Rock and Roll Refugess

This “Everyman” discovers a second chance.

By Joe Zahm

Editor’s note: The poignant words, soulful tune and catchy beat of the song “Everyman” are one of those sound memories that acutely brings back a particular time in my life. For me, it recalls settling in to my new job as editor of Times of the Islands in 1994, on an island whose natural beauty I had fallen in love with, but whose culture and ways I was just beginning to understand. I made a lot of mistakes in those early years, and the song’s aural memories are bittersweet. I was delighted when Joe Zahm revealed his plans for an Everyman revival two decades later. We’re all older and wiser, but can still appreciate great music.

I left your door, moved to another shore

For a new life in the sun

I moved from Keystone, Colorado (elevation 9,200′), where I was a staff attorney, to Providenciales in March 1989 to help develop and manage Ocean Club Resorts. Let’s just say that the temperature change (from –22º F to 88º F) was a metaphor for the extreme cultural change to come, as I lived the fish-out-of-water existence of Norman Paperman, the central character in Herman Wouk’s hilarious novel, Don’t Stop the Carnival. Led by developer Ron Ohliger, we pioneered the condominium market in Turks & Caicos, and established the documents and standards that have been since improved upon by the likes of Mark Durliat (Grace Bay Club), Stan Hartling (Regent Palms/The Sands at Grace Bay/The Shore Club) and HAB Group.

Too much sun and sand, is bound to blind a man

I got stranded off the beach

The band’s production team of Joe Zahm and Jamaican Neil Case (far left), with Allen Poynton (top right) and Leo Jones (bottom right).

The band’s production team of Joe Zahm and Jamaican Neil Case (far left), with Allen Poynton (top right) and Leo Jones (bottom right).

During this time, I had a hard time adjusting to the climate, culture and pace of life. My nickname of “Joe Zoom” was well deserved, as Islanders and expatriates had never before seen anybody move at my city-like pace on our little emerging island. I was everywhere, on the Tourist Board, starting a proper hotel association, and figuring out how to live on a remote island long before the internet. There was Club Med, Le Deck (now Sibonné), Island Princess (now Beaches Key West Villas) and WIV Founder Bob Cooper’s house (now Villa Renaissance) on the main stretch of Grace Bay. And that was it. When the island evacuated for Hugo in 1989 I was the only one on Grace Bay.

We met in a bar, above Boogaloo Bay

He sang the sweetest melody

In 1991, after a near burn-out, I saw Leo Jones perform an original song at Alfred’s Place, and it knocked me out. I had written my first real song lyric, “Big Black Hole,” and gave it to Leo. He wrote a killer bass line at percussionist Max Clare’s place in Blue Hills. Alan Poynton (lead guitar), Max, Kinky Reggae, Sterling Garland and Crayton Ewing joined in and “Big Black Hole” was finished. Leo and I then wrote “Beautiful By Nature,” and the band Tropical Soul was born. The lineup was: Leo (vocals and bass), Max (percussion and vocals) and Crayton Ewing (bass and vocals), with help from Alan Poynton on lead guitar, Ernest “Mop” Rolle on drums and the hugely talented Hudson “Big H” Grant. We recorded six sides at Mitch Rollins’ studio on Grand Turk and released the cassette in 1992.

“Big Black Hole” became a cult sensation and “Beautiful By Nature” became a smash TCI hit and the de facto national song of the Turks & Caicos Islands. Blue Hills became my second home, as we rehearsed a lot in Max’s trailer where we would bring the only lamp from the bedroom into the living area so we could actually see what we were doing!

With Rasta on drums, and Shaky on Lead

Brother H held it down

Our rhythm and rhyme made it on time

Till we were known all over town

 Everyman gathers for the pre-show in July 1994 (from left:) Brentford Handfield, Quinton Dean, Hudson “Big H” Grant, Joanne Bassett, Max Claire, Crayton Ewing, Joe Zahm, Leo Jones, and Allen Poynton.

Everyman gathers for the pre-show in July 1994 (from left:) Brentford Handfield, Quinton Dean, Hudson “Big H” Grant, Joanne Bassett, Max Claire, Crayton Ewing, Joe Zahm, Leo Jones, and Allen Poynton.

Building on this momentum, Leo, “H” and I (with a lot of help from Max), became a productive songwriting team and quickly penned the songs that would go on the Everyman record. These included “Everyman,” the epic title track, along with “Hey Brother, Hey Sister”, “Joy Peace and Light,” “Caribbean Soul,” “To Walk with Kings” and “Angel of Mercy.” On the strength of this material, we changed the name of the band from Tropical Soul to Everyman, which better reflected our bigger sound and world view, as sung in the opening lines of the title track: “I want to feel the spirit of the Indian / and move to the rhythms of the African / I want to act with the boldness of the American / and I want to be like be like Everyman.”

We signed with SRO records in Los Angeles and headlined the 1994 Turks & Caicos Music and Cultural Festival in July 1994, which I produced. The lineup was Leo fronting, band leader “H” on guitar, Max on percussion and Alan Poynton on lead guitar, with Quinton and Mike Dean on keyboards and bass, Brentford Handfield on keyboards, Prince Hopkins on drums and Crayton Ewing and Joanna Bassett providing backing vocals. Others on the bill included Soley and the Gang, Lovey Forbes and the Lively Stones, Mitch Rollins’ High Tide and Cease Fire.

The Everyman record and live performance were hailed by some of the top critics in the United States. “Five stars,” said one critic, “This one should be in every man’s collection.” Said The Beat of the band’s live performance, “The band sounded magnificent . . . sonorous. Everyman has given the Turks & Caicos Islanders a sound of which to be proud.” The record became a huge sensation in Turks & Caicos, where for a good while, one could not escape the Everyman vibe in restaurants, clubs, on the radio and in the streets. It was also heard worldwide from LA to Monte Carlo and used in an Irish school and in a Harlem urban outreach program.

We were big fish in a small pond

Then we flashed over in the pan

But the feeling remains, the music lives on

The story of Everyman

However, due to a string of unfortunate events, including the heart attack of one distributor and a suicide by another, Everyman suffered disappointing sales outside of Turks & Caicos and the project ceased to be financially viable. This commercial failure was a bitter pill to swallow, as we had put everything into the project. Personally, it almost wiped me out financially and emotionally, and there were many tears shed when I said goodbye to Leo and “H” on their way back to the Bahamas.

It took me several years to get over the disappointment, as I saw the project as giant failure. As time passed, though, I realized that in many ways it was our finest accomplishment and we had really set the bar for professional-grade music in Turks & Caicos. We did create, produce and perform world-class music that has been heard all over the globe. As I said to the band when the project started, “We may not succeed in selling a lot of records, but nobody will ever take away the record or the performances from us.” Indeed.

I crashed and I burned, then I took a north turn

Back to the shores of my hometown

The rock of the mainland and the sand of the island

Bringing it all back around

During a sabbatical in the States in 1996, where I developed my relationship with my wife, Gosia, and helped put together the Point Grace deal, I worked through my feelings associated with the project, and kept asking what the lesson was in the Everyman experience. Then, at a Bruce Springsteen concert in 1999, it hit me. Gosia had given me a great creative workbook called, The Artist’s Way, which included a section on the “shadow artist.” You know the type—the artist manager or promoter who really longs to be the artist—much like the Ray Sharkey character in the underrated movie, The Idolmaker. That section really struck a chord (no pun intended). I bought a guitar and it was three chords and go.

With a lot of hard work and some great help, I steadily made the transition from lyric writer/producer to songwriter/singer and producer. I hooked up with some great artists/players in my hometown of Philadelphia, formed the Joe Zahm Band (JZB), and we have recorded well over 60 songs together. We performed last year at the Opus restaurant on Providenciales, raising funds for the Edward C. Gartland Youth Center, with an annual in TCI now scheduled.

EVERYMAN 20, the band’s Special Anniversary Double CD, is now available at FOTTAC and other stores on Providenciales and across the Turks & Caicos.

EVERYMAN 20, the band’s Special Anniversary Double CD, is now available at FOTTAC and other stores on Providenciales and across the Turks & Caicos.

There aren’t many stories in music where someone starts at the age of forty and gets good enough to produce and perform professional records and shows. Count me as one. Now, twenty years later, I am proud to re-release the original Everyman CD, along with a bonus disc consisting of the original masters of “Beautiful By Nature” and “Big Black Hole,” a rocking cover of “Everyman” by my band, two great songs—”Inside the Groove” and “Free Yourself”— recorded by HQZ in Jamaica (featuring Big H, Quinton Dean and Papa Stretch, along with a stunning guest performance by Jamaican singer Chavell Franklyn), and some other top notch Joe Zahm Band reggae songs, including “Rock & Roll Refugee,” which is quoted throughout this article. Everyman will also perform a twentieth anniversary show on the weekend of June 20, 2014.

Twenty years later the circle completes itself. It’s never too late . . . for redemption.

Expatriate American, stranger in a strange land

Rock and roll refugee, playing in a reggae band

Thank you to Leo, Max, “H,” Cray, Allen Poynton, Quinton and Mike Dean, Brentford Handfield, Prince Hopkins, Joanne Bassett and the other musicians for your wonderful and inspired efforts. Thanks also to the wonderful people of the Turks & Caicos Islands for your support of the Tropical Soul and Everyman projects.

The EVERYMAN 20 Special Anniversary Double CD is now available at FOTTAC and other stores across the Turks & Caicos Islands. It can also be downloaded on i-Tunes and CD Baby. For more information, visit www.joezahm.com.

Joe Zahm is President of Turks & Caicos Sotheby’s International Realty Ltd. and an active singer/songwriter/producer.

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