A honky-tonk hello
Army thrift store features unique greeter
by Adam Pearson –
Jim Weaver is a honky-tonk man in a secondhand store. A musician with a sway to his posture and a twang in his voice, Weaver, a salt of the earth kind of guy, regularly strums his guitar and blows his harps at The Salvation in Roseburg.
For minimum wage, the 72-year-old performs two hours a day, three days each week, as part of his contract with the Experience Works Program of the Oregon Department of Employment, which supplements his Social Security.
“I thank God for it,” he said.
From noon until 2 p.m.—or later, if he gets a crowd going—Weaver sings from his chair, set at the front of a clothes rack, familiar songs of forlorn love, everyday hardships, pulling oneself up by the bootstraps or living life high on the hog.
“Yippie-ki-yi-yo, rock them till they grow, back in the saddle again,” Weaver sang last week, grinning as if the chorus were a mantra for his regular gig.
His set list is mainly a fusion of bluegrass and western folk. But occasionally Weaver pulls the loose threads of his musical instincts together for performances of other genre tunes that are as well worn as the flannel and corduroy that hang behind him.
“I can play big band music and I can turn around play 50s rock ‘n’ roll too,” he said. He added that his favorite music to play, besides Pee Wee King and his Golden West Cowboys, is what he calls The Big E: Ernest Tubbs and Elvis Presley.
Weaver’s performances on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are an attraction to the store. Although many shoppers come and go without noticing him, Weaver manages to project his music above the din of the nearby cash register and traffic noise that filters through the door.
Those who do pay him mind show their appreciation by slipping some coins into a donation bucket that hangs to his right. The proceeds, Weaver said, go to The Salvation Army food pantry and the family services department.
Weaver and his wife, Charllet, also occasionally play the local VWF halls as a duo. Charllet plays the keyboards. But there had been much bigger stages in his young days when Weaver had brushes with fame.
There was a time in Chicago, at a club that billed him “The Alabama Kid,” when Weaver’s name flashed in lights. Johnny Cash invited Weaver to play on stage with him in 1957 at the Civic Center in Hammond Ind. He also played with Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys, and in the early 1970s Curly Fox once asked him to join his in the Grand Ole Opry. But Weaver, always a pragmatist, chose to keep his regular paying job at the corn mill instead.
“I wanted to work a job where I paid Social Security,” he said. “With music, you just take cash.”
Weaver’s first job was in the cotton field on Conway, Arkansas, where he was born and raised. A self-described good ol’ boy, he learned to play music by filling in at barn dances and house parties. He’s never made a lot of money at it, but music has always defined his life, and he’ll gladly keep performing a couple of hours each day as the honky-tonk man of The Salvation Army.
Used by permission