Memorial Held for Jimmy V. Lyons

Recently Alameda’s poetry and music community gathered at C’era Una Volta restaurant on July 6 to say a final good-bye to nationally known beat poet and musician Jimmy V. Lyons. 

Local film maker Jeff Giordano screened a new documentary about Lyons’ life and work entitled, Searching for Jimmy Lyons. Lyons was a “national treasure” who spent most of his life in Alameda. He was a prolific poet and writer as well as a songwriter and musician. His most famous song, “Listen Lonely Girl,” was recorded by Johnny Mathis, and climbed to the top of the charts when it was produced. 

Lyons, 86, was born in 1930 in San Francisco and passed in February 2019. He began his career in theater in Los Angeles, then moved to New York City where he attended the Actors Studio. He performed on stage with many noted actors including Robert DeNiro and Christopher Walken. 

He was known primarily for his beat poetry and jazz music.He performed at clubs such as the Vanguard and the Gaslight Cafe. He experimented with what became known as “jazz poetry.” He was once arrested for his jazz poetry but the judge threw the case out of court stating that it was his constitutional right to “expand the edges of language, and it was an act of free speech”.  

Lyons was a regular at the piano bar, Kelly’s on Park Street, presenting his poetry and music at this club devoted to jazz music. Kelly’s closed in 2007. 

Lyons was a contemporary and good friend of Alameda’s first Poet Laureate, Mary Rudge. They often traveled together to other countries to read poetry. 
Lyons’ first album was entitled, Night Music and in 2009 he recorded an opus entitled Blues Noir that was submitted to the Grammy awards in Los Angeles. It was produced, recorded, edited and re-mixed in partnership with Lyons at Chaztec Studios in Alameda. 

Lyons’ uncle was also one of the original organizers of the Monterey Jazz Festival; the center stage is still named the Jimmy V. Lyons Stage in his honor.  

The documentary film is 47 minutes long and captures Lyons’ life and creative work through interviews with the many poets and musicians who worked with him. 

After the film screening, two local bands, The Lucid Rays and Cleve-Land, jammed at the Eagles Hall in Alameda in Lyons’ honor. The Lucid Rays can next be heard on Sunday, July 28, on the community stage during the Park Street Art and Wine Festival. Cleve-Land performs in Alameda next on Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Fireside on Webster Street. 

The literary and music world said a final good bye to a very beloved and noted member of its community. Wherever you are in heaven, Jimmy, we know the cats are grooving to your jazz poetry.  

 

Nanette Deetz hosts the monthly gathering of the Alameda Island Poets.