In Memory Of Jim Tonak aka Cheeseadiddle

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.


Big Jim...Aka...Cheeseadiddle. 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." hacapella.harmony-central.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2164238 ghostnote.net/vbforum/showthread.php?t=28289 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. - Mike


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.


Jim Tonak

Drum Circle Wake Dedicated to Jim at Coconuts Comedy Club

It was sad having a drum circle wake after the loss of one of our group. It was a good way for all of us to say goodbye, and try to cope with such a sudden loss. The entire night was dedicated to Jim. We played all his favorite rhythms, we said a few words, and shared a few memories we had with him in between them. A lot of his friends who were not drummers, attended to show their respect. During the evening, we played lots of grooving beats, and belly dancing rhythms. That's what he loved to play, so that's what we did. There was lots of good drumming, dancing, hula hooping, and fire. It was a night he would have enjoyed. Near the front door, we put out a big poster with a picture of him drumming on it. Everyone had signed it by the end of the night, and we gave it to his girlfriend, Eliska. I wish I could have done more than a drum circle wake, and a webpage for him, but at least it gives us something to remember him by. Thanks again everybody, Shannon Ratigan drumcircles.net This website, text, music, & photos Copyright Shannon Ratigan 1999 - 2015 All Rights Reserved.


Kimara Fire Dance at the drum circle video #1

Kimara Fire Dancing at the drum circle video #2

Flying Hands at the drum circle video #3


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