Jim Lea biography
James Whild Lea was born on June 14th 1949 at The Melbourne Arms pub in Wolverhampton in Staffordshire, England as the second of four children to engineer Frank Lea and wife Edna. Siblings' names: Raymond, Frank and Joan.
Jim was the nearest thing Slade had to a sensitive artist and trained musician. At the age of 10 he started learning violin and in 1960 he graduated with honours from the London National College of Music. He went on to pass the grades I to V with distinction at the Royal School of Music and at the age of 12 he joined the Staffordshire Youth Orchestra where he played the violin for 3 years as youngest member of the orchestra.
Jim went to the Codsall Secondary Modern and in 1962 he joined his first band. He played bass in school band Nick Vance and The Rocking Axemen and did all the arranging of the Axemen's music.
When it was time to leave school Jim applied for four art colleges as art, besides music and French, was his top subject. At the same time he spotted an advert in the paper for the job of bass player with The N'Betweens - his idols of the time. He turned up with his bass guitar in a plastic bag at the audition, but he could play the bass very fast, as his fingers were supple from playing the violin. He was offered the job, which meant turning pro at the age of 16. Within the next week his acceptances came through for all the art colleges, including Hornsey College of Art in London, but to his parents' dismay Jim chose The N'Betweens.
Jim was Slade's principal songwriter along with Noddy. Jim composed most of the group's music and wrote some of the lyrics, too. He played the piano/keyboards as well and was the lead singer on a few Slade songs. He started producing all of Slade's recordings and became an increasingly dominant creative force within the band. He even handled Noddy's guitar parts on record quite often and sometimes Dave's, too. Today he owns Slade's music jointly with Noddy.
On stage Jim's main instrument was a John Birch bass whereas a Flying V bass seemed to have been a studio favourite. Jim also played a Jaydee bass with tremolo arm and a Gibson EB3, which - to Jim's mortification - was refinished in white at one point from its original cherry finish.
Jim took the music very seriously and was horrified by Dave's eccentric stage costumes, which he thought would ruin the credibility of the band. All in all Jim had quite a pessimistic outlook on life, which led to the Slade road crew nicknaming him "Midland's Misery". In a 1999 interview in "The Record Collector", he explained it this way: "I was never happy. I don't think I ever am. It's a personal thing."
In 1977 Jim formed his own record company, "Cheapskate", with his younger brother Frank and started rmaking records under various psydonyms such as Greenfields of Tong, China Dolls, The Clout, Gang of Angels and Jimbo and Bull. The most noticeable release was The Dummies' album "A Day in the Life of The Dummies" (1991) which gathered together all demos and single tracks that he recorded with his younger brother Frank and wife Louise. His latest realise was "I'll Be John, You'll Be Yoko" under the name of Whild in 2000.
In 1991 Jim moved into record production, producing Slade recordings as well up until the Slade break-up in 1991. Jim attended college to study psychology in 1997, but the year after he started writing and recording again. From 2000 everything was put on hold for 2 years which Jim spent helping his mother care for his father, who died in 2002.
In 2002 Jim performed at the "Robin 2" in Bilston where he did a charity show with two musicians picked for the event, calling themselves Jim Jam.
In 1972 Jim married seamstress Louise Ganner, his first and only girlfriend whom he had met when he was 16. They have 2 children, Kristian and Bonny, as well as 2 grandchildren. Jim and Louise live in a secluded area of Brewood, Staffordshire, England.