Several years ago, while still living with my parents, my good friend Gary told me he was looking to rent the spare bedroom in his house. Gary's a few years older than me and about a thousand times cooler. He owned a couple of classic cars. He wore white tank top undershirts, and jeans with the cuffs rolled up so you could better see his engineer boots. He had perfect sideburns. He hung out with a group of guys who called themselves the Sinners and had nicknames like Big Vince and Milwaukee Joe. Living with Gary, I knew, was going to make me cooler simply by association.
Gary was also one of the greatest storytellers Long Beach has ever seen. And, without exception, my favorite stories of Gary's were always the ones about his friends. And, also without exception, those stories included the phrase, "We all went to see Jimmy play at the Blue." Jimmy, as I would soon learn, is James Intveld, and the Blue is the Blue Caf in Long Beach. I vividly remember my first Jimmy show. I had never heard him, but figured that anyone so beloved by the Sinners must be the toughest sonofabitch anyone had ever seen. I was so wrong.
Based on his voice, Jimmy could have been the lovechild of Elvis, Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly, if science were capable of such a thing. He wasn't tough at all, but sweet. I instantly knew not only why all of the people in the sold-out Blue loved this guy, but why they wore those clothes, drove those cars, and danced those dances. Jimmy's music reminds us of how it must have been to live in an era of optimism: a time when the shadow of war was behind us rather than all around us. A time when a man could sing about "bawlin'" instead of "ballin'." Jimmy's a brilliant musician and should rightfully inherit the title of "hardest working man in showbiz." I'll always be grateful to Gary for introducing me to James Intveld . . . and for getting me out of my parents' house.
James Intveld at the Blue Cafe, 210 Promenade, Long Beach, (562) 983-7111; www.thebluecafe.com. Sat., 10 p.m. $15. 21+.
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