Remembering Terry Whitlock, Jamie Rounds

February 6, 2013 at 11:31 am 12 comments

Terry Whitlock (left) in Tahoka Freeway, 1979.

Terry Whitlock (left) in Tahoka Freeway, 1979.

Depending on when you attended Penn State, you might remember two prominent players in the local music scene who, sadly, passed away in recent weeks.

Terry Whitlock, a mainstay of the band Tahoka Freeway in the 1980s, died Jan. 11 at his home in Twin Falls, Idaho. You can read his obituary in the Twin Falls newspaper here and read the comments—including reminiscences about Tahoka Freeway—in the funeral home’s online guestbook here.

Eleven days after Whitlock’s death, Jamie Rounds died in Nashville. Rounds also was prominent in State College in the 1980s, in such bands as Backseat Van Gogh and the Rounds Brothers, the latter with his brother, Jon ’87, ’94g. You can refresh your memory on Backseat Van Gogh by checking out their Facebook page, which has some photo albums that are fun to browse.

Jamie made a return appearance in State College last July, performing with Cartoon at the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. The photo shown below (by Kelsey Brosnahan) was taken during that show in Schwab Auditorium; Jamie’s the guy in the middle on guitar.

Cartoon

Last night, Jon Rounds sent me an obit of his brother, a biographic sketch focusing on Jamie’s musical career, with a poignant personal note at the end. I’ll include the obit below in its entirety for those who may be interested; even if you don’t read the whole thing, you may want to read the last paragraph.

Tina Hay, editor

James Ralph (Jamie) Rounds
Oct. 16, 1951–Jan 22, 2013

Jamie was born in Tokyo, Japan, the third son of David and Elizabeth Rounds, while David was stationed there as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during the Korean War. The family returned to the States after the war and lived on Army bases in California, Maryland, and New Jersey, until David retired from active duty in 1955, took a job as director of training at a Navy jet testing facility near Trenton, N.J., and settled across the river in Yardley, Pa.

Jamie’s formative years as a musician were spent in the house at 119 N. Main St. in Yardley, where his parents would live most of their lives. The three Rounds boys, David Jr., Jon, and Jamie, all grew up there and attended Pennsbury district schools from kindergarten through high school. All began playing guitar in the 1960s, a wildly eclectic era with influences as diverse as the British invasion bands, Bob Dylan, the folk movement, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and the Beach Boys. David Sr. was a Julliard-trained cellist who continued to play in string quartets, but his classical training did not prevent him from embracing the new wave of pop music, especially the Beatles, and the Rounds home became a haven for the boys’ musician friends.

By his early teens, it was clear Jamie had a rare talent for music. Most striking was his ear for complex chords and harmonies, such as those from artists like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, the Beatles, and the Beach Boys. He also became skilled at electric guitar, learning leads by the likes of Eric Clapton and Steven Stills note-for-note. In junior high school, he began forming rock bands with classmates, and from that moment on, music would shape his life.

While at Pennsbury High he played with a number of bands that performed at school functions and social events. Among these were The Great Society, The Sonic Falcons, and The Blue Berets.

Jamie graduated from Pennsbury in June 1969 and enrolled at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., that fall. With classmates Dave Newell (lead vocal), Chris Knopf (guitar), Bob Willemin (bass), Al Hershner (drums), and Steve Kenety (keyboards), he formed the band Bradley, which became a fixture at the college and went on to play reunion concerts there for decades. They played a gumbo of contemporary rock, from the Allman Brothers and CSNY, to the Beatles and the Who. Willemin recalls: “We played electrically for money, mostly on the weekends, but acoustically for fun, practically every night, for anybody or for ourselves. Jamie was the motor and the indispensable member. It was great to be a part of it.”  The Bradley members’ friendships endured as well. Jamie kept in close contact with each one of them all his life, trading thoughts and licks in an ongoing musical dialogue, in person, over the phone, or online.

After graduating Dickinson in 1973, Jamie moved to State College, Pa., where he’d been recruited by brother Jon to play bass in Jack Smith, a rock band that was earning a living playing clubs in town. Thus began Jamie’s decade-long career as a working musician in State College, where he remained until the mid-1980s, playing in a number of bands, including the Rounds Brothers and Backseat Van Gogh. It was with the Rounds Brothers that he began writing songs seriously, and this period also launched a lifelong relationship with Jon as a co-writer. Jamie wrote several songs on his own for Backseat Van Gogh, an edgy, New Wave-influenced band with David Fox on guitar, Ken Mathieu on bass, and Rocco Fortunato on drums. They played a repertoire of mostly original songs, including Jamie’s “Catch a New Wave,” which became a regional hit.

In the mid-’80s, Jamie moved back to the Philadelphia area to be closer to the parents. He lived in Bristol and played gigs in Bucks County and on the Jersey shore, many with Pennsbury friend Jody Giambelluca. He also continued to write, and formed his own music publishing company, Bristol Music. In 1986, he was featured on a pop/rock album by The Metropolitans, a group that included Bill Rippon and old family friend Bob Scammel.

In 1988, he moved to the Los Angeles area and began pitching compositions to the film market, with some success, and also playing at downtown clubs. It was during this period he wrote “A Little too Soon to Tell,” for the ’50s star Charlie Gracie who had made a comeback and was touring in Europe.

In 1994 he moved to Nashville, where he began establishing contacts in the country music market, pitching songs to publishers, and playing at clubs, including the famous writers’ venue, the Bluebird Cafe. He was paired for a time with Carter Wood, an up-and-coming country artist, and the duo drew interest from record labels.

Not long after this first stint in Nashville, Jamie moved back to the L.A. area, but by 2000 was back in Nashville, where he remained for the rest of his life. He lived in the heart of the studio district and developed relationships with hit-song writers including Walter Egan, George Teren, Jon Ims, and Tim Buppert. He formed the duo Honey Don’t with vocalist Nicole Gordon, jammed regularly with Nashville veterans, and became a regular at The Bluebird, where he organized frequent songwriter-in-the-round gigs. At one point he reconnected with Lee Olsen, founder of the State College-based bluegrass band Whetstone Run, who had moved to Nashville and become an executive with the Keith Case talent agency. Olsen had signed the gospel quartet, The Fairfield Four, and hired Jamie as road manager of the group during their national tour with John Fogerty.

During his time in Nashville, Jamie was constantly working on new tunes, recording home demos, and working on projects with other musicians. He worked a number of day jobs—as an insurance agent, a recruiter for a local college, a representative for ASCAP—but music remained his passion, and the day jobs were less careers than practical necessities.

In July 2012, Jamie sat in with Cartoon at its farewell concert at the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. (Cartoon, of which Jon was a member, formed in 1980 in State College and had played reunion shows at the Festival each year since, but one of the members couldn’t make the final show, so Jamie offered to fill in.) Jamie practiced harmonies, bass, and guitar parts back home in Nashville in the weeks before the gig, and then rehearsed three days with the band in State College before the show at Schwab Auditorium. He also taught Bet Williams and Susie Kocher, guest artists from Bookends, the harmonies to one of his own tunes, “Down Down,” for that show. The evening was a rousing success and demonstrated to Jamie’s legion of fans in State College that he still had his chops.

Something else: Jamie had a unique ability to make any group better. He could hear harmony parts and distribute them to the right people. He could establish the rhythm and feel of a piece with his guitar or bass playing. As his lifelong friend, Rod Deck, puts it: “In all settings, whether with high school or college garage bands, a group of friends or relatives sitting around a living room with assorted guitars, or onstage at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, Jamie would be the engine that drove the performance.” He infused any group and any session with energy and joy. He made the music come alive. He made everyone better.

He is survived by his brother, Jon Rounds and his wife, Louise Rounds, and their children, Jamie Jone-Rounds and Molly Rounds; and by grand-nephews, Felix and Arlo, sons of Jamie and McKenzie Jones-Rounds.

We are planning a service on Memorial Day in State College to celebrate Jamie’s life and his music. We will post details as we know them.

A personal note:

Jamie left an empty place in my heart that I do not know how to fill. I know others felt the same way about him, and with the support of his many friends and my family, I’m finding it a little easier each day to deal with his memory. As you all know, Jamie took his own life, and one of the most troubling and heartbreaking things about this act was that he gave not one of us—even those who were in close contact with him right up until the end—any hint it was coming. In retrospect, we can speculate about issues of his health and his situation that must have contributed to a depression and hopelessness that became overwhelming. And so this next is a very, very difficult thing for me to say publicly, but I feel it must be said in case anyone reading this ever has a notion to do what Jamie did: I cannot respect the decision he made to take his own life and I cannot participate in any gesture that validates or glorifies it. Help is out there in the world and you can ask for it. Love is out there in the world and you can ask for that too. If you don’t, you leave us helpless.

Jon Rounds
Portland, Ct., February 2013

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12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Christopher Quail  |  February 6, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Jon, thank you for sharing this story . I was glad you filled in so many pieces to Jamies life . We knew him as a friend, Insurance guy(10 awesome years together), musicman and kind heart. i bought his old house in Nashville from him to help him make his journey back to LA to write music for the transit authority as well as MTV. My mom still lives in the house today. In fact he gave me the fender guitar he only used on the Kosovo Liberation song(one of his proudest sanctioned works of art), its never been used since. I would be honored to put it back in the hands of his family, to be played in his honor.
    I have to also echo your thoughts on this taking ones own life deal. I have lost many friends and family members the same way in the past few years. I only pray that there be one second of calm, in ones insane at the time mind, to stop the act. We all remain heartbroken by these events.
    God bless you, and your family, and all he left behind, speechless. Helpless from Neil, perfect……….
    Chris Q

  • 2. Susie Kocher  |  February 7, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Jon and Louise thank you for making this available to so many who are desperately searching for an answer. When I think back to my early days of performing at Penn State it was with many helping hands from people like you, Glenn, Randy and Kevin, Jamie, Paul Bertalyn andTom Keiter. Jamie always had some project going on in the studio and we were even photographed together on an album of a local singer. Jamie had Bet and I come to a studio in Hell’s Kitchen one year where we sang backups on “Catch a New Wave” He was pitching it to Banana Rama. I thought that was the coolest thing ever!
    After reconnecting with all of you this summer it makes it so very heartbreaking! The memory of sitting at Terry’s house laughing, telling old stories and of course making music that morning and then the magical night at Schwab is a memory that I will cling tenacioiusly to for the rest of my life. His song “Down, Down” seems to have a continuous place in my brain. God Bless you wonderful people! Suz

  • 3. Karen Schuckman  |  February 7, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    If anyone is interested in obtaining copies of the Tahoka Freeway double CD set, I have it in iTunes format that can be downloaded electronically. I’m not aware of any copyright or license restrictions on distribution. You can contact me through Facebook (Karen Schuckman).

  • 4. Margaret Leigh Schmidt  |  February 11, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Jon, your family lived a few doors down from my grandparents in Yardley. I went to elementary through high school with Jamie. The last time I saw him was at our 30th high school reunion. I’m deeply saddened by Jamie’s passing and also overwhelmed that on today of all days, I was search for some information and by chance came across this feature. With deepest sympathy, Margaret Leigh Schmidt

  • 5. The Records' Jamie Rounds leaves us | Carolina Orange  |  February 13, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    [...] Rounds, Jamie’s brother, sent an obit to Penn Stater Magazine. Here’s an [...]

  • 6. Phyllis and Eric Johnston  |  February 13, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Jon,
    When I first heard about Terry and then Jamie this all made me very sad. Eric and I practically “grew up” in our 20’s to the likes of Tahoka, Back Seat Van Gogh and of course the Rounds Brothers. It makes me very sad indeed that I didn’t make it to see the “last” performance of Cartoon. I did catch you guys a year or so ago, but working early days and you guys playing Friday evenings made it rough (I’m talking about this because I’m old and need lots of naps anymore). I thank you for writing all the above information in Jamie’s obit. I knew alot about you guys from the musician-music appreciator standpoint and avidly went to see all the bands when I was young enough and had enough energy to do it. I wish I had shot more photo’s I was kind of a late bloomer when it came to that, but the music is still there. And I do have a few Rounds Brothers tunes on compilation CD’s that various people have made around the valley. Thank you again for your info and sharing your love of your brother I know it’s got to be a tough road, but just remember all the good times and I know you and your families will get through this. Maybe we’ll try and make it to the Memorial over memorial day. I will keep my ear to the ground on when and where. With our deepest sympathies and love,

  • 7. Fred DeCock (@jedifredi)  |  May 15, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    Terry and Tahoka Freeway were part of many Penn State memories for me. I digitized some of their music – you can listen here: https://www.youtube.com/jedifredi

  • 8. matt brown  |  October 9, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    Jon Thank you for sharing..I met , listened and played and recorded briefly with you guys in Maine..Knox Inn Thomaston and
    Jim Deans Studio…in Rockland..Loved you guys..A long time ago.
    Sad story about a great musician….Hope this finds you well…

    Matt Brown, LA, Oct 2013….

  • 9. Marcia K. Friedman  |  October 16, 2013 at 7:40 am

    I was so devastated to come across this. I had not been in contact with Jamie for many years, but every year I would say Happy Birthday Jamie, to the air. Years ago, I did call him, but we then lost contact with each other. I think the last time I saw him was when he came home for his 30th H.S. reunion and played in the afternoon at John and Peters in New Hope, PA. Jon, I think I may have met you then, but I am not sure. Well. this morning, when I looked at the date on my computer, I said my annual Happy Birthday to Jamie, and just decided to look him up and see if I could contact him this year…so never expected to find this!

    I am in Bucks County, PA. Jamie and I worked together for a short time in the early ’80’s at weekly newspapers here in Bucks County, selling advertising. I was Advertising Coordinator of 3 of the company’s newspapers at the time, one being The Yardley News, so I was Jamie’s boss, but it never seemed like it because we clicked and became friends. His Dad used to come into the Yardley News, always dressed professionally, and so nice-I think he was dropping off a news release to the editor.

    When Jamie came for his interview and my boss introduced him, his last name clicked and then looking at him, I said of course, you are Mr. Rounds’ son, tall like him, and so nice just like his dad! Jamie was liked so much and was such a good salesperson. I remember picking him up after he had his wisdom teeth pulled and felt so badly as I dropped him off because he was so swollen and in so much pain, but he didn’t want me to go in-he said he was ok. That was one time when Jamie seemed a bit down and he was down some other times, but I never expected to read this about him-probably as so many, I wish I could have talked to and/or visited him. I would have loved to visit him in Nashville-I have never been there!

    Then Jamie had gone out to LA for a week and when he came back I told him that I was quitting and I went to my boss and quit. When I got back to my desk, Jamie disappeared for a couple of minutes and came back and surprised me saying he just quit, too! We laughed because we knew were leaving our boss in a bad place-actually, I just remembered that our boss offered Jamie my job. Our boss liked Jamie sooo much-he didn’t want him to leave! But Jamie really felt that he wanted to pursue a musical career and that was where he should go. He actually began at a newspaper out there, or some other periodical (Have I surprised anyone by telling you that Jamie Rounds actually sold advertising?! And he was good at it, but I think Jamie could be good at almost anything if he had a purpose in mind.), living in Ventura. He called me only after he had been there for a month or two and told me he was leaving the newspaper?, going to another area in CA, or perhaps Nashville at the time, but I am not sure if it was even another place. He wanted me to move out there and take his job, telling me while he was in his yard watching the ocean. He knew how much I loved the ocean. I turned down his lovely offer, as my parents were getting on in years.

    He came home 1 time to play at the Pond Cafe, I think, in Bristol, PA and then friends of his had a party. I had such a good time because many of them jammed together on the front porch and everyone was so happy to see Jamie.

    Another time he came “home” to play at Penn State for a fraternity party-a friend of mine and I went to see him, but we got there too late. We did see him, but it was after his gig. That could have been the time I saw him?

    I will still always think of Jamie every October 16th, and though I haven’t seen him in years, I will miss him terribly. I truly wish I had known about his demise so I could have gone to the memorial service-I am sure all good things were said about him,

    God Bless You, my friend and good man, Jamie. May you rest in peace and if it is possible for you to connect with your parents, I hope you do, as I know how much you missed them.

    Jon and family, my sincere condolences-thank you for sharing Jamie’s history, so much I never knew about.

    I apologize for my “comment” turning into a short story and taking up so much space-I hope that I did not prevent others from perhaps adding comments on Jamie’s Birthday.

    Marcia K. Friedman

  • 10. Jeanette Perry  |  March 1, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    I met Jamie in the 70’s when he and Jon and the band came to Thomaston, Maine and played at the Knox Hotel during the summer months for a few years Tonight I was cleaning out my file cabinet and came across the many letters Jamie had sent me over the years. We had lost touch some years ago, but I have followed his career from time to time on the internet – which is what I did tonight, shocked and brought to tears by the news of his passing. RIP, my friend. ” Which way to Friendship?”

  • 11. Dwight Henry  |  May 7, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    Jon, so sorry to hear about Jamie, a truly talented musician. I just came acoss this on the internet as I was checking out his website. The Rounds Bros. Band was a favorite of many at the Knox Hotel in Thomaston. I believe I have some old cassettes of you playing at the Hotel. Great times, great band.

  • 12. Marcia  |  October 18, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Thought of Jaimie on his Birthday, this year, and cannot believe that I must have forgotten above that probably the last time I saw Jaimie was when he and Jody Gambielucca (sp?) played at LBI for the Millenium New Year’s Eve Party!!
    Happy Birthday to Jaimie (October 16th)-wish I could still call him and wish him a Happy! Miss you, Jaimie. Your old friend and former co-worker (when you sold newspaper advertising), Marcia K. Friedman from Newtown/Yardley, PA.
    Reply ·

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