James (Jimmy) Ohlen Rhodes

1935 - 2019

Jimmy Rhodes, a multi-talented musician, was a well-known performer and and award-winning recording artist in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the last half of the 20th century. A gifted keyboard stylist on both piano and organ, he was also an accomplished brass performer. He started his career as a music educator, teaching at two academies in California, before becoming involved in a variety of music-related activities.

Jimmy was born and raised on a cotton farm in Chesterfield, Tennessee, on May 7, 1935, one of three children and the only son of Ohlen A. and Truma Snow Rhodes. His parents were sharecroppers and became Seventh-day Adventists when he was nine. At that time, his mother talked his father into buying an old, used upright piano for $100. She ordered a music correspondence course, learned to play hymns on the piano, and then taught her son how to read music and play the instrument.

Although he initially resisted being a musician, Jimmy learned quickly, and by the time he was ten, he was playing for services, weddings, funerals, and other events. From 1950 to 1952, he attended Highland Academy in Tennessee, where Terry Trivett, a younger student at the school, later recalled Rhodes as the "most talented person anyone in that area knew. He thrived on playing several instruments, sometimes more than one at a time. He exuded talent."

Jimmy moved to Collegedale, Tennessee, where Southern Missionary College, now Southern Adventist University, was located and continued taking lessons on piano from Lourene Sykes, a friend of the family. By this time, he had become interested in brass instruments and learned to play the trombone on his own. He later described that experience:

I remember being fascinated watching someone playing the instrument, intrigued by the movement of the slide and how it changed the notes. I immediately purchased one and familiarized myself with the slide positions by reading an instruction book. After gaining proficiency on a regular-sized instrument, I later purchased and learned to play the more demanding soprano trombone, where correct slide positions are even more critical.

Norman Krogstad's conducting of the SMC concert band had inspired Jimmy before he arrived at Collegedale. By the time he was a junior in nearby Collegedale Academy, he had become a proficient brass player and was invited by Krogstad to join the college band, in addition to playing in the academy band.

Rhodes studied brass with Krogstad as he entered SMC as a music education major, inspired by both his teacher's personality and musicianship. Two years before he graduated, Krogstad accepted a position elsewhere, and Burton Jackson, a virtuoso marimba player, became the college band director. Jackson also proved to be an inspiring mentor.

After graduating from SMC in 1959 with a B.S. degree in music education, Rhodes became band director at Lynwood Academy in California, a position he held for the next three years. At this time he started graduate work at the University of Southern California, where he completed a master's degree in music education, writing his master's thesis about how music affects people's behavior. He also taught at Orangewood Academy for a year.

In 1970 Rhodes moved to Cleveland, Tennessee, to assist Forrest Preston, a friend who was starting a nursing home management company that would become known as Life Care Centers of America (LCCA). A year later, he returned to California to pursue a career as a musician, performing in evangelistic crusades, assisting various artists, playing for Faith for Today, a religious telecast, and appearing as a guest organist with the Lawrence Welk Orchestra. Rhodes also did keyboard work for Jimmy Roberts, one of Welk's singers, accompanying him as he sang in different venues, including the SDA church at Vallejo Drive in Glendale, California.

In 1973 he married Pam Chanslor, a talented mezzo-soprano he had met at a camp meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, her hometown. When they married, she was attending Loma Linda University, La Sierra Campus, in Riverside, California. They stayed in the area while she competed her degree and he continued to perform.

The Rhodeses moved to Tennessee in 1978 so that Jimmy could assist Preston with his growing nursing home and retirement company. Jimmy then returned to teaching, developing band and choral programs in that area. 

Preston's company continued to grow, and, persuaded by Rhodes that a full-time music director would be beneficial, Preston hired him to serve in that capacity. In that position, Rhodes developed a number of highly successful music-related programs and services in a company that now includes 260 facilities in 28 states.

As Director of Music Services for LCCA, Rhodes traveled nationwide, performing for events sponsored by the organization, playing for residents in its facilities, and serving as a music program consultant. He developed a number of resources, including manuals with tapes and games, albums of organ and piano music, an exercise video, an electric piano programmed to play special discs, and other aids. He also recorded quality customized CDs of music tailored to serve the special needs of the many residents in LCCA's homes.

Rhodes became an outspoken advocate for the importance of music as a unique form of communication, an enhancement for worship, an escape from unpleasant realities, and a tool for motivation. His earlier research for his master's degree thesis had led him to a full realization of the power of music. He later commented about that experience, music's timeless qualities, and its importance in the work of LCCA:

While doing my master's thesis, I witnessed the effect of music therapy on disabled children, read about how the brain is affected by music, and volunteered to play worship services at nursing homes. Even now I try to find out what each resident responds to - what stimulates the brain and causes them to reminisce.

I have found that as we age, music does not lose its significance. In fact, its therapeutic effects often provide greater inner harmony, making it a key element in nursing and retirement center programs. I have witnessed firsthand some amazing results for persons who have had strokes or are Alzheimer's patients and could not be reached in any other way.

Jimmy and his wife also worked in evangelism for several years. Their collaboration with John Carter in evangelistic outreach, which started in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1986, would take them throughout the U. S. and to the Ukraine. The Rhodeses and Carter appeared a number of times on the Safe TV broadcasting network as musicians and speakers, respectively.

He and Pam were participants in the Family Reunion Concerts, a series of programs that featured as many as 100 Adventist musicians and groups singing and performing gospel and other religious music at different places around the U.S. Fifteen different reunion programs were presented over a period of six years.

Jimmy made numerous recordings, the first being on the Chapel-Bridge label in the 1970s.  He and his wife later released numerous successful recordings in formats that evolved from vinyl records to audio and video tapes and to CD's and DVD's (see discography at the end of this article).

They produced two DVDs, Friendship with Jesus and Purely Music. Friendship with Jesus, a live concert, won an Angel Award in 2004. Purely Music was a 2008 winner of a Telly Award, selected from over 350,000 entrants that year. This DVD was a musical program they had produced for the Safe TV network in the previous year.

The Rhodeses were living in Lubbock, Texas, when Pam died on June 14, 2014, at age 64. Jimmy was living in Ooltewah, Tennessee, when he died on February 5, 2019, at age 83. They were survived by their children, Deborah Vollberg, Rondi Oswald, and Jimmy; and Pamela's siblings, Ron Chanslor and Carolyn Chanslor. He is buried in Collegedale Memorial Park in Collegedale, Tennessee.


Sources: Interviews with Jimmy Rhodes in 2007 and 2008 and Pam Rhodes and Terry Trivett, 2008; email exchanges with Rhodes, 2007,2008; Letter from Rhodes, 2008; Joy Snyder, "Life Care's One Man Band," The Leader Magazine, 46-49; Promotional materials from Jimmy Rhodes Productions; https://www.chattanoogan.com/2019/2/6/384288/Rhodes-James-Ohlen.aspx



Organ & Piano Recordings

Jimmy Rhodes

My Best to You

Your Request

Peace in the Valley

Toe Tappin Rhythms

Seasons Greetings

How Great Thou Art

His Hand in Mine

Daddy’s Little Girl

Jimmy Rhodes Goes Country

Jimmy Rhodes Goes Hawaiian

Tie A Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Old Oak Tree

Ole Time Religion (with the Nashville Sound)

We Have This Moment Today

My Shepherd

Jimmy Rhodes Plays for Deborah

Jimmy Rhodes Plays the 30’s


Background Keyboard for Other Vocalists (Chapel Records)

The Barron Brothers, Barbara Morton, Lyle Gordon, Jim Fitzgerald, Jimmy Roberts, Floyd Langzettel, Pam Chanslor


Duet Albums with other Keyboard Artists

Grand Old Gospel (Jimmy Rhodes/Kelly Mowrer), Piano Duet, CD & DVD

Grand Old Christmas (Jimmy Rhodes/Kelly Mowrer), Piano Duet, CD & DVD

Peace In The Valley (Jimmy Rhodes, Organ & Kelly Mowrer, Piano), CD & DVD

Give The World A Smile (Jimmy Rhodes, Piano & Donna Klein, Organ), CD


CD Recordings by Pam Rhodes

You’re Walking Down Sunshine Lane

On the Wings of a Dove

I’ve Got a Reason to Live


CDs By Pam And Jimmy Rhodes

I'm Almost Home

Calvary Means Heaven to Me


DVDs By Pam And Jimmy Rhodes

Friendship with Jesus (live concert, an Angel Award Winner)

Purely Music (Telly Award Winner)