to the new bass for Christmas, he was playing a coffin-shaped upright model he built.

Those attending the finals will probably get a chance to meet another member of the family, 11-year-old Presley Rowdy, a drummer.

More than 100 acts have performed over the six-week competition. One night, 16 acts showed up, said Bob Vollmer, executive director of the Downtown Vacaville Business Improvement District, which hosts the competition.

The first night, Feb. 5, the music went on for three hours as hopefuls were allowed to play more than one tune. Vollmer began to limit the performers to one original tune, albeit some are longer than others.

Jennifer Magnuson, her daughter Heidi Miller, 13, and mom Gretchen Ladley have seen all of the performers. They’ve been making the weekly trip from Winters. Magnuson said she’s impressed by all the local talent. She also hopes it helps her daughter, who sings and plays guitar, overcome her shyness.

Over the weeks, Magnuson has watched as Taylor Fields, a 19-year-old Vacaville resident, sought his shot at the title. The convenience store clerk was in a duo until his musical partner, 10 minutes before showtime at another venue, backed out. Fields went on by himself and has continued as a solo artist.

It was “sheer curiosity” that led him to pick up a guitar in the junk room of his home and strum it. That was nine years ago. He’s got a new guitar and accompanies himself with cymbals and a tambourine, thanks to a pedal.

Fields dreams of a career in music, emulating his heroes, Joe Bonamassa and the late Django Reinhardt.

Joy Jessup shuffled her feet and clapped her hands as her grandson, David Hayward, 21, played the accordion and sang.

“I don’t have any musical talent,” she said. “He was born with it.”

Hayward picked up the accordion at the urging of his friend Mychael Harris, who loves accordion music but has yet to play the instrument.

“I’m going to take lessons,” Harris said.

Neptune and Mars – Dustin Dinsmore and April Walker, respectively – stayed grounded as they strummed their acoustic guitars and sang Dinsmore’s composition, “I Know the Way.”

“I had not written a song in years,” he said. “I put myself to work.”

The duo practiced for a few days before the competition. They were introduced by mutual acquaintances.

She praised his vocal style. He cited Bob Dylan and Neil Young as lyrical influences.

“Music is a passion,” Walker said. “It’s one thing I never tire of doing.”

The same could be said for Dinsmore. He was living on a few hours of sleep and would get no more. He had to be at work in a few hours. His shift began at 2 a.m.

The Singer-Songwriter finals are at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Theatre DeVille, 308 Main St., Vacaville. For details, visit www.downtownvacaville.com.

Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey joined the staff of the Daily Republic in 1980. She’ll tell you she was only 3 at the time. Over the past three decades she’s done a variety of jobs in the newsroom. Today, she covers arts and entertainment and writes for the Living and news pages.
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