Jim DeKoster was born in 1945 at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. His father fought as a Marine in World War II in the Pacific and after the war, he established the family’s roots in Waterloo, IA. Jim picked up his love of music growing up in Waterloo during the transformational late ‘50s and early ‘60s when bluesmen such as Earl Hooker, Ironing Board Sam and Smokey Wilson took up residence there. The Cedar Valley’s burgeoning music scene also brought many of the country’s top Soul and Blues acts to town, so he was able to see Howlin’ Wolf and many of the other early greats. Even before that, he had developed a love of music with the sounds of Fats Domino and Chuck Berry wafting from the 45’s he purchased, and, to his Lawrence Welk-loving parents’ considerable chagrin, the first album Jim ever brought home was by Bo Diddley. Over countless hours of immersion, he developed a keen ear for not just the music, but the artists and instruments they played.
In the mid-‘60s, Jim began making regular trips to Chicago from college at Iowa State and developed a friendship with Bob Koester of Delmark Records. After graduating from Iowa State, Jim attended law school at the University of Iowa and began writing a Blues column for The Daily Iowan in 1969. In 1970, Living Blues co-founder Bruce Iglauer recruited Jim to start writing for Living Blues when the newly formed magazine needed somebody who was not associated with Delmark to review that label’s new Luther Allison LP for LB #2. After graduation, Jim was commissioned into the United States Navy and served as a Judge Advocate General (JAG) stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas, and Newport, Rhode Island, while continuing to write for Living Blues.
After leaving the Navy in 1976, Jim returned to Waterloo to practice law and raise a family. In 1992, after spending many hours taping sessions and listening to the stories that made up the local Blues history, he wrote an article for Living Blues detailing the Blues scene in Waterloo as told by his friend and Iowa Blues Hall of Fame member, the late Louis McTizic (http://livingblues.com/backissues/04_BI98-126/105.html).
Today, after writing reviews for more than 40 years (over 1000 in print) and developing a worldwide following, Jim continues to submit reviews to Living Blues and since 2004 has also written a Blues trivia column titled “The Dozens.” A highlight of his career came in 2010, when he helped Living Blues celebrate its 40th Anniversary by contributing lists of his favorite albums from each of the magazine’s four decades.
Throughout his distinguished career in the Blues, Jim has had a supportive wife and family who have shared his journey and learned to love his passion. Blues music flows through the walls of the house and not every family has taken a spring break trip to go to the Mississippi Delta to see where the Blues was born. They are proud and thankful that he has been able to share his gift for writing about the Blues across the globe and represent the best of what Iowa has to offer.