As The James Gang’s founder and only constant member during their 1966–76 run, you would think their criminally unheralded drummer, Jim Fox, would know if he owned the rights to his band’s name. “I just don’t know much about the machinations,” Fox sheepishly admits. “Show me where the bus is, where the drum riser is–that’s all I need.”
Point Fox toward the bus, then, because The James Gang’s most celebrated lineup–Joe Walsh, Dale Peters, and Fox–has been riding again this summer on a US tour. The lineup responsible for FM gold like “Walk Away” and “Funk #49” has played sporadic gigs in their native Cleveland, but this marks the first time they’ve saddled up with superstar Walsh in thirty-five years.
“Last summer we did three dates in Cleveland that we never intended to do,” explains Fox on what sparked the reunion. “We made plans to hang out and write, not to do any performing. But fifteen minutes into the first rehearsal, Joe asked, ‘You suppose we ought to play some shows?’ Once we did them, it cemented things even further.”
While Fox is mainly known for the swampy grooves on classic James Gang albums like James Gang Rides Again and Thirds, he was also an early member of Cleveland pop band The Outsiders (“Time Won’t Let Me”) and amassed some impressive session credits with Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Stephen Stills, and Chuck Mangione.
Though the haze of time leaves him foggy on what was actually released, he fondly recalls one track he knows made the final cut: “Steady Rollin’ Man” from Clapton’s classic 461 Ocean Blvd. “What a pleasure that was, to do a Robert Johnson tune with Clapton,” Fox gushes. “We had just a wonderful evening playing.”
For the James Gang trek, Fox is playing a DW kit–part of his first endorsement pact since his Slingerland days in the early ’70s. “Back then it was, ‘Well, do you want the red ones or the blue ones?’” Fox laughs. “Drum technology has come so far that it overwhelmed me at first. I now have a hard-shell case just for my bass drum pedal. I can’t get over that.”