Endorphin Flows With Feeling

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Those who frequent Payson's music scene are probably familiar with the sights and sounds of Jimi Harris.

As a resident of Payson since 1989, Harris has been entertaining audiences with his eclectic musical style, creative lyrics, and animated demeanor for some time, but few know the challenges Harris has faced to arrive where he is now.

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Drummer Tony Menegon plays with Endorphin, Silver Star Band, and will perform with Code Blue on Valentine's Day at the Black Bear Restaurant in Strawberry.

Harris moved to Payson following a divorce. Already in a rough period, Harris then lost the use of his left arm in a logging accident. For someone who was a guitarist, a sculptor, a stone mason, this was a blow.

"I could not move my arm so I couldn't play my guitar," Harris described. "It was so frustrating because I had all this music I was creating in my head and I couldn't translate it to my guitar."

Harris' desire to play again lead him to Shakey Joe's Songwriters Cafe, a weekly gathering, founded by musician, Joe Harless, where local musicians can showcase their talent.

"I began trying to play. I'd actually tape my hand to the guitar and play for a little bit each day," Harris said. "It took about six months to play a chord and about a year until I could play a song. I forced my fingers to work," he said.

With his drive and dedication, Harris eventually started performing at the Songwriters Cafe.

"I really attribute my recovery to Joe Harless. He never knew about my arm," Harris said, "but he was always there encouraging me."

"Jimi's been a constant advocate of Songwriters Cafe and sees it as a responsibility to keep music alive in this town," Harless said. "He's an excellent musician and a good-hearted man."

Harris likens the community of musicians in Payson to a family, each member nurturing and promoting each other, and sees Harless as its "founding father".

"Our musical family here is incredible. We are all interchangeable and we know each other's stuff," Harris said

"None of us are in competition. We play in each other's bands and help each other out."

"Endorphin" is the name of band Harris started with Robert "Buz" Smith, a land surveyor by day and singer, guitarist by night. Along came drummer, Tony Menegon, recruited by Harris from Songwriter's Cafe.

Menegon spends his days maintaining the streets of Payson. He's a town employee, drummer for "Endorphin" and also plays with the country band, "Silver Star," from time to time.

"It's fun playing with Jimi because we do a mix of things -- a different feel of music," Menegon said. "Jimi's a great guy. He likes the humorous side of things and it makes playing with him interesting."

"Buz is a phenomenal vocalist and Tony actually goes down to Phoenix and studies with the premier drummers," Harless said, "But they're all regular, working guys."

Although "Endorphin" has three full-time members, they are frequently joined by other Payson talents, such as guitarist Billy Ichida, drummer Jim Hoppala, Key Bellaird and even Joe Harless.

It would be difficult to classify "Endorphin" since they play anything from rock and folk to reggae. Harris adorns cornrow wigs and takes creative liberty with lyrics.

"A lot of times, we'll look at our audience and tailor the music to the type of people there," Harris said. "We like to interact with the audience and get them involved."

The goal for Harris is to provide the audience with more than a performance, but an experience.

"It's a feeling, not just an evening," he said.

Although no firm dates are set for upcoming performances, Harris states they plan on gigs at Famous Sam's, the Chalet in Strawberry, and possibly the Landmark in Christopher Creek.

Any combinations of these musicians can be seen at Shakey Joe's Songwriters Cafe every Friday night at Famous Sam's.

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