Special award for late singer from Truro

‘There are still people around who remember James as Screaming Jay’

Published on March 25, 2013
James Paris

For Arlene Paris, it was a night to remember.

She was attending the African Nova Scotia Music Association awards dinner in Halifax earlier this month where her late husband James was recognized with a lifetime achievement award.

“Being there and having James recognized was special,” Arlene said. “From a very early age, he spent his life close to music.

“The whole evening was very exciting. A number of family members were present, I talked with a lot of people who I hadn’t seen in a long time.”

James Paris was born in 1938 and grew up on West Prince Street in Truro. During his early schooling, one of his teachers, Miss (Jane) Norman, discovered his singing talent. He sang with a young people’s group at Zion Baptist Church before being drawn to a rock and roll band.

“James and his friends, Lane Francis, Austin Bigsby and Wayne Mills, formed Jay and the Novatones,” Arlene said. “They were the first integrated rock and roll band in Nova Scotia. They played at Royal Canadian Legion dances and at other halls around the area.”

Along the way, James became known as ‘Screaming Jay.’

“It was from his high-pitch voice,” said Arlene. “That’s what many people knew him by. There are still people around who remember James as Screaming Jay.”

Arlene (nee Borden) grew up in New Glasgow and first met James through church youth groups.

“I attended Second Baptist Church in New Glasgow and James went to Zion Baptist Church in Truro,” she recalled. “We would have been girlfriend and boyfriend during the latter 1950s. James went on to do his thing with bands and I went in training at the Victoria General Hospital in Halifax. There was a period of 23 years that we did not see each other.”

That changed in 1983.

“You could say the rest is history,” Arlene said. “We were married in 1984.”

James’ music journey included many highlights, one of which occurred when he was in his early 20s and living in Montreal.

“James took part in an eight-week talent show put on by CKVL radio station,” Arlene said. “He advanced to be one of nine finalists. It will be 50 years ago next month that the final sing-off was held at the DVA Queen Mary’s Veterans Hospital.”

Arlene said James planned to sing ‘Oh Danny Boy’ but made a late decision to sing ‘The Lords Prayer.’ This did not sit well with the piano player.

“James told me the piano player did not want to play Christian music,” Arlene said. “James said, ‘That’s OK, I’ll sing a-cappella.’ He did and he finished first and won the big trophy.”

James later returned home where he sang with many groups including the Nova Scotia Mass Choir of Halifax, Gospel at Colinas put on by Neptune Theater, the popular local trio ‘The Lams Men’ with Mike Moore and Paul Ferguson as well as Zion Baptist Church and Truro Heights Baptist Church choirs.

“James sang in senior homes and at many funerals,” Arlene said. “People still come up to me and tell me James sang at their mother’s funeral.”

Arlene pinpointed two highlights her husband, who loved singing gospel music, held dearly.

“James made a tape of gospel music entitled ‘Oh What A Saviour’ and a CD entitled ‘Feed My Sheep,’ ” Arlene said. “Both were especially satisfying to James.”

After recovering from throat surgery, James fought cancer for a second time in 2011 and died in June of the same year at age 73.


TAGLINE: Lyle Carter’s column appears every Tuesday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a column idea, contact him at 673-2857.