Jim Mackey is constantly surrounded by music there's no question about it.
At work, his office is filled with musical instruments. In the late afternoons, he's giving music lessons through Jim's School of Music. On the weekends "and some weekdays," he said he's performing with his band, Tin Star.
So, it's only natural that Mackey should become inducted into the Dakota Music Association Hall of Fame.
Submitted Photo - - Jim Mackey, second from right, a Minot musician, was inducted into the Dakota Music Association’s hall of fame on May 26. Mackey has been involved with music – either performing or teaching it – for 45 years. With him, from left, are his son Matthew, his wife, Lois, and his son Brandon.
Mackey, who was inducted on May 26, learned of the honor in November.
"At the age that I am at, it's nice to have a legacy," he said, noting that after 45 years of playing music and teaching it, it's come full circle, that being included in the hall of fame is a validation of his work.
"It just made me feel really, really good," he said. "They really make you feel like you accomplished something."
At the Hall of Fame ceremony, held at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen, S.D., his sons, Brandon and Matthew, read his biography. In a way, his life flashed before his eyes.
Mackey, 63, was born in Italy, but moved to the United States when he was 2, and migrated to North Dakota when he was 8. Mackey has called Minot home for most of his life.
Growing up, he listened to the radio at a time when the British Invasion was in full swing. The Beatles and Rolling Stones hit the airwaves, and Mackey was enthralled not only with the music, but by the medium itself. Both would end up being featured prominently in his life.
At 16, he received an electric guitar for Christmas, and began to learn songs off the radio.
That same year, Mackey banded together with three fellow students Greg Jordahl, Alan Mattson, and Ken White at his high school who shared his interest in music. They went on to form a band that would become the Trenchmen, who for three years would "did fairly well for a bunch of high school kids."
The band got together in Mattson's garage in northwest Minot.
"We literally lived out of that garage for, I don't know, a couple of years, with the garage door up and learning songs," Mackey said. "The words 'garage band' definitely applied to us."
During its first year, the Trenchmen performed teen dances at the YMCA just about every weekend, Mackey said. After that first year, the band played on in other towns around North Dakota, as well as in South Dakota and Montana, with the help of a promoter who helped find them bookings.
During the Trenchmen's tenure, they produced a 45 rpm record with two songs. "Chains On My Heart," in which Mackey played the bass and guitar, was on the A side; on the B side was "Travel With Me," for which Mackey wrote part of the lyrics, as well as offering vocals.
One highlight that Mackey recalled was the Trenchmen's final concert, at the Minot Municipal Auditorium, "to a semi-packed house," on March 16, 1968.
"I sang a Gary Puckett and the Union Gap song called 'Woman,' and I nailed it pretty good. When I was at home the next morning, doing the dishes for my mother, I heard John Ruby on KCJB say that 'I went to the Trenchmen concert last night, and Jim Mackey sang like a bird.'
"I remember that, and I was just inflated," he said. "I couldn't believe that some guy who was a prominent DJ had heard our band and said my name on the radio. It really boosted my ego for a young teenager."
By 1968, the Trenchmen "had our run" and parted ways, Mackey explained, noting that "our people went off to college. People were going their separate ways. When high school was over, everybody has other plans in life."
As for Mackey, he went to the Navy, where he served for four years. After training in San Diego and New London, Conn., Mackey was stationed in Hawaii and Guam, alternating between the two sites for two years. During his last months in the Navy, in Honolulu, Mackey worked as an all-night disc jockey at KNDI, an AM commercial radio station playing religious music.
"I got my feet wet, literally," he said, adding with a laugh: "Every time it rained, the water came into the studio."
The Midwest called for him, he said, and he returned to "this peaceful little community." He found work within the medium at KMOT-FM "when progressive rock was still going on in this town on an FM station, which was pretty rare" as well as at KCJB.
During the late 1970s, he worked his way up to a job as a TV weatherman on KXMC. He also became a ham radio operator.
"My music and my radio are still going on in my life," he said. "Two things that I became interested in as a teenager are very much a part of my life."
In addition to his work on the radio, Mackey could not escape the call to perform. He was a member of a rock band, Suite Feeling, until it disbanded in 1978. While he was a fan of rock 'n' roll, Mackey decided to venture into other forays, such as country western music. He achieved this for eight years through his work as a bass player and singer with Firehouse, a country western band that was popular in North Dakota.
In 1996, Mackey founded Tin Star "I was the one that had the name" in which he plays "mostly bass, some acoustic guitar, and lots of singing." The band plays weddings and anniversaries, as well as at local events, such as the Frozen Fingers festival.
For the past three years, Mackey has worked as combo department manager at Jacobsen's Music for three years. Prior to that, for 14 years, he managed Northwest Music in Minot.
While the love of music flows through Mackey's veins, it is quite possible that it is genetic. His two sons, Brandon and Matthew, have picked up the jitterbug: Matthew is "pursuing a rock 'n' roll recording career" with his band, Not Like This, in which Matthew is the lead singer. Brandon, who lives in California, plays "all stringed instruments very well," but is not actively pursuing a career in music.
"He's moving to Minnesota in July," Mackey said. "Hopefully, he will be teaming up with his brother as part of a musical endeavor. That would be quite exciting."
"They're both very good bass players," he added. Mackey crossed his leg and chuckled. "I guess they got that from me."