The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday June 6th

Jim Crisp keeps the Franklin Hotel swinging at age 83

Jim Crisp keeps the Franklin Hotel swinging

At 83 years old, Jim Crisp still has the music in him.

Every Wednesday night, the sounds of piano keys wander down West Franklin Street as Crisp plays at the Franklin Hotel.

A retired insurance and real estate agent, Crisp always has a smile on his face as he plays and laughs alongside two close friends.

“Music has definitely been a reason why I have stayed so healthy,” Crisp said. “You know how the obituaries always say ‘died of natural causes?’ Well I stay away from natural causes.

“But I also laugh a lot. People who laugh live longer. I’m glad I am still here to laugh.”

Crisp was pushed into music by his mother at age 14 and fell in love with it soon after. He graduated from UNC in 1955 with a bachelor’s degree in education and a minor in music.

“When I told my father I wanted to study music, he didn’t understand there was more to music than hymns,” Crisp said.

Crisp played in a jazz band in Korea while he served in the Korean War.

His band was named for victory: “Three Dots and a Dash,” the Morse code symbol for “V.”

“Playing in the band was better than being on the front lines,” Crisp said.

Current bandmate and Chapel Hill native James “Bubba” Norwood has known Crisp for seven years and has been a drummer for 40 years.

“He can change the mood in a sad room real quick. Jim is completely positive,” Norwood said.

The Franklin Hotel has been Crisp’s musical home for the last four years. There, he plays with his band — the Jim Crisp Trio.

“I like the trio. It’s good entertainment, and Jim is so fun. He is always smiling,” bar manager Bryan Plummer said.

Musician Gypsy Owl occasionally plays the flute with the trio on Wednesdays. She said Crisp’s style represents a tradition in jazz.

“His quality is on par with the New York jazz scene,” Owl said. “His style is a fusion of jazz, hard bop and modern chromatic harmony.

“Honestly he is intimidating to play with; he has so much going on.”

Crisp has played alongside famous musician Bob Hope in Raleigh for the Miss North Carolina pageant as well as many local jazz bands.

He said his favorite song to play is “That’s All” by Nat King Cole.

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