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A Guest at the Table: Jim Shelly

 “A Guest at the Table” is a synopsis of a previously aired and particularly interesting interview on my No-Nonsense Roundtable radio show, which plays at 10 a.m. Saturdays on NewsRadio WHAM-1180.


After broadcast, all shows can be heard as podcasts at www.nononsenseroundtable.com. The link for this particular show and a QR code are at the bottom of this article. 


Jim Shelly

I was introduced to Jim Shelly by a mutual friend, who told me “You’ve never been to Jim’s place, he has a blues stage. You are going to be amazed.”


Since then, I’ve become a raving fan of “his place,” Fanatics Pub in Lima. Many of the acts he attracts are world-renown. Want an example? In January he hosted two shows with Bobby Rush, three time Grammy award-winning blues musician. He rocked the house.


So let me tell you a little about Jim’s journey:


Jim played baseball, soccer, golf, bowling and tennis in high school and dreamed of making it big.


Jim bowled professionally for a bit, worked in a factory and had a stint in insurance. He ended up doing something he hadn’t imagined.


Jim bought a string of pizza shops, ultimately getting a place in Lima on Routes 5 and 20 at the intersection of 15A. He retooled the building and renamed it Fanatics Pub (www.facebook.com/fanaticspubandpizza/).


But I didn’t have him on the show to talk pizza and wings.


Jim turned Fanatics Pub into a great little blues bar that attracts national acts. He’s hosted Grammy Award winners such as Paul Nelson and nominees such as Sid Wilson and Shemekia Copeland.


“Red Creek was my favorite place to hang out when I was younger,” he said. “I used to go twice a week. I really enjoyed that place and I feel like I’ve morphed into something similar for a lot of people. I get excited on the days we have a new artist coming in.”


When did you come up with the idea of turning Fanatics Pub into a music venue?


I fell into it. I was at an Amerks game and we walked past the Dinosaur BBQ on the way back to our car, so one guy suggested we get a drink. This blues guy Johnny Rawls from Southern Mississippi was playing and I couldn't believe it. It wasn't my genre at that time -- I was listening to progressive rock and a lot of alternative music. But I just fell in love with Johnny Rawls’ blues. I got his card and I called him. It was a tough conversation. I talk a little fast for some people, and he's from Southern Mississippi, so after about 15 minutes we worked out that next time he was in Rochester, he would play my place the night before the Dinosaur. It packed the place and six months later we did it again.


I started getting calls from different artists’ agencies from around the country. I didn't really know who the people were there they were asking me to have. I would ask my customers who were big followers of the blues and they would tell me if you can get so-and-so, get them. It started with one show a month and now it’s 10 to 12 shows a month.


We get artists who are traveling between Cleveland and New York City and they want to play on a Monday or a Tuesday. Not too many places offer that.


You said you’ve become friends with many of the musicians. How do you build that relationship?


Right before COVID, we transformed the upstairs into an apartment for the bands. Sometimes the bands will come in a day early and hang out. It's a good chance to get to know them. They really appreciate it.


It’s helped me get bigger names. I’ve had Quinn Sullivan, who's very popular and he hasn't played in the Rochester area since he played the Lilac Festival before the pandemic. Shemekia Copeland will be coming in for two nights. The Fabulous Thunderbirds play three nights when they come.


Johnny Rawls is legendary and he loves it here. Kim Wilson is a super nice guy. I was a little intimidated when he was first coming here because I had paid to see him in large places over the years. He was just a super gentleman.


It's almost like a little family. They tell me that we're one of the favorite places to play because we take such good care of them. We appreciate the fact that they actually come to play my little place which I would never have believed.


You’ve become a blues fan, haven’t you?


People don't realize that they're listening to blues when they're listening to The Rolling Stones or Chris Stapleton.  They don't realize the blues started all the American music and the British music. When they come to see it, they're like wow. I was the same way because I was listening to progressive rock and alternative rock and not realizing that a lot of that stuff was all intertwined.


What was the toughest thing about turning Fanatics into a music venue?


I had to educate myself on how to run a music venue. When we first started, the guys would bring their own sound system in. Then I went out and invested in a sound system and I eventually learned how to use it myself because I hate not knowing everything that goes on.

What’s the most fun?


Seeing people enjoy themselves. When they leave the show, they're thanking me. I have a place where they can go and feel safe. There’s plenty of parking. I’ve had people bring campers and hang out with us for the weekend. I’m 62 and I'm finally doing something I love.




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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