Jim Schwall started playing several different kinds of music on several different instruments while in elementary school. By the time he finished high school, he was primarily playing various kinds of traditional folk music, including bluegrass and country blues, on the guitar. Gradually, originals, usually based on traditional styles, replaced the traditional tunes and Jim has continued to play solo gigs all his life. In college, Jim met harmonica and piano player Corky Siegel, added a pickup to his Gibson guitar, and they started the Siegel-Schwall Band, performing for about ten years and releasing over a dozen record albums on the Vanguard and Wooden Nickel labels. After Siegel-Schwall disbanded in 1974, Jim continued to play in several versions of the Jim Schwall Band while going back to college, eventually completing a doctorate in music composition, becoming a professor of music, and teaching composition in universities. More recently, Jim has been teaching in high schools and doing social service work, running a program housing the mentally ill who had become homeless. Siegel-Schwall started playing reunion concerts in 1988, releasing a live album in 1989 and a studio album in 2005, both on Alligator Records.
Now retired from the social services, Jim divides his time between the two non-human loves of his life – cameras and guitars. Jim has played lead guitar for Marques Bovre & SoDangYang, fronted the dance-friendly party band Bar Time Lovers, played bass with the Cajun Strangers, jammed with guitarist/singers Andy Ewen and the late Chris Aaron in the current version of the Jim Schwall Band, and his life-long favorite activity, playing his own songs, a couple traditional tunes, and occasionally songs written by friends like Bill Morrissey and Loudon Wainwright, on acoustic 6- and 12-string guitars. In 2007 he released Getting Old, a solo CD recorded live in Madison area coffeehouses, on Uvulittle Records. Studio albums Short Stories on Waterbug and Bar Time Lovers on CONUNDRUM are more recent.