Jim Johnson (Calvin James)

A Minnesota rock’n’roll legend, with a career in music that spans five decades



Jim  Johnson
a.k.a Calvin  James

Jim Johnson began his musical career in 1962 as one of the original founders of The Underbeats, playing guitar and eventually singing lead vocals.  Through 1968, The Underbeats were considered to be one of the top local dance bands, packing the teen clubs and ballrooms.  The group recorded numerous 45’s with local producer George Garrett and hit the local charts over the years, the most popular song being “Foot Stompin’” in 1964.

In the fall of 1968, The Underbeats headed to Los Angeles and gained a following there, playing at Gazzarri’s on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood.  In 1969, the band evolved into Gypsy and developed a new sound, featuring all original songs and became regular performers at The Whiskey a Go-Go.   In 1970, the band released their first album, a self titled double album on the Metromedia label and received airplay with “Gypsy Queen” and “Dead and Gone.”  In 1971, another album was released on the same label, In the Garden.  The band recorded two more albums, both for RCA.  As Gypsy came to an end in the mid 1970’s, Jim released one final Gypsy 45, with a new band lineup, “Magic in My Life”, backed with “Don’t Stop For Nothin’.”   Both songs were covered by The Fifth Dimension in 1975, as a 45 and also on their album, Earthbound, produced and arranged by Jimmy Webb on ABC Records, with Florence Larve singing lead vocals on Magic in My Life.

Jim stayed in Los Angeles, following the Gypsy era, working as a songwriter and a record producer.  A 1977 Universal movie called Slap Shot (starring Paul Newman) included a song in the soundtrack, “Money Side of Town”, written and performed by Jim, with Stan Kipper on drums.

Around 1980, Jim got together with Stanley Kipper (drums, percussion and vocals) and Brad Palmer (bass guitar and vocals) and put a new band together, The Steamers, that played in the Los Angeles area.  Two attorney’s from New York City, Alan Shapiro and Gary Wishik saw the band perform live and produced (and financed) the bands only album, recorded at Don Casale Studios in Westbury, New York, that was released in 1982.  The album was self-titled (with no label name), with ten original songs, six written by Jim, three written by Stanley and one written by all three members.  Jim sings lead vocals on five songs, Stanley singles lead vocals on four songs and Jim and Stanley both sing lead on one song.   Numerous songs from the album were used in soundtracks for various Universal movies.  The Steamers played live and recorded songs for Universal up through 1984/1985. A song written by Jim, “Too Hard to Love You”, was recorded by Ray Charles (with Jim playing guitar) and included on his 1988 Columbia album, Just Between Us.

In 1993, Jim returned to Minnesota and played with a new version of The Underbeats and also played with Gypsy for various reunion concerts.

Eventually, Jim returned to his R and B roots, playing and recording as Calvin James.  In 2003, a CD was released called It Ain’t Over , with eleven songs, including eight original songs written by Jim.  The CD features local musicians: Stan Kipper, Bill Lordan, Larry Wiegand, George Hawkins, Bruce Pedalty, Jimmy Greenwell, Vince Denham, Tom Nystrom, Brian Glasscock and Doni Larson.  Randy Meisner, from The Eagles, is on background vocals on two tracks.  Mike Finnegin, From Dave Mason and other bands, plays keyboards on four tracks.  Jim Johnson, with a career in music that spans five decades, is a true Minnesota rock’n’roll legend.



Learn  How  To  Fight

It  Ain’t  Over

Lousiana  Blues

You  Know  My  Love

Too  Hard  to  Love  You



Give  It  Easy

Livin’  The  Hard  Way


Rogue’s  Moon


Jim  Johnson  Almost  Famous

Miss  Wonderful # 1

One  Man # 1

Right  Back  To  The  Blues

You’re  Gonna  Stay  With  Me

You  Have  Saved  Me

Just  Enough    (Mancini  Version)

Run  Run  Run

Low  Crawl

Her  Love  Drives  Me  Crazy

Woman  Can’t  Hide

Take  The  Rest  of  My  Heart



Feed  The  Beast

Soothe  Me

Special  Angel

El  Paso

Spanish  Harlem





Jim  Johnson                              BAND  TREE        


Jim  Johnson

1962  to  Current


Jim  Johnson   Lead  Guitar  /  Vocals

The  Underbeats                           


The  Steamers

Calvin  James


Where are they now?

Jim Johnson passed at age 76 on September 26, 2019.