James "Slim" Hand


Born July 7, 1952
Died June 8, 2020

WEST, Texas (KWTX) "Here lies a good old boy."

In likely his last public appearance, James "Slim" Hand played from his home in Tokio for the KWTX televised concert event "Gordon Collier and Friends, Stronger Together" to raise funds for Central Texas food pantries suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Rissa Shaw)

James Edward “Slim” Hand, Jr., of West, a Waco native who began playing the guitar and singing before he was in his teens, performed around the state as a member of a small band when he was a teenager, and who released his first album in 1999 when he was 47, died Monday at a local hospital. Hand was 67.

"Folks, like I said before and it's still true, James Hand is the real deal,” Willie Nelson once said. Saturday morning, Hand was admitted to Providence Hospital in Waco for congestive heart failure and, with his lifelong companion Kayla Allen holding his hand, died before 3 a.m. Monday morning due to resulting complications. The announcement was made on the singer's Facebook page. "Our hero and friend James passed away early this morning," the post read. "His sons Shane Machac and Tracer Hand, his brothers Ty and Bimbo Hand, and nephew Cody Hand appreciate all the love and prayers, and need them now more than ever. They are absolutely devastated and overwhelmed at this time, and wanted to ask that everyone please respect their privacy at this time as they grieve this devastating loss." A reviewer wrote Hand “sings the songs as if he has lived every minute of them." "A song is what you do for three minutes that you hope somebody else understands," Hand told KWTX in December. "Life writes 'em, i just try to remember the words." The news of Hand's sudden death hit the country music community hard Monday, evoking responses from many of its stars like Hank Williams III. "R.I.P James Hand," Williams said. "One of a kind and honky tonk'n legend."

Hand and his authentic country sound was known around the world, he was especially popular in parts of Europe where he went on tour with Dale Watson in the mid-2000s. "The world is not as bright today with his loss," Watson said Monday. "The same dimness we had when Johnny, George and Merle passed, I can safely say fellow Ameripolitan's feel." Watson runs the Ameripolitan Awards in Nashville where James has opened every award show since its inception in 2014 and won best male honky tonker in 2015. "His musical integrity was unmatchable," said Watson. "Rest In Peace Slim, but I don't know how you will when we are going to be playing your records loud and proud for a long, long time."

Hand was so beloved across the pond, Ags Connolly, regarded as one of the most famous country artist ever to emerge from the United Kingdom, wrote a song entitled "I Saw James Hand," in 2014. "The first time I saw and met him in London confirmed for me that I wanted to be on the side of this real and true music, whether it was popular or not," Connolly posted on social media Monday. "James 'Slim' Hand was my biggest inspiration. He was also a friendly, funny, troubled and sad genius. But if you've heard any of his music, you already knew that."Hand, who many critics and fans feel never got his due, was attempting to make a comeback--he was in the process of recording a new album and had already been playing some of his new songs at gigs around the state. He was rumored to be going on tour with Charley Crockett this summer who released this statement about Hand Monday. "Honky tonk heaven just received an embarrassment of riches. I got a lot more to say but for now lemme just leave this with you. If you play country music in Texas, you owe somethin’ to James Hand. I never had the chance to know George Jones but by the grace of the creator I had a friendship with ol’ Slim and in that way I touched hands with the greatest. If you knew James, or if you just saw him play once, you know what I’m talkin’ about. Rest in power Tex." Crockett was such a fan of Hand, he had him star in the music video for his cover of Tom Hall's"That's How I Got To Memphis." Hand served as a mentor to other young Texas musicians including country music traditionalist Jake Penrod. "There’s a million things I want to say, but there’s no tribute I can offer that truly says what this man meant to me," Penrod said Monday. "I wanted to be poetic, say something profound and touching, but all I can do is wipe my eyes and fight down this lump in my throat. He was- IS my hero. Every time I saw him he’d give me a great big bear hug and frequently had a joke or funny story to tell, and never failed to say, 'love ya, buddy.' He wore his heart on his sleeve, and you could hear it break every time he opened his mouth to sing. This world, my world, the Honky Tonk music world will never, ever be the same. Rest In Peace, Slim. Love ya buddy!" In February, Hand brought Penrod on-stage from the crowd during what would end up being one of his last shows at Ginny's Little Longhorn Saloon in Austin, where Hand was a regular.

"If you look someone in the eye, you can tell if they understand it or not," Hand said about playing to more intimate honky-tonk crowds and dance halls. "I've never seen a different language when it comes to laughter, or music, or crying." Hand was also a favorite at Austin staples like the Continental Club, the Saxon Pub, and the Broken Spoke where he was one of owners James and Annetta White's prized performers. "He used to tell James White, 'James, if you wanted me to come over at two in the morning to mow your lawn, I would do it,'" according to a post about Hand's death on the Broken Spoke's Facebook page. "He was always so grateful to anyone that would let him get up on the stage and do what he loved. We will truly miss him so very much. There will never be another James Hand. And now he's up in Honky Tonk Heaven and I'm sure he's thanking all of them up there for welcoming him in." Although he preferred fame in the form of regular Sunday gigs at Ginny's serenading the hundreds who come every week to play 'Chicken S**t Bingo', Hand's music was enjoyed by millions who didn't even realize it. Hand's song "Here Lies a Good Old Boy" was featured on season 4 of AMC's Breaking Bad, and more recently, he had two songs, "In the Corner, At the Table, By the Jukebox" and "Baby, Baby, Don't Tell Me That" in the 2019 Netflix film Between Two Ferns: The Movie starring Zach Galifianakis, and the 2015 movie Mississippi Grind featured Hand's song "Floor To Crawl." "It's very humbling, just like being here is very humbling," Hand said during a live interview with KWTX in Dec. 2019. "I don't take this very lightly, it means a lot to me." While many felt Hand was under appreciated and should have--and could have--been as famous as his friends including Nelson, with whom he opened for several times in 2005 and played at Nelson's 2006 Fourth of July Picnic in addition to a fundraiser Nelson hosted for the Hill County Courthouse which burned down in 1993. Nelson grew up in Abbott, the next town over from Hand who graduated from West High School and continued to live in the community of Tokio until his death. As a teen, Hand was offered a record deal after winning a state talent competition in 1969, however, his grandparents made him turn it down because they said he was too young to go out on his own. "It never was a blinding ambition, it just happened," Hand said of his musical talent. "I just started playing the guitar a little bit and it just went on from there." After high school, Hand made an attempt to get the deal back but was told it was 'too little too late' and, as a result, entered the workforce. At one time, Hand was in the rodeo and also worked as a trucker and a bouncer before making another go at music. After the release of Hand’s first album, “Shadows Where the Magic Was" in 1999, Hand went on to produce five additional albums, the most recent of which, “Stormclouds in Heaven,” was released in 2015. Some say Hand is one of America's best-kept, secret musical treasures. It was difficult for many of Hand's closest friends to find the words to say goodbye Monday, so they looked to Hand's many lessons and adages ("I got a million of 'em" he was known to say) for guidance and comfort. "He would often say to me, 'always tell your loved ones that you love them,'" said Michael Weinberger, one of Hand's best friends. "'You never know when it will be the last time.'" No one knew March 15 would be the last time Hand would perform on-stage, including his 'pal' Jason Ballew, who regularly accompanied Hand to his shows.

"James once asked me if I thought there was such a thing as an 'honorable outlaw'--I paused and said I didn't think so, but he asked 'well, do you believe there are bad cops?' I saw his point," said Ballew, a local DPS State Trooper. "From that moment on we became very good friends, but one time I referred to him as a friend and he quickly corrected me and said 'let me tell you something, we're not close friends, we're pals, and pals are closer than friends, so don't ever call me a friend again, from now on it's pal.'" "So to honor my very close friend, I must stand corrected: Rest in peace, love you forever, pal," said Ballew. Hand, who had a colorful past with the law and addiction, ended up having many friends in law enforcement later in life including the chief of police in the town where he grew up. “My heart is heavy at the news of his passing,” West Police Chief Darryl Barton said in a Facebook post Monday. “There is a new angel in heaven today that will certainly stand out from the rest. I will miss 'Slim' and wish I could hear him play one last time, maybe I will,” Barton said. One of Hand's last times playing was for children at Valley Mills Elementary School--he sang and read books for the kids during a Dr. Seuss Day celebration in early March. "We are so sorry to hear of the passing of Mr. Hand and we are thankful and blessed he was able to visit our campus," Principal Chris Dowdy said Monday. "We will keep his family in our thoughts and prayers." Perhaps Hand's final public performance was for "Gordon Collier and Friends, Stronger Together", a KWTX Food For Families concert event, on May 16. With the help of local musicians like Hand and Billy Joe Shaver, around $125,000 was raised for Central Texas food pantries during the COVID-19 pandemic. "James Hand was real," said Shaver. "God be with him." Hand's funeral service will be held 11:00 a.m. Friday, June 12 at St. Mary's Catholic Church of the Assumption in West (masks, social distancing and 50% occupancy are mandatory) with burial to follow at White Rock Cemetery in Ross. The family will receive visitors from 2-8 p.m. Thursday at Aderhold Funeral Home in West.

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James Hand  - Stormclouds in Heaven

After two years from the release of the critically acclaimed album, MIGHTY LONESOME MAN, Slim Hand Music is proud to announce the newest gospel-inspired album release from James Hand, titled STORMCLOUDS IN HEAVEN.

STORMCLOUDS IN HEAVEN, is a 14 song album of all originals gospel tunes, written by James, and is the culmination of heart-felt songs about praise, devotion, emotion and patriotism. Dedicated to long time guitarist Will Indian, this album was surely a work inspired from above.

Recorded in Austin, TX, and produced by long-time manager, Deb Perry, this album has truly been an endeavor pulled off by a handful of James' devoted friends and musicians. James Hand continues to please audiences in this new release with the help of local Austin notables like Cindy Cashdollar on steel/dobro, Floyd Domino and Earl Poole Ball on the ivories, Jason Roberts and Beth Chrisman on some Texas twin fiddles, Kevin Smith on stand-up bass, Speedy Sparks on electric bass, John McGlothlin, and Lisa Pankratz on drums, and Brennen Leigh on her amazing mandolin. Adding a new player, Jerry Mack Cook on lead guitar, brought this album together with a great country/bluegrass sound that emulates James' great style of music.

If you're tired of the slickness of modern Nashville, do yourself a favor and buy the new CD by James Hand titled Stormclouds in Heaven, This album entwines the great southern gospel genre with a country bluegrass flavor, giving the listener toe tapping enjoyment they will love to hear in songs like WHY OH WHY and DEVIL AIN'T NO QUITTER, and counter balancing it all with the soul touching emotion on tunes like BABY'S PROMISE and NO ONE EVER DIES. Stormclouds in Heaven, the highly anticipated 6th nationally and internationally released album by James Hand, is sure to please a wide range of listening audiences.

Stormclouds In Heaven debuts Oct 14th of this year, with a single digital release of WHY OH WHY on September 14th. How can you help spread the word and enjoy this much anticipated release? All you have to do is buy an advance copy HERE and you'll actually get it before it's even available for purchase!!! How's that for a bargain?! If you're a collector of vinyl, we're offering the limited edition (250) first-pressing w/ alternate cover and artwork on a first-come first-served basis via this campaign, and for the first 250 people who order the CD, you'll get 2 additional bonus tracks included as well!!!. And for those die-hard James Hand fans, we have the limited edition collector's package which includes many bonus items that you won't want to miss!!! RESERVE YOUR COPY TODAY!!!!!!!

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