A treasured actor and blues musician, Jim Byrnes began his love with acting and music when he was still a small child. In college he found acting jobs easily until the draft sent him to war instead of to Hollywood. Byrnes kept his dreams, and himself, alive, and returned to follow his original goals as best he could after his tour of duty was over. A car accident put his acting career on hold again, so he turned his full attention toward music. Over the next few decades, he recorded a number of albums, and even found his way back to acting, both in films and television. In 1995 he landed a well-deserved spot in the British Columbia Entertainment Hall of Fame.
James Thomas Kevin Byrnes was born in St. Louis, MO, in 1948. Byrnes started his musical training with piano lessons at the tender age of five. Even that early in his life, things were never easy for him. An illness almost ended not only his budding musical skills, but his life. By the time he entered high school, he had taught himself to play the guitar. He also gained an interest in acting around that time, and began taking drama classes that continued when he started college. Being drafted into the Vietnam War put a temporary hold on his career around the end of the turbulent '60s.
Around 1970, Byrnes moved to Toronto, Canada, and launched into acting and music again. Just when he seemed to be getting a foothold in some kind of career, fate knocked him down again, this time with a serious car wreck that took almost any chance of acting away from him. He still had his music, and put his heart into it. He landed gigs wherever he could, touring with other bands through Canada and into the United States. Before the '70s ended, he put together a band of his own called the Jim Byrnes Band. It was while working with them that he recorded his debut album, Burning. It was released under the Polydor Records label in 1981. A year later, he received his first big music nomination for Most Promising Male Vocalist from the Juno Awards.
Byrnes' sophomore album, I Turned My Night Into Day, didn't appear until 1987. That same year he landed his first recurring role in a television series; the name of the show was Wiseguy. He spent nearly four years working on the series. He also did a number of guest shots on other shows, and even some work in films. In 1993 he was cast as Joe Dawson on the popular Highlander television series and later in its spin-off, The Raven. With Highlander helping his fame, Byrnes recorded a third full-length album, That River. It was released under the Stony Plain Records label in 1995. In 1998, Stony Plain pulled his last two albums together and released them as a combination CD. Some of the electric blues tunes fans can sample from Jim Byrnes' recordings include "Bad Boy," "The Chill Is On," "Fire on the Bayou," "Shake Your Moneymaker," "Next Time You See Me," and "Just for a Thrill." ~ Charlotte Dillon