Jimmy C obituary: Crouch End blues musician who 'brought so much love'
- Credit: Andrey Shuklin
Blues musician Jimmy C has been a familiar face in Crouch End - and around north London for more than two decades.
Jimmy - born Dimitrios Koletsis - died on May 30 aged 61. He had been suffering from cancer.
His family, friends and fans have paid tribute to the larger-than-life guitarist, singer and band leader, who lit up local pubs for years and was famous for his "huge smile".
Born in Canada in 1960, Jimmy came to England, via a stint in Japan, in the late 1990s.
His band, Jimmy C and the Bluesdragons, first performed in a now-demolished Camden Town pub around 20 years ago.
He played with a rotating cast of bandmates and friends - including Paul Soper, Antonio Campbell, Stevie Bray, Micky Parker, Vinnie Reck, Lakis Economou, Paul DuFour, David Eastham, Albie Green, Sam Kelly and Alex Dmochowski.
Jimmy and some combination of the Bluesdragons were regulars at local venues like the King's Head, the Maynard and the Railway, but also played all over the world - with Russia, Greece and Germany just three of the far-flung locations to have heard the musician's inimitable brand of the blues.
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But more recently - despite being ill - Jimmy played a series of open-air "picnic" gigs at the Intimate Space at Hornsey's St Mary's Church Tower to keep spirits up during the pandemic.
His last gig, an online performance in February, took place just two days before he was forced into intensive care.
Jimmy's wife Aga told this newspaper: "He always had that way of being. I could talk for hours about him, but the one thing that stands out about my husband is he was always a musician 100%.
"From a very early age it was what he wanted to do and he never stopped doing it. It was never just a job. He was making his living playing music for 45 years - and really was a very good guitarist.
"He could move any audience, in any place. He had a big smile and lived a courageous life."
Aga said Jimmy's care, enthusiasm and imagination were also evident in their personal life. She said: "We have never been bored, he would come up with the craziest ideas - he was such a lot of fun. He has always done the right thing. His first answer would always be 'no', but five minutes later he would have done whatever I asked.
"He was a very positive person - perhaps much deeper than many people might have imagined from his smile on stage. He brought so much energy to the world right until the end, there was never any doubt. He always brought so much love and joy."
Aga said Jimmy always avoided setlists or rehearsals - preferring to create freewheeling concerts and give his bandmates, and anyone else, a chance to shine.
Old friend Pete Feenstra said: "He was known for his "joie de vivre’", an ever ready smile and the fact he was never happy until everyone in the room was dancing.
"He was born in Vancouver, where he learnt his craft by watching blues greats like T-Bone Walker and Muddy Waters."
Paul Soper, who played bass in the band, said: "We started the Bluesdragons 20 years ago. Though when I say we started it, I mean simply I was there when Jimmy did.
"We thought we'd play a couple of gigs a month, in the first year we did 100. Jimmy had this knack of going into a pub and saying 'so of course you're going to want to book a band...'."
Paul added: "He was just one of the most generous people, and the most generous musicians.
"Lots of musicians, when they go on stage, it's just them - they're only listening to themselves. Jimmy was never that. He was the complete opposite, always happy to help, always encouraging others."
One of the more unusual aspects of Jimmy's career were his many tours in Russia. Pete added: "Between 2008 and 2019 he became a pivotal figure in the vanguard of the new British Blues Invasion of Russia, enjoying nine tours that took in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, Tyumen', Surgut, Yaroslavl', Kostroma, Ivanovo, and Rybinsk.
"Such was his popularity that the Moscow Blues community is holding a Jimmy C Memorial concert on the 31st July."
Jimmy leaves behind his wife Aga, step-daughter Rachela and son Kosmas. He is also survived by siblings Chrysoula, Maria and George, and his father who is also called Kosmas.
Jimmy's funeral will take place at St Peter-in-Chains church in Crouch End at 1.30pm on June 19. Due to Covid-19 it is invite only, but will be streamed live at https://youtu.be/J4bZ_2jEjO4.
The family and his friends plan to hold a tribute concert later this summer at St Mary's Church Tower.