These are some of the photos of Jim Playing, and doing his thing at some of our drum circles.
He was a gift to music, and to all of us who loved drumming with him. His sharp sense of humor
always caught me off guard, and had a knack for cracking a good zinger.
This is one of my favorite photos of Jim playing (on the left side) at the drum circle.
Jim Tonak passed away at his home in November 2008. Over a period of a few years, he had become my best friend.
He was also a good friend to many others in our drumming community. He will be missed by many of us who drummed
with him. He was affectionately known as Big Jim by many of us who enjoyed his solid drumming and friendship.
The loss of such a young man in his prime of life, is very hard for me to express with just mere words.
A life is not measured by what we have, but rather what we have given. And Jim was a giver, not a taker.
He was a little hard to get to know at first for some people, but once you did, you realized what a
caring and giving man, and good friend he coul be. He brought a lot of joy to many of us, and I will
always remember the many times we drummed together, or just sat around talking.
He was there many years ago, back when I started the Dunedin Brewery drum circle. He was a regular almost every
Tuesday. He'd show up at 6pm to meet me, and offer to help me do the set up and preperation for the drum circle
to start at 8pm. We shared many a meal together after set up, and then we'd go out on the brewery's front porch,
hang out, and shoot the bull. As people would show up to the drum circle, we would welcome them together.
When the drumming started, he was about as solid a drummer as you could imagine. A true joy to drum with. He
was a huge help to me, and always there with his friendship and supportive attitude. When the brewery drum circle
ended for me, he was there wanting to know if he could do anything to help, and was always letting me know he
was there for me regardless of what happened. He always had my back, and I had his. He became my best friend.
All of a sudden, one day he was there, and the next day he was gone. I had a very hard time coping with it.
I met Jim for the first time back when I taught an intro to drum circles workshop at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center.
He was a drum set drummer who played with various top level bands. He took an immediate love to the djembe drum,
and was excited so much that he ran right out and bought one so he had one for the Dunedin drum circle Tuesdays.
He took to it like a professional. Not a banger, or a showboater, but a true ensemble player who wanted to enjoy
drum circle musicality at it's highest level. And that's exactly what he did. Even when he played the two big bass
drums with mallets, he understood that it wasn't how loud you could play over everyone else, or how many notes you
could cram in a measure of music, but rather that it was the space left in between the notes that was so important.
That's what mattered. he helped hold the support beat that allowed the creation of beautiful spontainous music.
Many new drummers learned a lot from watching Jim play. In fact, I think that is the best way to for someone
new to drum circles to learn how to grow as a drummer. Just watch what the pros do. And Jim was a pro.
Jim was also there at many of our other drum circles. The Earth Day Drum circle at Honeymoon Island, The Coconuts
Comedy Club drum circles. The Mardi Gras, Halloween, and Christmas Drum Circles, Treasure Island, and many others.
A lot of friends, and musicians will miss him. I spoke with his girlfriend after he passed away, and suggested
that we have a drum circle wake, and invite all his friends, since drumming was his favorite activity. She liked
the idea, and asked that we play a few of his favorite rhythms in his memory, & invite some of the bellydancers.
We did that at the Coconuts Comedy Club drum circle. Sadly, that was also the last place he attended a drum
circle with us. There are only a few photos to remember him by, and here they are. In memory of Jim:
Jim on the left side playing some Clave at the Earth Day Drum Circle
Another view with Jim at the Earth Day Drum Circle
Jim at the Mardi Gras drum circle in Dunedin. (You can just see him, on my right)
What a party! 5 hours of drumming. He had a smile on his face all night long.
Jim at the Coconuts Comedy Club drum circle playing the bass drums holding it down.
He loved playing for Kimara, and the belly dancers. (Don't we all!)
More of Jim in the groove, doing his thing. This was Jim to me, right here in this pic.
Jim at the Dunedin Brewery drum circle.
Some emails sent to me from some of Jim's online friends.
He was always there with info to help others along. His nic was "cheeseadiddle":
I never Met Jim in person. I got to know him online through a couple Drum Forum communities, including
the one he ran for a year or so, Tightheads.net. For a small and tight-knit group of drummers all across
the states and the world, Tightheads was home. And we all loved Cheeseadiddle. He was a great guy,
knowledgeable and happy to share what he knew. His sense of humor was all his own,
and I loved that.
We only rarely got a glimpse into his personal life, he was rather private online. I was one of few who
even knew his real name. Your tribute page was the first place I ever saw a photo of him where his face
wasn't strategically hidden by a drum or cymbal.
So thanks for putting that page up. I know the loss is felt most acutely there in his hometown, and my
condolences go to his girlfriend and loved ones. Just know that the circle of folks who admired and
respected Jim is quite a bit wider than you might have suspected. We miss him out here in internetland too.
- Tim H.
It is much sadness that I am saying hello to you...
I just found out about Jim, and wanted to wish my sympathies. It's funny, because I never knew his name
was Jim. We knew him as "Cheeseadiddle" in some online drum forums, one even that he created and maintained
for quite some time. He sure was a funny sumbitch, and a virtual encycolpedia of drumming knowledge, history,
you name it. Yes, it did take a bit getting used to his blunt ways, but the guy never once faultered from
what he believed in. He was always willing to give sound advice to those searching, and a rashing of $hit
to those who deserved it.
We knew that he wasn't in the best of health, but had no idea how bad it really was. I hope that you are all
able to send him off proudly out there, we will miss him on the internet.
- Mike P.
Please pass on my condolences to Jim's girlfriend and his loved ones. They may or may not know how much
of an influence he had on everybody in the drum forums that he was a part of. From Harmony Central to his
famed Tightheads, he touched many lives. At some point or another we all took from his vast knowledge of
all things related to drums. And at some point we all had a laugh from his endless wit. He will be sorely
missed by all of us at Harmony Central's drum forum.
- John R, aka...Watchdog.
Note from a friend: "Shannon, You should check out these threads that got started on the forums."
Please let us know how we can help. There are many interested in doing anything they can, especially in a
way that would help Eliska or any of your groups. A few of us are going to try to resurrect his old website,
but it's going to take some work getting off the ground. If we are successful in getting it going,
we will let you know.
My name is Glen and like some of my other "Virtual" friends have wrote, I to was one of Jim's online friends.
Although we were "Virtual" friends, that doesn't change the fact that Jim's Life and Passing has effected me
is a very real way. His core group of TIGHTHEADS.ORG friends have banded together in hopes of bringing TIGHTHEADS
back online again in Honor of Jim's life and his passion for the drum community, both in real life and online.
I know it's only a small gesture in the grand scheme of things, but I also know Jim loved that site. I think in
many ways it allowed him to be himself and not be "judged", yet still keep a semblance of the privacy that Jim
required. I think the Lives that Jim touched may be more wide spread than his close friends may realize.
At an appropriate time, I'd like to have a close friend or relative contact me (or contact info) so that we may
discuss the possibility of getting TIGHTHEADS up and running again. We will do all the work and take care of any
finical obligation associated with this task, but we would like blessing of those close to him and provide us
with any insight they feel would be appropriate. My sincere condolences to Jim's friends, girlfriend, and family
... I'm sorry for your loss.
- Glen R
A cheese drum set made up by some of Jim's online friends. A nice dedication to Big Jim.
He's another one from the group, with Jim on one of his favorite drum sets.
Drum Circle Wake Dedicated to Jim at Coconuts Comedy Club