Local musician to help usher in Peanut Fest

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 12, 2005

Staff report

A longtime Suffolk resident will help open the 2005 Suffolk Peanut Fest, acting as the master of ceremonies at the 28th annual Queen’s Luncheon, to be held Sept. 29 at the National Guard Armory.

Jim Newsom came to Suffolk in 1963 when his father accepted a call to be rector of St. Paul’s Episopal Church. He attended Suffolk city schools from the sixth grade on, and is a 1970 graduate of Suffolk High School, where he played varsity basketball and tennis, was an editor of the school newspaper, and was named to Who’s Who in American High Schools.

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After high school, he attended Virginia Tech, graduating in 1975 with a B. A. degree in Political Science. He spent his first three years after college teaching 8th grade U. S. History at Booker T. Washington Jr. High School in Suffolk, during which time he was also the president of the Suffolk Young Democrats.

From 1978 to 1981, he played music and worked in New York City and Washington, D.C. For the last 24 years, he’s been a banker by day while also working as a musician, freelance writer, and TV and radio personality.

Newsom began playing music when he picked up the basics from his sister’s piano lesson books. In high school, he bought a flute for $25 from a girlfriend in the marching band, and taught himself to play by listening to the recordings of Herbie Mann and Jethro Tull. He learned guitar from a Bob Dylan songbook.

Since those teenage years at Suffolk High School, he has played jazz, rock, blues and acoustic music in many settings. He released his first album, Crazy Dreams, in 1992, garnering positive reviews and receiving regional and national radio airplay.

He was honored with an &uot;Outstanding Achievement&uot; award in the 1994 Billboard Song Contest for his composition, &uot;If I Could Write a Song.&uot; He released On the Prowl, a collection of in-performance jazz favorites, with his former band, the PorchRockers in 2000.

The summer of 2003 saw the release of Harborfest 2003, a live recording with the Jim Newsom Quartet. In September of that year, he and trumpeter Ron Hallman released a duo recording, Singin’ on Granby Street. His most recent CD, Jazz on the James, featured his uncle, Tommy Newsom of the &uot;Tonight Show,&uot; on tenor saxophone, and was recorded live at Richmond’s &uot;Jazz on the James&uot; festival in October 2004.

&uot;My folks remember me dancing to ‘Little Red Caboose’ when I was three years old,&uot; Newsome said &uot;From the fourth grade on, I was plugged into a transistor radio until the local stations signed off the air at 1 a.m. Then I’d fall asleep listening through the static to WABC, WOWO, WCFL or WBZ.&uot;

He is a writer and music critic for PortFolio Weekly, the regional alternative news, opinion/arts and culture magazine, and for the All Music Guide, a national print and online publication. He is Senior Vice President and Regional Executive Officer in charge of Southside Hampton Roads with Old Point National Bank in Norfolk.

He and his wife Gerri have four children and reside in Norfolk.

Tickets are available for $15 each at the Suffolk Division of Tourism Office, Prentis House, 321 North Main Street, Suffolk.

The office is open Monday through Sunday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.