Jimmy LaFave was born in Wills Point, Texas, a small town 30 miles east of Dallas. He began school down the road in Mesquite and by Junior High was making music perched behind his Sears & Roebuck drum kit. It wasn't long before his mother traded a drawer full of green stamps for his first guitar and the switch to singer-songwriter was in progress. His family later moved to Stillwater, Oklahoma, where he finished High School. Although he has lived in Austin for the past 17 years, many people think of him as being from Oklahoma, because of his strong musical ties to the state and what he often refers to as his 'red dirt music'. It was in this landscape that he began to define his sound, which was in part, a combination of his experiences there among authentic songwriters from the tradition of Woody Guthrie. Here he did some independent recording and toured the southwest with the first version of his band, Night Tribe.
He moved to Austin in 1986, where he continued to write songs and to develop his musical ideas. Shortly after arriving he was asked to help launch the songwriter nights at a new performance venue, the Chicago House. In 1988 he recorded his self-produced tape, 'Highway Angels...Full moon Rain', which won the Austin Chronicle Reader's Poll 'Tape of the Year Award'. This led to a recording contract with a small independent label and allowed LaFave the opportunity to work with Bob Johnston, producer of several of LaFave's favorite albums including Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde and Nashville Skyline. Although these recordings were never released, by 1990 LaFave had put together an Austin version of Night Tribe and had become, according to the Austin American-Statesman, 'a perennial presence upon the Austin music scene'.
In 1992 Jimmy released a self-produced CD, Austin Skyline, which drew international attention to his songwriting and vocal talents, and led to a publishing agreement with Polygram Music. Due to his growing popularity and radio play on more than 200 stations Austin Skyline and its label, Bohemia Beat, received national distribution through the Rounder Record Group. His second album, Highway Trance was released in 1994 followed by his third CD, Buffalo Return to the Plains, in 1995.
The grass roots demand and critical acclaim for Jimmy's music, which led to extensive touring in the United States and Europe, was recognized in 1996 when he was asked to tape a performance of for the PBS musical series Austin City Limits, and was invited by Nora Guthrie to appear in Cleveland at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 'Tribute to Woody Guthrie'. And, in a town known for its songwriters, for the second consecutive year, The Austin Music Awards named LaFave 'Best Singer-Songwriter'.
His fourth CD, Road Novel, which was released in early 1997, received many glowing reviews. That year he was asked by Nora Guthrie to speak and perform at the induction lf Woody Guthrie into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. He traveled to Europe twice and also toured the USA and Canada.
In early 1988, he returned to Europe to tape the prestigious German television show Ohne Filter. That summer he was back in the USA and Canada touring and doing festivals and taped his third appearance for National Public Radio's Mountain Stage. Jimmy also organized a project dear to his heart. He produced and hosted a benefit for the American Indian College Fund. The show featured twenty of Austin's best singer-songwriters and was named by the Austin American-Statesman and Third Coast Music as one of the best concert events of the year.
In the fall of 1998 Jimmy and record label President, Mark Shumate, began compiling a 15 year retrospective of bootleg tapes, live performances, radio shows and studio out takes. LaFave kicked off 1999 with the release of the CD entitled Trail. The double CD contains 31 tracks recorded in Texas and around the world. Including 12 Dylan songs, it also answered the demand of fans for a 'LaFave does Dylan'CD. From the liner notes by Dave Marsh:
"Jimmy LaFave has one of America's greatest voices, and this album is the story of what he has learned to do with it. It's a unique instrument, sith startling range and its own peculiar sense of gravity, liable to swoop in and wreck your expectations at any instant."
In 2001, Jimmy released Texoma, a celebration of the Americana spirit with a heartfelt valentine to the heartland. KGSR Program Director, Jody Denberg called it a "phenomenon." Denberg said, " the phones lit up immediately after it was added to the playlist, and they stayed lit." Since the release of Texoma, Jimmy combined his solo dates with the Woody Guthrie tribute tour titled "The Ribbon of Highway - Endless Skyway."
March 8, 2005 marks the release of LaFave's latest CD, Blue Nightfall. This stunningly soulful album is LaFave's first in 4 years and his first on St. Paul, Minnesota based Red House Records. Jimmy will be touring heavily with his band throughout North America in support of Blue Nightfall and continues to perform on the tour titled Ribbon of Highway Endless Skyway ~ a Tribute in the Spirit of Woody Guthrie.