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Jammin’ with Jim

He may be a businessman and former teacher, but Jim Gavin lets loose on the local karaoke scene

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Posted: Friday, February 3, 2012 7:42 am

With green lights twinkling on his face, Jammin’ Jim Gavin slips on a pair of sunglasses before grabbing a blow-up guitar and jumping to his feet to rock out to “Inside Out” by Eve 6.

This is how the local DJ spends most of his weeknights — air guitaring to top-charting tunes with locals who like to head out and let loose on karaoke nights at restaurants and bars such as Cactus Mexican Restaurant in Woodbridge or Garry’s Lounge in Lodi.

Be it Rolling Stones, the Eagles or even Beyonce, Gavin will sing along to almost anything — or let those who are brave enough to step up to the mike do the same.

But Gavin, a born-and-bred Lodi resident, is not like most other DJs.

The son of a retired attorney and a retired high school teacher, Gavin is a former elementary school teacher who likes to use words like “predilection” and will only drink water or cranberry juice while on the job — something he picked up from his mother.

And during the day, Gavin is doing anything but resting up after a late night on the job.

Gavin is also a real estate guru and a handyman. He spends a majority of his days scouring the internet for what he calls “value” and from doing work on his home in Galt — from digging ditches to piping or staging his living room with furniture he found at a bargain.

He picked up his love of real estate from his college years.

“I love my job, I love the people,” Gavin said. “And during the day, I get to have time to do the other things that I love. I really have a great life.”

An eye for a sale

Gavin has five Dell computers set up in his home office in Galt. All display various real estate sites that track the market in and around the San Joaquin County area.

All five are booted up right around 9 a.m. when Gavin wakes up after getting five or six hours of sleep. He said he tends to munch on whatever he picked up at a drive-thru on his way home from work earlier that morning, a habit he admits he is working to kick.

Despite being out late, Gavin calls himself a morning person. He likes to get up and get out right when the stores open.

And with all computers ready to go, Gavin switches on a television or two and begins his search.

He is looking for “value,” or homes that are priced lower but are in truth worth much more.

It is a great time to buy, Gavin said, and his eyes gleam with excitement as he begins to detail how he came across his sprawling two-story home on the east side of Galt in a neighborhood he likes to call “Galt’s hidden gem.”

Gavin knows a good value when he sees it. He points to an armoire in his front hall that is various shades or rich browns and blacks — he got it for a fraction of the thousands of dollars it would have cost if he had bought it from a store. Instead, he found it at a moving sale.

Gavin can point out almost anything in his home that he got for a reduced price. Be it a desk, a bed frame or even a refrigerator he picked up at a garage sale on Saturday, Gavin seems to have an uncanny eye for a sale.

And for numerous hours of the day, this is how Gavin spends his time, checking out properties, furniture and other sales that pique his interest.

He was raised to be practical in his purchases, thanks to his parents. A strong sense of wise-spending was engrained in Gavin by his parents as he grew up.

“A penny was never wasted,” he said. “Honestly, I got lucky when the stork dropped me on their doorstep.”

And while Gavin has moved all over the place, from Elk Grove to Granite Bay, Gavin said he prefers living close to his roots.

He knows the area well, he knows the homes and the people, and for him, it is comforting to have such an awareness and knowledge of the area he likes to scope when it comes to real estate.

When things get slow or he needs a change of scenery, he grabs a shovel, a wrench or a screwdriver and heads out to the backyard, where he is currently working on a piping system.

A lot of dirt now, Gavin said in no time the backyard will be green and trimmed just like the front of his home. It is just that his late-night and weekend gigs have been so frequent, he has not had the time he would like to devote to renovating his home the way he would like.

“You see that backyard behind my fence?” he said as he pointed through his window. “That landscaping, with the artificial turf and then the smaller trees and bushes? Doesn’t take much to keep it looking pristine. That’s what I’d like to do here.”

Gavin could talk about home value and home design and home decor all day if he had the chance, but once the sun goes down, he slips into a nice pair of slacks and a button-down shirt. He slicks his hair back too.

He grabs a handful of purple and yellow pens and shoves them into his breast pocket. He picks up a laptop that contains thousands of songs. He hops into his yellow Mustang, and jets off.

It’s karaoke time.

A community of karaoke

It was early at Cactus Mexican Restaurant in Woodbridge. At 10 p.m., people were just starting to show up and settle in for a night of singing and maybe even some dancing.

Gavin, set up on a balcony overlooking the bar, took a sip from his water bottle before grinning and asking the crowd if they minded a little music.

The twang of a guitar suddenly came on, and Gavin started belting out “Take It Easy” by The Eagles.

Sounding much like the band’s lead singer Glenn Frey, Gavin quickly caught the attention of many in the room, and within seconds karaoke regulars were down on the balcony with Gavin, signing up to sing the next song.

“I honestly don’t know how he does it,” said Efrain Gomez, whose parents own the restaurant. “He has them going every time. I couldn’t do it.”

Whether it is a country croon or a sweet serenade, Gavin’s infinite selection of music has a little something for everyone. And between his unstoppable energy and what has become a faithful following of fans, Gavin has created what Gomez dubbed a “community of karaoke.”

Gavin, who fell into DJing after he left teaching roughly a decade ago, said what started out as a fun idea has turned in a lucrative — and fun — business.

He started out filling in for a DJ at a bar in Rio Vista where Gavin and his friends would occasionally go, and even though he never expected to get paid,  when the bar owner handed him his intake for the night, Gavin said he was shocked at how profitable being a DJ could be.

From there, Gavin began working and filling in at other local restaurants and bars, and word began to spread of Gavin’s DJing talents. Soon he was doing parties and then weddings, and eventually, local restaurants began hiring him on for routine karaoke nights.

Now, Gavin has a set schedule from Sunday through Thursday where he sets up at various bars and restaurants in Lodi and in Stockton. Then, without missing a beat, he  will usually provide the musical accompaniment for weddings and parties on Friday and Saturday.

Rich Hague, who by day works as an engineer in Stockton, said he had Gavin to thank for getting him to come out and sing at Cactus every week.

“Jim will typically just pick me a song and stand me next to the microphone and let me go,” he said. “I have been coming here for a year and a half. And thanks to Jim, he got me to work up the nerve to sing, which I love to do. He’s a fun DJ and ... a great guy.”

Mike Simas, a bartender at Garry’s Lounge on South School Street, said Gavin’s professionalism and his extensive variety of music are not only what keep people coming back every week, but also what makes people like coming out to karaoke in the first place.

Simas said Gavin’s variety of ’70s, ’80s ’90s and new-wave music means there is a song sampling for just about anyone and that even if things start to take a slow turn, Gavin’s personality keeps things going.

“He will suddenly pull out what he calls the air guitar — a blow-up plastic guitar — and pretend to shred it like David Lee Roth,” he said.

Simas said it is apparent that Gavin not only loves the karaoking, but the people who come out to sing just as much as the next person.

“They are all such a great group of people,” Gavin said ,as he turned around to help Mark Mason of Tower Park with his music selection. “I love getting to see not only new faces, but the same faces every week. They are all a blast.”

Gavin then turned back around and began pretending to play drums while Mason sang along to “A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation)” by Marty Roberts.

No question, Jim Gavin loves to jam.

Contact reporter Katie Nelson at katien@lodinews.com.

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