In the late 80's, I was a fan of the CBS series 'Wiseguy'. Perhaps you remember Vinnie Terranova, who was a justice agent who was working undercover as syndicate enforcer. One of his few safe contacts in justice was wheelchair-bound Daniel Benjamin "Lifeguard" Burroughs, played to perfection by Jim Byrnes.
Later I would come to know Jim as one of the best kept secrets of the blues world. If anyone has the right to sing the blues, it would be Jim. Byrnes lost both his legs when, while helping push a stalled truck on a highway, he was hit from behind by a car. He never let that get him down.
He grew up in St. Louis, and he and a friend snuck into black blues clubs while a teenager. They would usually be the only two white people in the joint.
"We never had any problems. We were too naive too innocent, and had too much respect for the music and the culture-they knew it, they could tell," Jim said.
He has just released his tenth album, "St. Louis Times," a superb collection of blues tunes, including many original and neat covers of Albert King's "I Get Evil" and Chuck Berry's classic "Nadine."
Byrnes has won the Juno award for Blues Album of the Year three times, for "That River" in 1996 and "House of Refuge" on Black Hen Music in 2007.