I know what you’re thinking: Who is Billy Joel? Of course I’m kidding. Unless you were born last week, you’d know that Billy is one of the most popular recording artists in history. Lesser known, but an icon to some of us, is the classical guitarist on his right in this photo, Jim Bosse.
Jim practiced Optometry for many years in Canon City, Colorado, and served as the editor of the Journal of Optometric Vision Development. There were many reasons to serve on the Board of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD), but none better than the private concert that Jim would give each year in the Board Suite with flutist and fellow optometrist Lynn Hellerstein.
Jim’s love for guitar began when he was growing up on Long Island, and he founded a band called the Echoes in the early ’60s along with guitarist Kenny Recher, bassist Howie Blauvelt, a succession of drummers including Ronnie Delacrose, Billy Zampino, and Dave Baglioli, and a keyboardist by the name of Billy Joel. Yes, that Billy Joel, as he recounts in this wonderful interview with Alec Baldwin. The band changed its name in 1965 to The Lost Souls, and the flavor of that era is preserved in Billy’s album My Lives, released in 2005. By late 1965 The Lost Souls were placing high in talent competitions and getting very visible gigs on Long Island and in New York City, when their manager secured a contract for them with Mercury records.
Jim and Billy parted ways in 1967, and Billy subsequently wrote a song acknowledging that called “James”. To hear Billy tell it, James was a composite of several people he knew through the years who left music to pursue other careers, though according to Jim it was principally him.
Billy dropped out of high school while Jim furthered his education, ultimately graduating from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry. Twenty five years later they renewed their acquaintance after Joel played a concert in Denver, Colorado. Inspired by the meeting, Jim decided to arrange the song about their youth [James] for solo classical guitar. He played it for Joel six months later at Billy’s home on Long Island. Joel liked the arrangement and requested that Bosse put together a collection of songs, arranged for classical guitar. Released in 2002, it’s available online and at music stores throughout the United States (The Billy Joel Collection Classical Guitar ISBN #9-7935-8992-4).
I miss Jim’s annual private concerts at the COVD meeting with Lynn terribly, and thankfully Lynn sent me a bootleg copy of their duet a few years ago to stave off withdrawal. Jim has gone on to fashion a very nice duet career, returning to music full-time after retiring from Optometry. He formed Dos Americas together with the Argentine virtuoso Alejandro Davila, and created Take Two, an acoustic rock duo, with Rudy Melena in Colorado. You can learn more about Jim’s musical career on his website.
As for Billy Joel? He never made it to the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, but he did okay for himself. Twenty five years after dropping out of Hicksville High in his senior year, Billy was awarded the diploma he would have needed to pursue Columbia U. over Columbia Records, but he has no regrets. He’s now an informal professor giving master classes at Ivy League colleges like the University of Pennsylvania. And quite the master he is.