Jimmy Jausoro

Jim was the primary Basque musician in Idaho and an important musician for Basque social gatherings in Nevada and Oregon.  He contributed to the preservation and enhancement of Basque music and dance for over 50 years with the self-less sharing of his time and talent.  

Born in Nampa, Idaho on December 30, 1920 to Tomas Jausoro and Tomasa Mallea, Jim’s family ran the Spanish Hotel, one of two boarding houses operating in Nampa at that time. He remembers the Basque sheepherders who spent their free time at the boarding house. He listened to the herders play music and this inspired him to pursue his own musical ability. Jim began playing the button accordion, by ear, in 1929 at the age of 8, using the accordions left at the boardinghouses by borders who would be in the hills as herders for months at a time.

Jimmy at 15 years of age.

In 1935, at the age of 15, Jim pooled the money he had saved from selling newspapers and from a jackpot win on a slot machine and bought his first piano accordion. That same year Jim won an amateur contest held at the Adelaide Theatre.  It was sponsored by the local newspaper, the Idaho Free Press and Lloyd’s Lumber Company in Nampa. The grand prize was an all-expense paid trip to Portland, OR and the opportunity to play in a national radio program over Station KWG, one of the largest in the Pacific Northwest. According to a Portland, OR newspaper clipping; “Shy, small, Jimmy Jausoro, 15 year old amateur contest winner, had his ‘big moment’ on the air, was interviewed and got a chance to play his accordion, an accordion almost as big as himself, and an accordion that he has worked months selling newspapers for the Boise Capital News to buy.He said he was a little scared, but he liked it.”

From the very beginning, Jim had a real gift for learning music by ear. At first he listened to the sheepherders and the tunes they played. Later he listened to the jukebox at the hotel and songs from Mexican records that the family bought downtown. He learned several melodies from listening to his mother, the herders and other boarders from the hotel sing these and other Basque songs. “We had no music written. I had no access to it. Nothing in ’40, when we started in ’60; prior to ’60, nothing.”

1940 Nov.ember 1 - Petra Uberuega, Jimmy Jausoro (Accordion), Louisa Astorica.

“In the early days, there was no (written) music. I just played what they told me and these guys would sing to me for our dances.” Soon he was playing at social events, boarding houses, pool halls, and a variety of other places. He learned on his own and by playing music with others, and his notoriety increased as a musician increased within the Basque community.  In 1942 Jim joined the US Navy where he was sent to the South Pacific to serve on a destroyer and protect merchant ships.  He retired from the Navy in 1946, and returned to Nampa, where he worked for the Union Pacific Railroad until his retirement in 1981.  He married Isabel Larrondo in 1953 and together they raised two daughters.

In 1946, after returning from the Navy, he began playing for children’s dance practices with Juanita Uberuaga Hormaechea as a dancing teacher. This first dance teaching group for Basque children was the seed for the later formation of the Oinkari Basque Dancers. He eventually played from the formation of this children’s group in 1946 until his death in 2004.

Jim was one of the main accordion players for the musical productions of “Song of the Basque” in 1949 and in 1950, with other Basque accordionists Domingo Ansotegui, Angela Bicandi, and Josephine Murelaga. One of the final performances of the show was an accordion solo by Jimmy.

Jimmy playing in a Basque picnic with Joe Anacabe and Joe Ansotegui.

Throughout his youth, military, and professional life, Jim continued to play the music he loved.  He formed the Jim Jausoro Orchestra with some friends in 1957, building lifelong friendships with these other musicians like Domingo Ansotegui, Dick Lenhardtand Johnny Arregui. The Jim Jausoro Orchestra was recognized as being one of the main Basque bands for social events over the course of three decades throughout Idaho, Nevada, and Oregon.  

About 1950 Jim met Kelland Clark who was giving accordion lessons to Josephine Murelaga in Boise, Idaho at the time. Kelland also gave lessons to other young Basques in the area.  A strong friendship soon developed between Kelland and Jimmy due to their mutual passion for music. This passion later enabled Jim to write the musical arrangements for the band he formed in 1957 and to write the music that the Oinkari Basque Dancers would need just three years later.

In 1960, a group of young Basques from Boise who had traveled to their homeland, met dancers there who taught them dances and then encouraged them to return home and form a group using the same name of Oinkari.  In an interview with Jim in 2000 he said, “When I got started, there was no written music to follow. When the Oinkari Basque Dancers got going in 1960, they’d hum the dances to me and I’d write down all of the dancers’ music by them humming it to me.”  Some of the music was written for dances choreographed for mixed participation in the 1960s and remains as trademarks of the group today.

1966 - St. Highway Harvest Dance Perform.

The first performance by the Oinkaris was at the Christmas Sheepherders Ball of 1960, with Jimmy Jausoro and Domingo Ansotegui as musicians.  Sabin Landaluce joined them with the txistu and he traveled with the dancers for the Seattle World’s Fair Exposition in 1962. In 1964 the Oinkaris traveled to the New York World’s Fair to represent the State of Idaho and would be accompanied by Jimmy, Domingo and a New Jersey Basque txistulari, Luis Amnesti.

In 1962 Jim took part in the recording of “Greta, the Misfit Greyhound,” a Walt Disney production which was released in 1963, with other Basque protagonists and musicians, Juan Chacartegui “Tacolo”and Joe Sangroniz. In 1972 he was the primary accordionist for the Holiday Basque Festival and recorded an album with Louis Michel Irigaray in 1973. Jimmy took part in the 1987, 1990, 1995 and 2000 Jaialdi: International Basque  Cultural Festivals.

In 1980 he began playing with the newly formed dance group, Caldwell Euzko Dantzariak, for practices and performances.  Jim played his final performance for them at Albertson College on November 10th 2004.  On Saturday November 13th, he played for his last Oinkari performance at the 90th birthday party of Anna Luque Schomburg in Nampa.  The next day, he played his final practice for the Oinkari Basque Dancers.  Jim made his last trip to Caldwell the following evening, and played his last practice for Euzko Dantzariak on Monday November 15th.   On Tuesday evening November 16th 2004, he completed his labors of love where it all started so many years before, with his final practice for the Boise’ko Gazteak Dancers, the children’s group, at the Basque Center in Boise.

As a Master in the Traditional Folk Arts Program for the Idaho Commission on the Arts, Jimmy taught his trademark piano accordion to four apprentices over the years.  He also taught at numerous music camps established to teach Basque children about their heritage.  He was an avid student, always trying to learn new music and practicing his skills on the accordion.  Not focusing solely on Basque music, Jim’s performances have led to cross-cultural and multi-ethnic events and members of the German, Italian, and Greek communities will remember his music at many of their activities.

Photo of Jimmy Jausoro playing for the Oinkaris signed by Frank Church.

Jim Jausoro’s performance highlights as the lead musician for the Oinkari Basque Dancers include:  Seattle World’s Fair (1962); New York World’s Fair (1964); National Folk Festival – Denver, CO (1966); Milwaukee Folk Fair (1966); Smithsonian Institute Folk Festival (1967); Montreal Expo (1970); Spokane Expo (1974); Wolf Trap Folk Festival – Washington, DC (1975); Bakersfield, CA, Elko, NV, Las Vegas, NV Basque Festivals (1970s-1990s); 25th Anniversary return to the Basque Country (1985); Washington, DC 4th of July Celebrations in 1994, 1996, 2000; Folk Festival – Bethel, Alaska (1997); Mar del Plata, Argentina (2002); and the 33rd Anniversary return to the Basque Country (2003); Washington, DC - where he played at the Library of Congress and on the Millennium Stage of the Kennedy Center to crowds who gave ovation after ovation of appreciative applause. (2004)

This list does not include the over 400 weddings at which Jimmy and/or his band played nor does it reflect the hundreds and hundreds of performances and practices at which Jimmy played for the dancers.  It would take pages to list the many summer and winter Basque dances where he could be found playing in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah.  Jimmy and the Oinkaris also performed for numerous annual events such as Music Week, Trailing of the Sheep, veterans’ reunions, government and private conferences, and for various tour groups.

Jim Jausoro’s Awards Include:

·         Euzkaldunak, Inc. Award for Appreciation of 25 years of Devotion to Children (1972)

·         North American Basque Organizations Award for Basque of the Year (1975)

·         Idaho State Folk Arts Award, Hailey, Idaho, by Gov. John V. Evans (1983)

·         National Heritage Award from the National Endowment on the Arts (1985)

·         Winnemucca Basque Organization Musician of the Year Award (1986)

·         Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts - Boise Idaho (1988)

·         Elko National Basque Festival Award - Elko Nevada - (1992)

·         Society of Basque Studies in America Hall of Fame Award (1994)

·         North American Basque Organizations Award for his Contribution to Basque Music (1994)

·         Governor’s Award for the Arts for Lifetime Achievement - Boise Idaho (2000)

Jim was a gentle man, a humble man, a family man of the highest character, a musician, a sports fan, and the most dedicated contributor to Basque culture that anyone would be able to describe.  When asked in a 2000 interview… “Why have you done this for so long?” he responded, “I want to keep the accordion alive and I continue to play for the dancers because I love it.  Our performances have taken us all over the country, including Alaska, and over to Europe.  I enjoy being with people and playing music and will continue to do so as long as I can.”

Jim Jausoro passed away on December 2 of 2004, at the age of 83. On that day, Idaho lost an ambassador and the Basque community lost one of its cornerstones.  Jim Jausoro continues to live on in the hearts of literally hundreds of young people who have danced to his music or learned from him and the influence he has left in Idaho and the many places he’s traveled.  His legacy is here, but he will never be able to be replaced.

1996 - Juan Zulaica and Jimmy.