Eulogy to Jim Salestrom – SaxaVord’s greatest ambassador

The Spaceport journey has been, and continues to be, a rock n roll road trip with fun, banter, challenges, trials and tribulations. Tales of corrupt bankers and broken promises, heroic feats and rousing anthems.  But most of all, it is a story about people. Business is about people and it is about passion and caring, it is because we have a unique and talented band of brothers and sisters, who are passionate about what we do, and care about what we do, that we have managed to overcome the relentless challenges that seem to come our way on a weekly, if not daily basis. 

It is with an exceptionally heavy heart that I have to tell you that, completely unexpectedly, we have lost another of “our people” to that dreadful disease cancer. Jim Salestrom was more than an exceptionally gifted international award-winning singer songwriter. He was a world class guitarist with an incredible voice and wicked sense of humour; he was the most sensitive and caring of human beings, and with his wife Pam wandered the world creating magic wherever he went. Jim was passionate about doing good and cared about everyone he came across. He was also passionate about SaxaVord and cared deeply about the Spaceport, promoting us at any and every opportunity to his long list of friends and contacts around the globe. 

Born in Nebraska, Jim and his brothers formed what became a cult country rock band, Timberline, which enjoyed a lot of success before disco took over the airwaves. Jim was asked to join Dolly Parton’s Band and played guitar and sang with Dolly for many years. I was honoured to be awarded the dubious but prestigious “Bob” suffix to my name as Dolly referred to all her Band members as JimBob or TomBob …  and, as Jim’s friends became my friends, Jim always called me FrankBob! He eventually became a member of John Denver’s Band playing the world with legends like James Burton and Jim Horne, but continued to tour with Dolly and his closest friends and bandmates Richard Dennison and Tom Rutledge. Jim’s musical collaborations are too many to list, so I will not even try,  but my goodness, he had an eclectic mix from Rock to Country and Folk. 

Jim loved performing and singing; he was as happy playing in front of ½ million people in St Louis/ Melbourne or in the Royal Albert Hall, as on stage in the Baltasound Hall or SaxaVord in Unst, or equally in someone’s living room or kitchen. He played in schools for kids and in the White House for four US Presidents. Wherever JimBob was in the world, his guitar was never more than a few feet away from him. 

His friends included Presidents, Nobel Prize winners, famous musicians and singers, yet he treated everyone the same. Whoever you were you were special to JimBob and no one was more important than anyone else. Except Pam, James and Casey, his beautiful wife and children.  

A proud member of the Bohemian Grove, I will always remember the day I turned up in Monte Rio in California, supposedly to be met by Jim and escorted to my tent in the woods, only to be told that unfortunately he had been called away for a few hours and was going down the Russian River in a canoe.  A bit miffed, I headed off to meet my camp mates. What I had not been told, was that Jim’s canoe buddy was a certain President Bush and that the guitar was also in the canoe!  Thanks to Jim I was privileged to meet many who are described as legends in the arts, but more importantly to me, they were wonderful and nice people all cut from the same self-deprecating and grounded template as JimBob. 

Jim absolutely loved SaxaVord and Unst, and he could not wait to play at our first launch. He was desperate to get back to Shetland this year. Sadly events conspired against him visiting. Wherever he went he proudly boasted of his association with us and thanks to Jim’s advocacy we are known to his many friends from Stockholm to Rome, Nashville to San Francisco and Alaska to Kenya. 

Way back in time, in 1971 Don McLean wrote about the “day the music died” in his classic and timeless song American Pie. For several hours this past weekend, the music most definitely died for me as I came to terms with losing not just a very close and dear friend but a passionate advocate for all things SaxaVord Spaceport. Jim was a wandering troubadour who lit up lives wherever he passed, and he had the most incredible gift of making people happy even in their darkest hours. It is typical of Jim that he did not want even his closest friends to know how ill he was in case they thought he was “a sad sack”. 

It is also very typical of Jim that even although he was seriously and terminally ill, he formed an association with Mercy Chefs, a Florida-based charity that provides food for disaster hit regions around the world. Jim was keen to explore with me how we could tie in with Mercy Chefs and use satellite technology to help their endeavours. Jim would think nothing of jumping on a flight to anywhere in the US or indeed the planet to perform at a charity fundraiser. I personally will never forget the All Star Band and performance he put together for me to help raise funds for the Flying Hospital over 20 years ago and the impromptu session in the bar after Royalty departed. 

But Jim would say that the music hasn’t died and he would want us to play on. And we will. I can also say with some pride that the apple has not fallen far from the tree in Jim’s son James, who has inherited his father’s enormous talent and already is carrying the legacy forward in his own style. 

Many years ago Jim gifted me a Martin guitar which is sitting on a stand at the Spaceport; he was a distinguished Martin Artist, and whilst I cannot even come close to playing it as he would, every time I pick up that guitar I will have the privilege to say that it was given to me by my and our friend Jim Salestrom. 

As we wander through life a man makes lots of acquaintances but only a handful of real friends and in my case, there are to quote Don McLean a very small handful “of the people I admire the most” … they are all linked to our Spaceport and whose support and mentoring have given me the strength to keep going. They are not “the Father, Son and Holy Ghost” but I can say with conviction they are Callum and Jim and Anders our other great believer and ambassador. Not a bad trio to look over us.  

We are losing too many friends on this journey to the Stars, and we must work together to finish the job before we lose anymore and to justify the belief our late friends have had in us as a team and the SaxaVord Spaceport. 

If you have the time and the inclination have a listen to a small selection of my favourite Jim Salestrom performances. 

If you have served your country in uniform listen to “After the War”.  after the war-1.5db.mp3

Jim sang this on Memorial Day for President Clinton in front of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington DC and you could hear a pin drop

“Ponies” Ponies-1.5db.mp3, a magical rendition in Baltasound Hall on Unst as Jim said it made him think of Shetland.

“I Guess He’d Rather Be in Colorado” I guess he’d rather be-1.5db.mp3. Jim was an official Ambassador for the State of Colorado and sang the National Anthem at the Colorado Rockies Baseball Ground on numerous occasions.

“The Daddy’s Song” daddys song-1.5db.mp3 is one of Jim’s and sums up JimBob the family man.

american pie-1.5db.mp3 In my opinion, this is a better version of “American Pie” than the original but maybe I am biased.  

“Rocky Mountain High” rocky mountain high.-1.5db.mp3 which he performed many times with his friend John Denver, and latterly in tribute to him around the world.

Lastly, written and recorded a few months ago and also the theme of our STEM programme, “Go Fredo Go” Go Fredo Go-1.5db.mp3 we will be playing this on first launch, we will be bottling his infectious enthusiasm that comes over in the music and using it as Liquid Oxygen to support our Clients! 

Enjoy the concert, it is given by one of our greatest ambassadors and truest of friends. Sadly, there will be no encore.  


Chief Executive and Roady

SaxaVord Spaceport