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Classmate remembers Bobby James, the 'normal kid'

Posted Monday, May 9, 2011, at 4:52 PM

Bob James (Contributed photo)
Guest Columnist

Probably nobody in the Marshall High School class of 1957 was at all surprised when Bob James became a famous, world-class musician. His music was all around us during our years in school. He played in recitals and concerts and accompanied various school musical groups. He even toured during the summer with a renowned jazz band. We knew he was special in the same way we knew he was slender and had brown hair.

Special too, though, was the way Bobby (as everyone called him then) related to his classmates; he was an absolutely normal kid. He loved Peanuts cartoons and played basketball; he was smart, made good grades; was fun and funny and had a vast circle of friends. Bobby was tremendously gifted, but he wore those gifts so naturally. A stranger meeting him in those days probably wouldn't have imagined he was so extravagantly talented.

Many years have passed since 1957, and, during those years, Bob has been busy as husband, father and jazz and popular music star. He and his piano have delighted countless people throughout the world, but his Marshall roots have remained important to him. He has returned often, and, in 2007, came home for his 50th high school reunion. It was wonderful to see how seamlessly he merged into the group of classmates he'd known in the fifties. He laughed, joked and remembered with everyone. He wasn't a celebrity that night, he was Bobby.

The Bob James Jazz Festival will be a wonderful tribute to this most famous, favorite son of Marshall. He is surely pleased to be honored in this way. At the festival, those who didn't know Bob will learn of his tremendous accomplishments; and those of us who grew up with him will remember Bobby, the terrifically talented "normal kid" we knew so long ago.

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Various members of the community, current or past residents, occasionally submit essays recalling the people, places and events of the past. We'll post them here. Also, reminisces sometimes emerge in other web forums. This will be a place those conversations can continue.
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