2012 - Matousek Family Lifetime Achievement Award
Jim Oatts grew up in a musical family, living in Earlham and Jefferson, Iowa. His father Jack, a professional jazz musician and educator, was a guiding force in Jim's musical development. During high school in Jefferson, Jim played with the R & B band, The Elm Street Grocery. They participated in numerous Battles of the Bands, the Iowa State Fair's Teen Town, and weekend gigs. While attending Drake University, Jim played with the Spartans who were inducted into the IRRMA Hall of Fame in 2005.
During the 70's Jim joined the trumpet rock band Chase. Jim, along with Dartanyan Brown (2011 IRRMA inductee), was fortunate to record the last Chase Album "Pure Music" before Bill and several other band members were killed in an airplane accident. In recent years, Chase Revisited has performed concerts in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Boston.
Jim has toured with the legendary Wilson Pickett. He also performed with the Temptations, Four Tops, Donna Summer, Sammy Davis Jr., Four Lads, Johnny Ray, Cab Calloway, and Stallion. His acting credits include appearances in Magnum P.I. and the ABC movie "Blood and Orchids" featuring Kris Kristofferson.
Jazz has also been a major force in Jim's life. He toured and recorded with the Stan Kenton Orchestra and the grammy-award winning Machito Latin Jazz Orchestra. Other tours include Woody Herman and the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. In addition, Jim Oatts has performed with Dizzy Gillespie, Doc Severinsen, Tony Bennett, Al Martino, Anita O'Dey, Joe Williams, Vic Damone, Clark Terry, "Toots" Theilman, and others. Jim, a recognized jazz educator and performer, was inducted into the CJC Jazz Hall of Fame in 2008.
After living and performing in New York City, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, and Honolulu, Jim returned to Des Moines to visit his parents and to fill a temporary teaching position while he was considering going back out on the road. That temporary teaching position turned into a 25-plus year career in music education in Iowa schools.
Jim currently leads the Des Moines Big Band. During his 25-year tenure as leader, Jim produced the band's five cds and three specials for Iowa Public Television. The band performs Monday evenings at Adventureland Inn in Altoona. He also performs with the Tony Valdez Large Band (IRRMA Hall of Fame inductee).
Jim recently retired from teaching band after 27 years in Iowa public schools. However, he is currently teaching trumpet at Simpson College in Indianola and, in addition to regular gigs, is busy as a clinician and guest soloist.
Jim Oatts was blessed with a wonderful family. He and wife Lori have triplet sons, Chris, Jeff, and Eric who are following in their dad's footsteps. All three are pursuing music degrees and will be turning 21 on September 1, during the 2012 IRRMA Hall of Fame festivities. Rock On!!