CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Blues music courses through his blood. It nurtures his heart and soul, keeps him energized and alive, as crucial to his existence as the oxygen he breathes.
A drummer who toured and played club dates for years on the east coast, New Martinsville native Jack Rice nourished his affinity for the blues on Beale Street in Memphis and the Louisiana bayou.
He developed a passion for blues history that provides him with encyclopedic recall on the lives of American blues legends. Eventually, he found his destined niche as a promoter, producer and music writer.
He settled in Charleston in 2001, founded the West Virginia Blues Society and started the Charlie West Blues Fest, an ever-growing event now recognized as one of the top festivals in the country.
As he approaches his 61st birthday in August, he's thankful to make a living with the music he loves.
"I was born in New Martinsville and grew up in a large Catholic family, three boys and three girls. My dad was an engineer on the B&O, so we traveled a lot on the railroad.
"You had a choice of taking dance lessons or music lessons. Naturally, I opted for music. Music was in my family on my mother's side.
"I'm all about music. I've been in and out of music my whole life. I've been in all facets of the music industry, from booking to writing music to playing music to promoting and producing.
"I took drum lessons for 11 years. I started in the fourth grade. I played a little guitar and piano and I can read music, but drums are my forte.
"In junior high, we started our first band and got our first gig at a swim party, and that's when the bug bit me. It was in my blood, and I knew what I wanted to do. Gene Krupa was my idol, and Buddy Rich. That's what I cut my chops on.
"I was naïve, but I thought I could make a living at it. I was out on tour in the mid '70s going up and down the East Coast and out through Texas. I played with Emmylou Harris and Jackson Brown and opened up for a lot of other bands.
"The money was good, but it's expensive on the road, so the money just went back out the door. But it's a passion. You can't be in it for the money.
"I went straight into the Navy out of high school. I'm a Vietnam vet. I was in for three years. I was in a construction battalion. We traveled all over building air bases, hospitals barracks, airstrips.
"My last duty station was Pensacola, Fla., so I stayed down South a couple of years and went to school on the GI Bill over at LSU in Baton Rouge. That's when I really got into the music.
"I majored in partying, but I got my degree in business administration. I figured I would tie business in with the music if I was going to make any money.
"I was a regular on the oil rigs for Exxon. I was in the bayous out back of Baton Rouge. I did that in the day and played in clubs at night all through the delta, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama.
"I was deep into the history of blues because I was into genealogy. I picked up research skills by doing work on my family tree and started going back in time on the old blues greats.
"The blues bug bit me hard, but I've played jazz, swing, bluegrass, country, country rock. I like all kinds of music if it is done well, except for hip-hop and rap.
"I came back up north to Wheeling and was in banking and insurance for 26 years with Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Wheeling National Bank. I was still playing music on the weekends.
"I came to Charleston 11 years ago. The companies I worked for went through all kinds of bankruptcies, reorganizations and mergers. I finally got caught up in corporate downsizing and decided to relocate. I threw a dart at the map, and it landed on Charleston.