|James McCandless was born James Edward Taylor in Hanford, Washington on August 11, 1944. His parents were defense workers during World War II. His father, Bill Taylor, was an electrical engineer/foreman on the Atomic Bomb Project (the Manhattan Project) in Hanford where the Nagasaki bomb that ended the War was built. The Project was kept totally secret from the construction workers. Bill, in a fit of patriotism, quit the Defense and was immediately drafted into the Army despite being 27 years old and married with two children. He went into training for the Japanese invasion but was saved from certain death by the dropping of the bomb. Jim's mother Marjorie (nee McCandless) moved Jimmy and Billy, her two children, back to her hometown of Lewistown, Montana while father Bill served two more Army years in Korea. The family then moved to Chicago, Illinois where Mr. Taylor secured work as an electrician and eventually became plant engineer for Popular Mechanics Magazine, the most important publication of its kind in the United States. It was universally regarded as the National Geographic of science magazines. Kidney disease, which had run rampant in his family for 100 years, claimed Bill's life when he was only 53. Marge Taylor was a major influence on the two boys. She was extremely intelligent, well-read and very active in the local church in Edison Park on the Northwest fringe of Chicago. She passed away, tragically, from Alzheimer's disease in 1993.
James served a 4-year apprenticeship in the electrical trade after graduating from Taft High School in 1962. Dissatisfied with the trade, he refined his lifelong interest in music, having taught himself guitar and percussion. In 1970 he adopted his mother's maiden name, thereafter being known as James McCandless, and dove headlong into songwriting and performing. His first professional job was at The River Shannon, a Chicago tavern, where he alternated on Tuesday nights with well-known piano lounge entertainer Sykes Williams. James studied classic guitar for 5 years with Segovia-trained Paul Ostrov, and afterward began a 22-year career as a guitar teacher. He taught guitar to children at The Old Town School of Folk Music from 1980 to 1989 and then independently in Evanston, Illinois from 1995 to 2007. During that time he began recording his original songs on his own label, St. Christopher. To date he has recorded 8 albums: Faultline (1985), We Had A Big Back Yard (1989), Out West Somewhere (1991), Sea Of Freedom (1993 ),Gan Ainm (1999), (Splash Of Red) 2001, Calamity James (2008) and One (2010). He has also appeared on compilation discs for Waterbug Records and Big Chicago Records.
James McCandless performed in clubs and folk festivals from 1989 to 1996 with music partner, Julianne Macarus, a very popular, in-demand singer/songwriter/violin accompanist. Together they performed regularly at The Earl Of Old Town, Earl's Pub, The Abbey Pub, The Harp & Shamrock, The Cartoon Club, Holstein's, The No Exit Cafe, Martyrs, Fitzgerald's, and various Lake County clubs and libraries. Also the Fox Valley Folk Festival, The WFMT Folk Festival, The Two Way Street Coffeehouse, The Cafe Carpe, as well as radio appearances on WFMT's Studs Terkel Show, WBEZ and WDCB. They also performed at weddings, private parties and coffeehouses in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan and many other venues in the Midwest. Together they recorded 5 albums of original music.
In 1998 James played music with partners Gwen Sale, Martin Hayes, Larry Nugent and was also a member of an Irish traditional band named Gan Ainm that performed 170 shows all in the Chicago area. They played at The Art Institute, at outdoor areas in downtown Chicago, adjacent to The Lyric Opera and regularly at numerous Irish pubs including The Augenblick, McClanahan's, The Hidden Shamrock, The Irish-American Heritage Center, Old St. Patrick's Church and at numerous weddings and private parties on St. Patrick's Day. Recently James performed with the band Switchback at the 9th Annual Haybarn Rendezvous in Marquette, Iowa.
James McCandless' career was interrupted by the same disease that has always plagued his family, polycystic kidneys, which necessitated a transplant in 2000. The immunosupressent drugs caused James to contract diabetes, and the diabetes caused arterial blockage in his legs and heart. He underwent quadruple by-pass surgery in 2011, was forced to give up teaching, but continues to perform. Dee, his intelligent, strong wife has always been the key figure in his life. She worked for 35 years as an animal keeper and supervisor at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo. Dee has provided love and support since their union, which began in 1969 with a honeymoon at the original Woodstock Music & Arts Festival. They were hippies then and proudly carry that same peace & love attitude to this day. Jim and Dee have a powerful, never-ending love affair and nothing will stop them.