Music is a powerful art form that has a special way of bringing people together. For local artists like Jim Terry, that starts with his family but extends beyond that, to all of the Napa Valley.
The Terry Family Band, a folk trio based in Napa, is composed of Jim Terry and his sons, Graham and Clark. What sets them apart from most other bands is that they perform music about Napa for Napans.
“The first time we played publicly was at the West Coast Songwriters Competition (held at Capp Heritage in downtown Napa) in April of last year,” Jim Terry said. “Our positive reception combined with my rather prolific songwriting and urging from the judges encouraged us to keep going… I am very grateful to the local chapter of West Coast Songwriters for their support.”
A landmark development happened in Jim Terry’s songwriting after the wildfires burned across the valley last October. He wrote a song called “Fire in the Wind.” “People have been very receptive to songs about Napa — life in Napa and the difficult things that happen to us in our community,” Terry said.
Other songs of Terry’s that reflect the Napa community include “No Bad Days Cafe,” inspired by Kelley Novak’s beloved local restaurant of the same name; “The Deli Man Died” about the late deli manager Charles Hoffman at Browns Valley Market; and “The Pathway Home,” an emotional ballad about the shootings at the Veterans Home in Yountville last March, a tribute to Christine Loeber, Dr. Jennifer Golick, and Dr. Jennifer Gonzales who lost their lives that day.
Terry draws musical inspiration from his personal life as well. The final track on the band’s demo CD, titled “River City,” is a reflection of his childhood growing up in a non-musical family.
“My childhood was like being in River City without a Music Man,” he joked. “But my father gave me a ukulele when I was 4 and I would play Burl Ives songs on it. I played it all through high school without telling a soul because I didn’t want to be identified with Tiny Tim. I could play all the Beatles and Rolling Stones songs on the ukulele. As soon as I went to college at Berkeley, I bought a guitar and went from there.”
Terry says he tried as an adult to pass on his musical passion to his children. “We played music a lot as a family, and music became that river that runs through our family.” He added with a smile, “Now my grandchildren are just starting to comprehend all the music we’re making and wondering what their grandpa and uncles are doing.”
On a somber note, Terry adds, “My wife, Debbie Zeller Terry, passed away five years ago from ALS. I like to think that most of the music I write is her voice coming through me… I’m always looking for ways to reflect experiences of happiness as well as heartbreak in the community, and to benefit the community in the future through the music we are producing.”
Although the Terry Family Band has been playing shows together for only a little over a year, they have already garnered a strong local following. Previous performances at Capp Heritage and Prime Cellars have had audience members spilling out into the street because the venues were filled.
Bob Gligorea of Napa saw the Terry Family Band live for the first time at Prime Cellars during the Napa Live Downtown Crawl on July 8.
“They were the first band I saw that day, and usually when I see a band I think ‘Don’t quit your day job,’ but when I saw them I thought that this totally could be their day job,” Gligorea said. “Every band I saw after that I just thought, ‘They’re not as good as the Terry Family Band.’ I was so impressed with them, especially with the fact that they only play their original music. I thought they were just outstanding.”
The Terry Family Band will play at 429 Franklin St. during Napa PorchFest on Sunday, July 29, from 1:15 to 2:15 p.m. and Napa Live on Aug. 12. To learn more about the Terry Family Band, visit terryfamilyband.com.