R.I.P. Jim Yanaway
Back then, Jim was working at Slim Richey's record distro on Vickery Blvd, and although my company wouldn't let me buy from them, we could trade merchandise, and so he got Japanese import Riverside jazz LPs and my store got Ace and Flyright blues reissues from England, as well as albums on the indie folk and bluegrass labels Slim handled.
Jim seemed larger than life to me -- like Pecos Bill or Big Tex, but with a '50s hipster sensibility. He was Texan to the bone, full of enthusiasm for R&B (he'd had a radio show called "Finger Poppin' Time" after a Hank Ballard tune), country music (he'd booked George Jones at Panther Hall in the '70s), and the weird mythos of Fort Worth (in later years, he said he was researching a book about Jacksboro Highway). Before I moved to Austin in '79, he played me a tape he'd made of Stevie Ray Vaughan at the Bluebird that impressed me mightily and prepared me for the time I stumbled into SRV playing some 6th St. dive a couple of months later.
Meeting Jim gave me the first inkling that I might actually belong here in Fort Worth, Texas, Where the West Begins. While I've been other places (Austin, Colorado, Memphis, various places in the USAF), I'm still here, 38 years later.
In the '80s, Jim relocated to Austin, started Amazing Records ("If it's a hit, it's Amazing"), and managed the Legendary Stardust Cowboy for awhile. We renewed our friendship while I was writing for the FW Weekly and did a story about the Lege, which was really an excuse for me to write about Jim.
Yanaway was a natural storyteller, with a gift for bemused observation; there was no such thing as a short conversation with the man. The last time I saw him, we spent an hour and a half on my porch yakking as he was "getting ready to leave."
The other day I ran into a mutual friend and told him to tell Jim hey, which I'm glad he did before Friday night, when Jim suffered a massive stroke at his mother's house here in town, as a result of which he passed early this morning. I'm going to miss that man and all his stories, and his love for a lot of things that I now love because of him. Adios.
Won't you please stay, friend,
and tell us one more story?
Never enough time.
ADDENDUM: Jim's obituary is here. I'd never have guessed he was an Eagle Scout, or a walk-on punter for the UT Longhorns. Goodbye, friend.