Rooney Writes His Musical Life


Front Page / Mar. 27, 2014 11:19am EDT

Grammy Award-Winning Record Producer Settled in Strafford
By John Freitag

Jim Rooney’s career intersected with those of Bill Monroe, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Doc Watson, Pete Seeger, Muddy Waters, and dozens of others. (Provided) Jim Rooney’s career intersected with those of Bill Monroe, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Doc Watson, Pete Seeger, Muddy Waters, and dozens of others. (Provided) For the past few years, when having dinner with Carol Langstaff and her husband Jim Rooney at their farm house in Sharon, my wife Lisa and your Strafford correspondent for The Herald have enjoyed hearing stories from Jim on his many musical exploits over the last 60 years.

Now, Rooney has a new book “In It for the Long Run” published by the University of Illinois Press, which reveals the details of one of the most interesting contemporary American musical journeys. Rooney’s first gig was as a teenager in 1954 as a performer on the Hayloft Jamboree, a WCOP Boston Radio program. He went on to play an important part in the folk revival of the ’60s, managing the legendary Club 47 in Cambridge. He then became a director and talent coordinator of the Newport Folk Festival.

Later, he also worked as tour manager and stage manager for the Newport Jazz Festival and produced the first New Orleans Jazz Festival in 1968.

Rooney eventually landed in Nashville, where he became a Grammy Award winning record producer, all the while continuing to play with performers along the way. Somehow in his early years, he also managed to get a master’s degree in classics from Harvard and spent a summer as a Fulbright Scholar in Greece.

But his first love was always music and the people who made it. As important to him as the virtuosity with which it is played is the authenticity and feeling from which the music comes, he says in his book.

A Musical Life

Rooney was fortunate during his life to spend time—on their own turf—with the likes of Muddy Waters, Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Thelonious Monk and Irish musicians Sean Keane and Arty McGlynn.

At the same time he is deeply committed to the importance of music in the local community. He has played for years at the Strafford Lions Club annual talent show and has provided the music for the Flock Dance Troupe, and most recently he has a show on Royalton Community Radio.

Rooney’s new book is subtitled “A Musical Odyssey.”

“Wonderful fellow with an interesting life equals great story” singer/songwriter John Prine says of it. Local folk music producer Todd Tyson says he found it “the best musical autobiography since Woody Guthrie’s “Bound for Glory.”

Book Signings

Rooney will be doing a reading and book signing at the Morrill Library in Strafford at 7 p.m. on April 2, and at Bagito’s in Montpelier at 6 p.m. on April 3, where he will be playing with Colin McCaffrey.

On Friday, May 2 at the Hotel Coolidge, Rooney will sign more books, and will be playing with Pat Alger and Colin McCaffrey. More information can be found at

He will also be playing “a couple of songs” at Tupelo on April 28, after the screening of “For The Love of the Music” (a film about the music around Cambridge’s famed folk venue, Club 47.)

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