Calire finds well-tempered life in Ojai
By Jesse Phelps
This is Part II in a series
of profiles on people named 2003 Ojai Rotary Club and Rotary
Club of Ojai-West Living Treasures.
When Jimmy Calire moved to Ojai in 1976, he had a great gig as
the touring keyboard player for '70s rock icons, America.
One of the great things he remembers from that time is working
with the illustrious George Martin, known in some circles as
"The Fifth Beatle" for his production savvy on several
of that group's well-loved records. He's even got a picture of
his son, Mario, having set up shop on Martin's lap.
America's tour schedule allowed him weeks at a time between legs
of tours and he says he took those hours to pay attention to
the most important things in life.
At first, Calire spent his time off in Ojai playing with his
kids (he and his wife, Donna, have three now-grown boys) and
enjoying family life. "It was like paradise, it was amazing,"
he says. But little by little, he says, he began "sniffing
around," looking for additional creative outlets.
"I started seeing what was around and checking the clubs
out," he says. He met other local players and began to join
in on gigs around the area.
"Then when the America gig ended, I became a local,"
In his 26 years in the valley, Calire has played his keys and
his tenor saxophone in virtually every local hot spot there is
and some that don't even exist anymore, such as the Topa Topa,
the Firebird and the bowling alley, for generations of Ojai locals.
Then, as time went on, he started to dabble in other activities.
In 1997, he took on duties as accompanist for the Ojai Presbyterian
Church. This year, he'll make another appearance at the Bowlful
of Blues, something he's done several times over the years. As
bandleader and arranger for the all-star house band at the Bowlful,
Calire has baked up a variety of internationally known blues
artists over the years.
But perhaps his most challenging activity, says Calire, is working
as musical director for plays at the Ojai Art Center. Currently,
he can be seen weekends directing and playing the music for "my
"Over the years," he says, "I've worked with a
lot of people there, starting with Taylor Cash. The community
of the theater is very interesting because it just crosses all
boundaries of culture and class. There are people who really
love the theater and they do other things. We've got doctors
and lawyers and laborers and teachers and students. We've got
a 14-year-old girl in the show and people in their 70s."
Calire says that a satisfying aspect of, not just the theater,
but all the diverse activities he undertakes, is meeting so many
different groups of people and segments of Ojai society. "Each
thing you do gets you to a new group of people. I know everybody
from the bikers to the dowagers," he says.
Calire says he's happy to be one of six people named a Rotary
Club Living Treasure for 2003. "It's an honor. It's nice
to be appreciated by the community," he says. "It's
taken me years to feel like I wasn't an outsider. And then slowly,
imperceptibly, by doing so many different things in the community,
you become part of the community and it's obvious I am. I hope,
after 27 years."
The Ojai Valley News
to the news
CALIRE assumes the position.