1974-1975

Before the Punk, New Wave, and Alternative movements, Skafish crystallizes during this two year period a vision both singular and dramatically ahead of it’s time—a vision that will ultimately be beyond the limits of these categories. 

Musically: Skafish integrates primitive rock ’ n’ roll rebellion, classic pop and show tune melody along with 20th century avant-garde atonality and progressive jazz improvisation and harmonies. Musical and vocal arrangements vary from the symphonic complexity of European classical formalism to raw garage rock.

Lyrically: Skafish’s compositions are truthful autobiographical stories of alienation, social/family persecution and rejection, sacrilegious satire, sexual/gender disorientation, self-degradation, guilt, rage, rebellion and escapism—all stated with a verbal knife edge. Vulnerability is shown through the longing for love, as well as the emotional pain of being an outcast and “different.”

Jim Skafish in tube top
Tube top and hospital scrubs
Photo by Dan Winner
Visually: Skafish’s appearance now reflects the lifelong evolution of his unique visual individuality. His dress is more unusual than ever, featuring girls’ tube tops, hospital scrubs, babushkas, shawls, and make-up.    His hair styles constantly change:  from buzz cuts, to a bowl haircut ala Moe Howard from the Three Stooges, to the Prince Valiant pageboy he later becomes associated with.  Skafish’s decision to initially present a non-flattering look—sometimes male or toddler boyish, sometimes female or old ladyish, sometimes androgynous—is revolutionary in its deliberate self-debasement, contrary to the glamorous image of many entertainers.  But perhaps the most shocking aspect to Skafish is what is God-given: His 6 foot, 3 inches tall towering beefy presence, enormous hook nose, and pale white skin, all which seem to underscore the appearance of breasts.

Mid 1974:  Skafish meets the Goodrich Sisters, 4 models/singers and begins accompanying them on piano for their vocal group.  Barbie Goodrich will go on to be a Skafish band member by 1979, while another sister, Marie, will sing back-up on the 2nd  Skafish LP “Conversation” in 1983.

In 1975, Skafish plays keyboards for 3-piece power trio White Lightnin’ on the sessions for their 2nd LP, which was never released.  The band features drummer Ralph Kinsey, and brother Donald, who later plays lead guitar for Bob Marley, and Peter Tosh.  Memphis bassist Busta Jones, formerly with Albert King, and once a member of the U.K. group Sharks, completes the trio.  When White Lightnin’ wishes to add female backing vocals to their project, Skafish introduces the trio to The Goodrich Sisters.  Three of the four sisters sing back-up on the never released sessions.  The studio dates are engineered by Barry Mraz, who recorded many tracks for The Ohio Players and Styx.   Mraz immediately spots Skafish’s brilliance as a keyboardist, dubbing him “Steinway fingers” and often having him overdub multiple keyboard tracks.

Ralph and Donald’s father, Big Daddy Kinsey, fronts an electric blues group out of Gary, Indiana, with both sons.  Skafish also plays keyboards for this blues outfit in inner city nightspots.  Donald and Ralph Kinsey, along with a 3rd brother, ultimately go on to form The Kinsey Report.  Busta Jones later augments the “live” Talking Heads lineup, works with Gang Of Four, and plays sessions for several other well-known acts before he dies in 1995.

When Island Records drops White Lightnin’ in 1975, Skafish decides to form and front his own group.

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