Jim Dalton Lead Guitarist
Country. Rock. Punk. Jazz. If the music is good, you can bet that Jim “JD” Dalton has probably not only heard it, but played it at one time or another in his career. He may wear a cowboy hat and front the best country group to come out of Colorado in decades (the Mile High City’s infamous Railbenders) but Dalton’s musical tastes are as well-rounded as the humble cowboy is well-grounded.
But what else would one expect from someone who grew up around music practically his entire life, including having a father who worked for The Doobie Brothers, and a Colorado legend in music circles, Terry Dalton, for an uncle.
Despite his father’s rock ‘n’ roll ties and influence from Jim’s uncle, who also moved to Colorado, it was because of Dalton’s mother that Jim picked up his first guitar. When Jim was in his late teens, his mother had purchased an acoustic guitar to take lessons on her own. Dalton picked up his mom’s guitar one day and started playing by ear. Eventually, he took over the guitar and a friend suggested he take lessons. His mother noted his affinity for the guitar and surprised him with his first electric guitar one Christmas morning (a Les Paul copy from Sears).
Jim became good enough that he started playing in a band in high school, cranking out Van Halen, Rolling Stones, ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath covers. Throughout high school and college he played in a variety of bands in Denver and Los Angeles including a long stint with the Simpletones, a “jangly rock guitar band” that played original music in the style of R.E.M., U2, Stone Roses, Buffalo Tom and the Long Ryders (one of Dalton’s personal favorites).
“I am a fan of all styles of music. For me, it’s all about the song. A good song is a good song whether it’s rock, country, punk reggae, or hip hop. But I am definitely partial to rock and country.”
One day while driving in his car, Dalton was listening to the radio when a song came on that had an instantly catchy hook and an energy that immediately captured his attention. He didn’t change the station until he made sure he heard the DJ say who the band was.
The song was “Banditos” by The Refreshments. Dalton was hooked and went to the record store the next day to get it.
It was after Dalton’s time in the band, the “Shaken Martinis,” a Denver-based, jump blues band that he and upright bass player Tyson Murray discovered their mutual love of the old-school outlaw country they had listened to growing up. Dalton had fond memories of Waylon Jennings records around his house, and watching Johnny Cash on the television. In 2000, Dalton and Murray formed the Railbenders and with their blend of “hard country,” quickly became area favorites, proving they weren’t the only ones craving for outlaw country music. The Railbenders opened for the likes of Dwight Yoakam, Willie Nelson, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and the Charlie Daniels Band, and were invited to play at the first ever Stagecoach Music Festival in Indio, California, the biggest outdoor music festival in the nation.
As fate would have it, about this same time, the Railbenders were asked to open for Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers. Dalton didn’t know much about the band. But after The Railbenders set was over and he was backstage, he heard “Banditos” coming from the stage. “Oh. THAT’S the band!” exclaimed Dalton. From that night, Dalton started digging into RCPM’s catalog and quickly became a fan.
Dalton and his Railbenders started to make a buzz around the Rocky Mountain region. They were named the state’s best country band from 2002 to 2006 by either the Rocky Mountain News or the Westward Music Showcase. They also picked up fans in the likes of fellow Colorado resident and Cracker guitarist Johnny Hickman as well as Supersuckers front man Eddie Spaghetti, who sang on their “Segundo” release. Dalton and Hickman formed the side project, The Hickman-Dalton Gang. During this time, Dalton and RCPM crossed paths many times, including an opening slot at Circus Mexicus with the Hickman-Dalton Gang.
In 2008, Dalton was asked to sing on a video produced by the legendary Norman Lear. The song, “Born Again American” was released during the 2009 Inauguration, and made its national television debut on the “Bill Moyer Show” on PBS. He also had the distinct honor of performing the song live at Lear’s Inauguration Party, which also featured appearances by Jamie Foxx, Jessica Alba, and Maroon 5.
In 2009, Dalton was invited to Tempe to audition with RCPM. “It was a long, grueling rehearsal/audition” he said of the two day marathon jam. During that time, Roger, PH and Nick made Dalton play through 40 to 50 songs, leaving him to say after the first day, “I felt like I got my ass kicked.” But after the second day, something clicked, and Dalton was asked to play lead guitar beginning with the February Tour. All in RCPM were excited that Jim accepted the offer to add his talents to the band.
Of the change, Roger Clyne says, “I am a fan of Jim’s songwriting, his guitar playing, and his teamwork. If we can keep him out of jail, I’m sure he’ll be a fine addition to RCPM.”