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December 3, 2022

Vale Delta Jim, beloved Byron Bay busker

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Delta Jim, beloved Byron Bay blues busker, died 20.12.21. PIC: Maximus Domulous

Well known and loved Byron Bay busker Jim Holt, also known as Delta Jim, died of a heart attack en route to hospital on Monday 20 December.

Delta Jim, so named for his proficiency in blues music, could almost always be found bringing it live to the people of Byron as they carried out an otherwise rather dull duty: supermarket shopping.

Whether residents or visitors, shoppers coming and fro-ing from the old Woolworths supermarket on Jonson Street, then the Aldi store on Byron Street, the Mercato building, and finally the Aldi store again, could nearly always expect to be greeted outside the doors by the sounds of Delta Jim’s steel guitar, harmonica and gravelly vocals.

The Irish-born street musician played well-known American blues covers, the odd Australian ballad and occasional original.

Perhaps the most poignant of his compositions was a song describing his lot as a busker in Byron Bay.

Unlike many of his contemporaries in the tourist town, Delta Jim didn’t just perform on the streets, he lived on them.

I’m a hard working busker baby, down in Byron Bay
Just a hard workin’ busker, down here in Byron Bay
Gotta get my money,
Gotta make it pay
 
Well I’m singin’ my soul out, every day on the street
Singin’ my soul out, every day on the street
Just for a place to stay and enough to eat
 
I’ve got a hard shootin’ pistol, it’s called forty-five
Got a hard shootin’ pistol, it’s called a forty-five
I’ve got a steel guitar, keep a man alive
 
Every day I’m on the frontline, trying to make a buck
Every day I’m on the frontline, trying to make a buck
I’m livin’ on the edge, just to make my buck
 
Well, livin’ here ain’t easy, living here ain’t free
Yeah living here ain’t easy baby, it ain’t free
down in Babylon Bay, right by the sea
 
Well the women dig my music, I play it every day
Yeah the women dig my music, I play it every day
Just trying to make a living, down here in Byron Bay
 
When I play that boogie rhythm, folks start tappin’ their feet
When I play that boogie rhythm, folks start tappin’ their feet
Start movin’ and grooving, dancing down the street

I’m just singin’ the blues, down here in Byron Bay….

Delta Jim could almost always be found busking outside one of Byron Bay’s major supermarkets. PIC: David Reid

Delta Jim ‘washed up in Australia with not many friends’, says charity worker

As a member of Byron’s rapidly expanding insecurely housed community, Delta Jim was a regular visitor to the free, or by-donation, Liberation Larder meals hosted in the Byron Bay Community Centre.

Liberation Larder President Liz Jackson shared some of what she knew about Delta Jim with Bay FM Community Radio’s Community Newsroomon Christmas Eve, four days after the beloved local died.

‘He found himself here washed up in Australia, with not many friends, no income, and nowhere to live,’ Ms Jackson said.

‘It’s been only in the last short time that he’s found a bit of shelter out in the industrial estate,’ Ms Jackson continued, ‘and one of the very kind shopkeepers out there has allowed him to sleep under an awning at the back of his shop’.

Ms Jackson said Delta Jim’s housing situation sounded terrible, but ‘at least he had a roof over his head’.

She said the shopkeeper found Delta Jim ‘in distress’ on the evening of Monday 20 December and called the ambulance but unfortunately, Delta Jim didn’t survive.

‘As far as we know, he has no family or friends in Australia,’ Ms Jackson said, ‘he’s probably got friends, but definitely no family’.

Ms Jackson said she’d learned since Delta Jim’s death that he had an estranged twin in the UK.

Delta Jim leaves his street stage for what was to be the last time in this still from a video. PIC supplied.

Byron community pays respect to Delta Jim

Byron Bay’s Aldi has provided an opportunity for members of the community to pay their respects to Delta Jim via a memorial where the busker used to play outside the carpark elevator.

‘I think he really his presence will be missed within our community because he was one of the colourful characters that make up the rich tapestry of our amazing community,’ Ms Jackson said.

Scores of heartfelt comments remembering Delta Jim have also been shared in the public Byron Bay Community Board Facebook group – try searching for Delta Jim within the group to see.

Fellow Byron busker David Reid, who also goes by the name Busker Dave, told The Echo he hadn’t been able to perform since Delta Jim’s death.

‘Jim gave his life for our community,’ Mr Reid said, ‘all he wanted was to make the world smile’.

‘We’ve lost an icon, some of us have lost a friend,’ Mr Reid said.

‘One only has to stand near the busking memorials to realise how much impact he has made.’

Mr Reid said local children were impacted the most by Delta Jim’s death as they would ‘only know’ Byron’s Aldi with Delta Jim out the front.

Delta Jim, citizen journalist

Delta Jim contributed in ways besides music to the Byron community.

The septuagenarianwas also a member of Bay FM’s Community Newsroom.

‘Jim shared a report on the power of the Big Four tech companies a couple of years ago that I helped him produce and he also shared insight into the plight of Byron’s buskers a few times,’ CN producer Mia Armitage* said.

‘He always wanted to produce more work and would enthusiastically share his ideas with me every time I did my grocery shopping at Aldi in Byron,’ she said.

‘We chatted about all the big things happening in the world and he listened to our show every week,’ Ms Armitage said, ‘he was constantly encouraging’.

But Ms Armitage also said Delta Jim was ‘severely challenged’ in his capacity to produce work owing to his ‘precarious’ housing situation.

‘Liz and his “landlord” joke that he always promised to start paying rent once he received his pension, the joke being they didn’t know until his death that he was well past the eligible age for receiving the pension,’ Ms Armitage said.

The Bay FM presenter said Delta Jim had a significant impact on her connection to Byron and its people but that she was indebted to industry mentor and former Byron Bay journalist Jim Beatson for the introduction.

Mr Beatson said he first got to know Delta Jim when he was busking outside Woolworths.

‘When I explained to Jim I had once worked for The Guardian, he explained in a lot of detail the ownership structure with a non-profit that owns The Guardian,’ Mr Beatson said.

‘He knew a lot more about its ownership than I did,’ Mr Beatson said.

‘Then I discovered that he followed the machinations of the big tech giants very closely and was happy to be interviewed about latest goings on in that area, which I followed up with interviews on several occasions for Community Newsroom.’

* Mia Armitage also works for The Echo and contributed to this story.


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4 COMMENTS

  1. He had an ex-wife in Sydney we’re trying to contact. He was still friends with her. He also used to be a web coder. During lockdowns last year he got a web coding job. He was actually so smart and gifted. Don’t buy into the lone busker thing. He had a lot of actual friends. Like myself and Maximus. Great article. Great written article and a fine tribute to a man who impacted me and our whole community.

  2. He was also a master potter, studied in Japan. His work was so beautiful, I met him at Bangalow market over 25 years ago and still have some of his pieces.

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