Some of Jim Caselli’s friends and colleagues at FISCal are aware he’s a drummer who plays weekend gigs in a band, but they may not realize the level of talent in their midst.
Jim, a readiness coordinator in the Business Operation and Solutions Division, started with FISCal in late 2016 after a career in broadcast sales and marketing. When not working, he stays busy playing in two bands in addition to doing music studio work.
One band, The Count, plays Southern rhythm and blues rock – covers from the Allman Brothers Band and others. Some of their shows this summer included Pops in the Park at Glenn Hall Park, a Fourth of July concert at La Sierra Park in Carmichael, and a July 14 event at Bogle Vineyards in Clarksburg.
Jim’s other band, The New Original, also plays covers – of Motown, rhythm and blues, funk and related kinds of music. In addition to the two bands, Jim plays with some trios who perform at wineries in Amador County and at private parties.
All this comes decades after Jim hit it big on the local scene with stellar bands and musicians such as Mick Martin, Sacramento’s best-known blues player, and the Charlie Peacock Group. The Peacock group, with gems like the album “Vestiges of Honor” (recorded in 1981), was a critically acclaimed ensemble that flirted with jazz, rock, classical and blues – songs the players wrote themselves.
Once Jim got his first drum set while in 7th grade, his progression was so rapid that he was performing professionally by the time he hit his sophomore year at Christian Brothers High School. He took lessons at the old Drum and Guitar City music store on Folsom Boulevard where he met guitarist David Houston, who ran Moon Recording Studio. Jim soon found himself recording demos and commercials at Moon, an experience he calls “the best thing that ever happened to me.”
The next big musical moment came when Jim started studying with a local legend – Stan Lunetta, the principal percussionist for the Sacramento Symphony who also played drums and percussion at every Music Circus performance for most of its history. It turned out to be an epiphany. “What he taught me in the first hour completely turned me around,” Jim says. “He was a great mentor and a visionary.” Jim got about two years’ worth of lessons from Lunetta, which turned him from a talented and promising player into a disciplined, serious musician ready to scale the heights.
Jim’s closest brush with international fame was landing a couple of gigs in the mid-‘90s with Eric Burdon and the Animals, a legendary British Invasion band. Jim recalls how he got a call after 10 on a Wednesday night from one of his former band cohorts who was by then the bassist for the Animals. The band needed a drummer two nights later at a concert in Chicago.
“I went to the airport, met the band in LA, got a cassette tape of their show and listened to it on the flight to Chicago,” Jim recalls. “I rehearsed the next day with the bass player using a phone book and drumsticks, then did the show Friday night. It was a big Fourth of July weekend concert at an outdoor venue with fireworks and carnival rides.” Jim performed well and later was called back for a job when the Animals again needed a drummer – this one at a casino in Gulfport, Miss.
His inspiration is Jim Gordon, a ‘60s and ‘70s session player from Los Angeles who laid down some of the best tracks in rock music history while playing with Eric Clapton, Traffic, the Beach Boys and many others. Asked about his musical style, Jim stays true to the form. “I’ve played a lot of different styles in the studio,” he says. “I’m sort of immersed in everything.”
Jim says he always tries to let his drumming fit the situation. “One of the biggest things with drumming is knowing what not to play,” he says. “The approach should be, “What does the song need?’”
After years of playing in bands across different continents, at gigs ranging from the Playboy Mansion in Hollywood to Carnival in Nice, France, he admits to slowing down – at least a little bit. “I have to practice more than I ever did just to keep my hands and feet in,” he says. “If I stay away too long, it seems to go away a lot quicker than it did.”
Jim’s also made a recent return to Moon Studio. “I’m starting to do a lot of session work again. One of the latest was for a friend I played with in a band. It’s like I’m going home.”