This Bird Has Flown

Odds are pretty good you’ve never heard of Ted Bird; his musical career wasn’t a high profile part of the star-making machinery. Those who did know him, including friends in places like Rhode Island and Charleston, South Carolina, are remembering him today after his passing from cancer at age 58. He arrived in the Holy City the same year I departed for Columbia so I never got personally acquainted with the man, but the high regard with which he was held by every other local musician I did know was enough for me to know he was a special kind of guy. The Post & Courier ran this obit today, an unorthodox remembrance of an unique individual.

James Bird

BIRD, James James E. (Ted) Bird lived how he wanted and never looked back. A local musician and tour guide, he lost a short but hard-fought battle with cancer Monday, September 1, 2008. He was 58. Born in a Pennsylvania coal-mining town, he jumped in a car he won in a poker game at age 22 and traveled the country with his wife, Jane, playing songs and meeting colorful characters at each stop. Ted worked the music circuits in New York, Nashville, New Orleans, New England and the Midwest, opening for the likes of Waylon Jennings and Bette Midler. He cut countless singles and two full-length albums, Made in America (1991) and Laughter and Love (2005). He settled in Rhode Island for 19 years, working for General Dynamics and then The Providence Journal, before abandoning corporate work forever. He came to Charleston on a weekend gig in 1993 and knew where he wanted to spend the rest of his life. He brought his 12-string blues, rock and originals to audiences across the area. An avid student of local history, he also ran a small downtown walking tour business, James’ Leisurely Tours. Ted lived his final months at his home on Folly Beach with Jane, his companion of 42 years; his 24-year-old daughter, Allyson; and “the son he never had,” a Great Dane named Blitz. He restored and drove old BMW motorcycles as a hobby and swam in the ocean every chance he had. After his diagnosis, Ted said his only regret was not having more time to spend the same way. Friends are invited to celebrate his life at 2PM on Saturday, September 6, 2008 at McAlister-Smith West Ashley Chapel, 2501 Bees Ferry Road, Charleston, SC 29414; 843-722-8371. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Stand Up To Cancer, File 1224, 1801 W. Olympic Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91199 (www.standuptocancer.org) or The Salvation Army, 2135 Ashley River Road, Charleston, SC 29407 (www.salvationarmyusa.org). Condolences may be sent to the Bird family via http://www.mcalister-smith.com. Visit our guestbook at http://www.charleston.net/deaths.

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18 thoughts on “This Bird Has Flown

  1. My husband and I went to high school with Ted Bird in Plymouth,PA. My husband sang in a folk group with Ted thru high school and for a few years after. I am trying to find his CD from 2005 Laughter and Love and cannot locate it anywhere. Can you help me or do you know where to direct me. My husband and I were very saddened by his passing. Thank you for any help you can give me.

  2. I knew Ted when we were both students at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, PA and he was one of the leading local musicians, especially in the back room of a dive we loved called “The Deep End.” Janie was with him even then. It was a shock to read his obit today. The last time I remember being with him was in an old car driving around with a bunch of friends after a Wilkes University dance high and having a good old time. He will be missed. Bob q.

  3. I first met Ted in Waterville, Me in 1973,and kept in contact with him through mutual friends. I ‘ve drank whiskey with him ,played
    guitar and been a guest in his home. He was a warm, gracious ,extremely talented man. He will be sorely missed.

  4. It was a sad day when I learned of Ted’s passing through a mutual friend in Pennsylvania. While I have not seen Ted in more than 30 years, his persona was one that could never be forgotten. I had the privilege of playing guitar with Ted in a group called The Impropers in our hometown of Plymouth Pa. where we met attending high school. Ted and I played wherever we could in those early days and you could sense that music was the joy in his life that would be with him always. Ted was a giver in life and his spirit will be alive wherever music is played, wherever a guitar in strummed, and whenever one recalls his life and times. Love to Jane and to his daughter from an old friend, who with Ted and 5 other guys, sang “I am a rock, I am an island.” A song so fitting for the life of Ted Bird.

  5. Ted and I met in a great raunchy bar called the Bon Vue Inn in 1975 in Rhode Island..He was working with Jon Litwin,a superb bass player/singer,and together they had a powerful duo aptly called Ted and Jon. In 1979 I got a call from Ted telling me that he and Jon were going to play on the boat “The Southland” which had a Hawaiian theme that year and was part of the “Blessing of the Fleet” in Galilee…and did I know the song Tiny Bubbles by Don Ho??
    That was the beginning of a musical collaboration that lasted 4 years and proved to be some of the most memorable experiences in my musical life.Ted was a gifted singer/songwriter and an extremely clever,smart and witty man whom I will ALWAYS love and respect..RIP Ted and know that you touched countless hearts with your tremendous spirit and musical strength..

  6. I never met Ted. My brother musician Chris Boyd forwarded the announcement of his passing. With what I read he must have been a wonderful man and wonderful family man. I am certain he will be missed and remembered with great fondness.

    God’s blessings to his family

  7. I am so sad to hear about Ted. He was a great muscian and a bright, happy, young man when I knew him so many years ago. To this day, whenever I hear “Blackbird” I have to smile. He did it so well, he was such a huge talent!

    My heartfelt condolences to Jane & Allyson. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  8. Ted and I go WAY back to a little local bar in eastern Pennsylvania called Dick Chaney’s Tavern. I was in a bluegrass group at the time known as the John Capp Bluegrass Review. Ted was one of our biggest supporters. We all would get together and jam for hours on end. I fondly remember those days as some of the best in my life. The respect I had for Ted as a musician and a “real” person” has been a very positive influence in my life. I was truly saddened to learn of his passing. My heart felt thoughts go out to his entire family. I have a 45 rpm recording of “Philadelphia Kid”, probably one of Ted’s first recordings. I too would love a copy of Laughter and Love, a little piece of Ted that can share with those not fortunate to have know him.
    All my best, Gary

  9. I am very sorry to read online of Ted Bird’s passing.
    I knew Ted when I was going to King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania around 1969 – 72. We were both folk singers on the local circuit playing at places like The Deep End, Chaney’s Tavern, and The Kiln House.
    He was the coolest performer and they guy the rest of us hoped we could be as good as some day.
    I remember Ted in his suede coat with the fringes and playing a Gibson Dove guitar…he was simply the best singer and player in town.
    As great a player as he was, he was even a better person…..he was always friendly and very supportive of new players entering the scene.
    He was real inspiration to all of us who were lucky enough to have known him.
    Michael Arthur Pritchard
    http://www.myspace.com/michaelarthurmusic

  10. Ted was one of the best friends I have ever had. Athough we have drifted apart over the years, Ted is still making me laugh and still making me cry. Ted didn’t need a roadie but he had one. We went every together, but I’m still angry he and Jane couldn’t find me to go to Woodstock. I could fill books of our adventures, but this is for Ted and one word for me will suffice, friend.
    Jane, I would love to write or talk to you and fill Allyson in on all the adventures and predicaments Ted and I experienced. ctsluggo@netzero.net

  11. On one of my infrequent trips to NE PA to visit family, this evening, Barry Rogers informed me of Ted’s passing.

    Ted and I met in about 1966 when he was singing with the Impropers and I was playing guitar in solo/duo sets. We shared a concert stage together in an old theatre in Plymouth and stayed friends over 40 years and great distances….. we picked up the connection, again, about a decade ago.

    I found Ted to be a competent and honest musician, and a challenging and thoughtful man. He pushed himself to high standards and had a reliable spontaneity that he combined with a sharp wit.

    His passing is very sad news to me.

    My thoughts go to Jane and Allyson for their loss.

  12. I am stunned & deeply saddened to learn about Ted.

    I first heard Ted & Jon at the Bon Vue back in the late 70’s. I was a so-so guitar player from Warwick, who had jammed acoustically with a few guys up this way. After one jam, I complimented two of the guys on their superior musicianship and singing ability. They replied, “If you think we’re good, you have to hear these guys Ted & Jon.” So I did, and I was blown away! The only other male singer whose voice knocked me out in a similar way as Ted’s did is John Fogerty. That’s how good I thought Ted was.

    I soon became a regular at “the Zoo” on Tuesday nights, and I used to catch them at other bars, as well. Not only did Ted have an astounding voice, he wrote great songs and had impeccable taste in selecting covers. Of course, Jon added the perfect compliment to Ted’s talents, with incredibly tasteful bass playing and stellar harmonies.

    Even though I was a crazy, partying college student and a less-than-serious guitar player who always bugged Ted to play “Willin’,” Ted was always cool, friendly, & gracious. And funny! When I finally grew out of my partying insanity, I continued to go hear Bird, Litwin, & Boyd, which was also a wonderful combo with the addition of Chris’ very tasteful lead & steel playing. Quite a few years later, I caught up with Ted again, when he had the band Pier Pressure. By that time, I had a solidly formed, very pleasant aquaintanceship with him, and he always seemed happy to discuss music with me and offer encouragement & support. Of course, he also continued to be a wicked funny & incredibly cool guy, and we had quite a few laughs together!

    I run into Jon occasionally, and through him, I knew that Ted was living in South Carolina, and I was always pleased to hear how happy & content he was there.

    Even though I still live in RI, I don’t go out too much these days, and I rarely go to “South County” bars. But last night I was invited to meet a friend at Casey’s in Wakefield. It was never a favorite haunt of mine, and still isn’t, but while I was in there last evening, I recalled seeing Ted & Jon play there once. That pleasant memory prompted me to google Ted when I got home, which is how I learned the sad news.

    I offer my sincere condolences to his wife & daughter, and to his many musical compadres, friends and fellow fans.

    Rest in peace, amigo.

  13. Tedward, a beach buddy, best laugh ever, best songwriter, best friend. The world will not be the same without him.

  14. I met Ted in Charleston sometime around 1994. I was working my way through college at a place called Mesa Grill. It was always a treat to have Ted playing out on the patio. Not only did I love his music, but I loved talking to Ted. He was always available to tell us a great story or give us some advice. We loved hearing about his adventures on the road and the fun times that he had at home with Jane and Allyson.

    As my college career continued (for about 10 years…) I followed Ted to many venues. Regardless of how much I changed, Ted was always the same. He was always so happy with life.

    I now have a son who is 18 months-old. He has fallen in love with a pair of blue crocs. Because of this, I think of Ted every day. I was planning to find Ted so that my husband and baby could hear him play (and maybe hit the pavement for a tour). I am so sad to hear about his passing. He was an icon. He will always be a wonderful part of my history in Charleston. My heart goes out to you, Jane and Allyson. We could all learn some lessons about life from Ted Bird! He will be missed by so many.

  15. i am so sorry to hear of ted’s passing. i just found out when i was looking up info on the charlstown seafood festival and read bio on big red and the resonators. my husband and i livein ri and went to the bon vue many times to see him, also casey’s. we liked him so much that we asked him to play at our wedding in 1980. it was a small one of about 75 close family and freinds and everyone said that the band was great; it felt more like a party! i especially loved his rendition of willin, bo jangles, and he played georgia for our wedding. my prayers go out to.

  16. I met Ted back in the early 90’s and we worked together for a few years. I would often go listen to him play and have one of his albums on tape. I thought his music was terrific and was saddened to learn of his passing. If only there were more Ted Bids. RIP

  17. A year has gone by since my friend and bandmate passed away,but his music lives on in fine fashion with the release of “To Absent Friends”…a wonderful collection of 16 songs,beautifully performed by Ted. Just three days ago I had the opportunity to finally meet Allyson as a grown lady with all her beauty and charm. She reminded me so much of Ted that it brought tears to my eyes. He has SO much to be proud of,and I’ll bet he is looking down on us all with love and laughter……

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