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Getting to Know ... Jim Hall

Staff Photo: Christine Troyke Jim Hall is the Gwinnett Gladiators director of community relations and has been since the team relocated to Duluth in 2003, helping it gain a foothold in the metro market before any players even hit the ice.

Staff Photo: Christine Troyke Jim Hall is the Gwinnett Gladiators director of community relations and has been since the team relocated to Duluth in 2003, helping it gain a foothold in the metro market before any players even hit the ice.

Jim Hall is the Gwinnett Gladiators director of community relations and has been since the team relocated to Duluth in 2003, helping it gain a foothold in the metro market before any players even hit the ice. Hall moved to Atlanta when he was in high school and has lived in the area for much of his life.

In this installment of "Getting to Know ...", Hall talks to staff writer Christine Troyke about a variety of topics, including playing hockey as a kid, working for 15 years in the music business with the likes of Whitney Houston and Garth Brooks, and raising two sons.

CT: Where did you grow up?

JH: I grew up all over the place. Elementary school in Michigan and Massachusetts, outside of Detroit and Boston, which is where I learned to play and love hockey as a kid. Great wintertimes in both places, obviously. Moved to Atlanta in ninth grade and lived in DeKalb County. I went to Henderson High School and graduated from there. Then I spent five and a half years at Georgia State. One of the few people to graduate with tenure, I was there so long.

CT: (laughing) What did you get your degree in?

JH: I have an associates degree in the music and recording business. My bachelor's is in some fancy title, but I call it communications. It was mainly journalism classes and public speaking. The public speaking was great. I love that. It was one of my favorite parts of college.

CT: I think people go one way or the other on that -- they love it or they're terrified of it.

JH: I grew up shy, so that helped me. At that point, I'd figured out I would go into the music business and would some day stand in front of several hundred people making a presentation and need to know how. That's why I did it and I'm really glad I did.

CT: What was your first job out of college?

JH: I worked for a record company. I was a local marketing person in Dallas and covered parts of north Texas and Oklahoma. I did that for a couple of years. It wasn't a career, but I learned a lot. I ended up spending 15 years in the music business, so it got me started somewhere.

CT: What did you do after that?

JH: I kind of progressed up in the music business. I was lucky. My timing must have been really good. I met a baby Whitney Houston in 1984 when I lived in Washington. It was the release of her first album and she was new to it. A sweet kid. Fun. Nice to be around. The later years, obviously that changed and that's terrible what happened to her. But back then, those are the memories I have of her and they're very good ones.

Years later, I got back to Atlanta with a different distributor and label and I got to work with Alabama. I was fortunate to be around the "Dirty Dancing" movie soundtrack which just sold millions and millions of records one year.

My goal, ultimately, was to work in country music and in 1990 I was hired by Capitol Records Nashville. They had just had a big regime change. They'd wiped out about 90 percent of their staff and hired all new people.

At that point, Garth (Brooks) was still kind of a baby in the music business. He had done OK with his first record. We all showed up and it had sold about 350,000 units, which, for a new act, isn't bad. I spent five years with the label and by the time I left, it had passed 50 million. So I was there during some really good times.

And he was great to me. He was appreciative, he was grateful, he was accommodating. I have great memories of working with him over the years. He was probably my favorite.

And country artists are, in my opinion, better to work with. They're just more decent, level-headed people. The country acts just seem to respect and appreciate the job you were doing for them. Not all the rock acts were bad, but some were very difficult. You did what you could and you worked as hard as you could and hoped it was for the best.

But the five years in country music, traveling back and forth to Nashville, where I met (my wife) Julie, was a second home. I still look at it as a second home, even after all these years. It was a great place to be.

CT: What things did you do for the record label?

JH: I was the person responsible for making sure it was in the stores and that the consumer could find it. Very similar to the grocery world. There's a box of crackers that are on a shelf at eye level for a reason -- because the distributor or manufacturer advertises and markets it to be there.

In the music business, when you walk into a record store -- well, back then it was a record store. Now it's all online. But back then, you were bombarded with a million different things visually. So product positioning was what we did. That's how we marketed our artists and our bands so the consumer could get it.

The music business is funny in that the things, back then, that sold the fastest and the hardest were always the ones that were discounted the most. If you think of that economic equation, you'd probably think, heck, they'd try to charge top dollar for it as in many other types of retail. But price and positioning was what we really had to strive for to make sure the average consumer, who heard a song on the radio, or saw an artist on tour, got into that store, found what they were looking for and got out.

CT: Things are a lot different now. When I was growing up, I needed to know I really liked at least three or four songs on an album before I bought it. Now you can buy the songs you want and leave the rest.

JH: The music business I grew up in and spent 15 years in doesn't exist anymore. I'm used to walking into a record store. Keep in mind, chains were huge. I would go to Albany, N.Y., and call on a customer that had 500 stores. Or here in Atlanta, back in the old days, those who remember Turtle's, they got up to 100-plus stores. You'd go to their home office and you would look at a specific release and find out which stores it needed to be in and in what quantity. You did most of that though from the home office and then when there was time to get out into individual stores, you did that. Those mega-chains, to some extent, are still around. But I think they're called Walmart and Target and Sams.

I hated it to end. It was ended for me, but you pick yourself up and dust yourself off and move on.

CT: What was your transition like? What did you do next?

JH: I had a couple of different things. I tried repping some stuffed animal toys at one point. Office supplies. It was more database generation. I worked for a local sign company for some friends of mine. That was enjoyable, but I just didn't feel like I was doing what I should be doing.Then the opportunity with the team came in and I was here six months before the Gladiators ever played a game. I pride myself on the fact that I've been here for all 10 years.

At that point in my life I had developed a very strong connection to my community. I looked at myself in the mirror one day and said, "Well, I've got a love for community and a love for hockey." (General manager Steve Chapman) gave me an opportunity to really do both and it was a big thrill for me being a fan of the game since I was a kid.

I had experienced some minor-league sports over the years, but not to this extent. It has really been a great 10 years.

CT: What kind of hockey player were you?

JH: You know, I wasn't bad. I was a little larger than most of the guys I played with. I predominantly played forward. I would play defense if it was one of those nights when six guys showed up. I have to tell you, men's league hockey, when I played, were some of the greatest sports participation memories of my life. We put a team together at Georgia State in the late '70s. It was men's league, but we decided to represent our school. One of the guys found the dean of extracurricular activities or something so we figured maybe the school will give us a little money and we'll wear the school's name on our jersey.

We walked in, he looked at us and about 30 seconds later he said, "There's the door."

So we kind of had to fend for ourselves. We raised our own money. There were girlfriends that would sell baked goods and we had a yard sale once to scratch up enough money. So we joined the men's league as Georgia State. What a blast. Playing at 11:30 at night and not giving a rip about the next day. We would deal with it when it happened. Those were such good times. I never made a dime. I fortunately never got hurt. I dragged into class a few times. But it was worth every second.

One guy was a fireman and we just always hoped he would be there because you never knew if duty would call. And he was our goalie -- which really made it critical. Just terrific guys. I do run into a few of them from time to time. They'll see me at a (Gladiators) game.

CT: How did you meet your wife Julie?

JH: Every June in Nashville, there's an event called Fan Fair and it's the country music fan club extravaganza crazypalooza. The artists come and meet with the fans and there are album showcases. She was good friends with a gal that worked for the same company I did. I went up to do my job, which was to work with the artists. I met Julie at a concert at a race track in Nashville where there was probably 15,000 other people. We struck up a long-distance relationship and we'll be married 24 years this December.

CT: Was Julie trying to get into the music business? Because she has an amazing voice.

JH: She's blessed with a great singing voice and she had moved to Nashville to try. She did some demo work and sang some songs. She had a teaching degree so she had an income and ended up with an insurance company and traveled throughout Georgia and Tennessee. Which gave her an opportunity to come down here where I was living. To this day, she still sings.

CT: I'm glad.

JH: Many people are. We'll go through the season and I'll have people stop me to say, we miss Julie doing the national anthem. She's kind of our pinch-hitter. I'm proud of her because she does a nice job.

CT: I lobby to whoever will listen that she just needs to be the permanent anthem singer for the team.

CT: When you started with the team, did you have a specific job description?

JH: I think my job back then was to get out to the community, to as many places as I could to just let people know what this was all about.

I was fortunate in that in 2001, I was elected to the city council in Duluth where I spent eight years. My involvement in the community led me to that spot. So people knew me because of that. I never liked being referred to as Councilman Hall much, but that's what I was every other Monday night. I spent a lot of time in business networking, Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs. In the six months between the time I was hired and the time we started playing, I probably visited 90 percent of the schools in Gwinnett County, just to drop off an outline to the principal about here's who we are and where we are and what we are.

I wasn't really selling tickets at that time. If it happened, great. As the years have progressed and we've become established, they've converted me into a ticketing person. I'm in an office with a bunch of really hard-working, fun kids and we do a good job at what we do.

I still do the team's community events. I set up Suwanee Day every year. I set up the Duluth Fall Festival every year. In the spring, we do the Snellville parade. I still enjoy taking Maximus to wherever we can to get the word out.

CT: Your house isn't quite as full as it was, is it?

JH: Our oldest son just finished his first, very successful, year at Georgia Southern. He's a Duluth High School kid and proud of his Duluth marching band and lacrosse days. Those are great parental memories for me. I loved being a band dad, moving equipment around and high-fiving kids and passing out bottles of water.

We learned the game of lacrosse as a family when Charlie decided he was going to play.

I'm really proud of what he's doing in Statesboro. He's looking forward to going back in the fall.

Our youngest son Evan just finished sixth grade. Terrific year. He made all-state sixth-grade chorus and the only boy at Duluth Middle to be named. He came very close to making all-state band and he wants to follow his brother's footsteps and march at Duluth, playing the drums as Charlie did. I can't wait.

We have a very active youngster still at the house and we try to get to Statesboro a couple of times a year. We went for a football game so we had a good time.CT: Last year about this time you were celebrating a big honor for Charlie, right?

JH: I was working at home one day and the vice principal/athletic director called. This is about 10 days before graduation. He said, "I had to call Charlie into my office today." I'm thinking, "Oh, no."

He was named the outstanding male athlete at Duluth High School for 2012. What made it neat was it was an athletic award, but they took into consideration his participation with the band and his outside activities. He'd been very active in mission trips at our church. So it was an overall award. I was very proud of him.

What made it really cool is lacrosse at that time had just finished its third year at Duluth and he was the first lacrosse player to be given the award.

CT: How often are you and the players and Maximus out in the community?

JH: It's an as-needed thing and over the years it's changed. More in the beginning, it was me and in recent years more people in the office have taken ownership of things like that.

The one hindrance we have during the season is that practice is always in the middle of the day. So getting them up and getting out early sometimes is a challenge. Then after practice, school's almost out.

Over the years, we have been blessed with some great kids here who have worked hard and done the grip-and-grin as I call it in a school or a corporate grand opening. We just do it when we can. If it helps, it's worth doing. By and large over the years, I've been very proud of the players for their efforts out in the community.

CT: Do you have any favorite vacation spots?

JH: We like to go to Hilton Head. We all enjoy the beach. I would love to go up north and visit my brothers. My family tries to do a reunion every couple of years, but we're so scattered anymore it's hard to do. We're talking about going to Washington soon with Evan because he's really into social studies and history at school.

One year, many, many years ago, I lived in Maryland and I had friends that lived on the harbor in Baltimore. On New Year's, when the fireworks were being shot from Fort McHenry, that's our Star Spangled Banner right there. And the aquarium there is this big old, giant geometrical glass building. So you had the fireworks in the sky, reflecting off the water and off the aquarium. It was just unbelievable thing to watch.

We'll get up there. I have a brother in Baltimore so there's no reason why we shouldn't. It's just scheduling.

CT: How many brothers do you have?

JH: Four. I'm the middle child of five sons. My parents, God bless them, are two of the sanest people you'll ever meet. I don't know how. We certainly didn't make it easy on them.

I'm the only one who lives here and mom and dad still live here. I talk to them every day. My brothers come and see them when their travels permit. It's good having them close.

CT: What kind of music do you listen to most often?

JH: I'm not a big fan of local Atlanta radio because things have changed so much over the years. If I were to specify something, it would be country music with a rock-and-roll edge. Chris LeDoux, one of my all-time favorites, I worked with Chris the years at Capitol. He passed away in '05. One of the nicest, most genuine human beings I have ever met. I loved his shows because he added a little bit of pop to his live shows. There was pyro and just craziness.

But growing up, if anyone remembers the old Capricorn Record days, I'm a big Marshall Tucker fan, a big Allman Brothers fan. Love Molly Hatchet. Skynyrd. These bands from the Southeast that played those eight-minute anthems. Two drummers and five guitar players. The Outlaws' "Green Grass and High Tides", probably nine of the greatest minutes in rock and roll history. That's kind of what I listen to.

Miranda Lambert is a great act. I love listening to her.

We did a thing many years ago for the team called Friday afternoons with the staff or something. We talked about music and what I listened to. Kris Kristofferson wrote a song for Ray Price back in the 70s called "For the Good Times." It might be one of my five all-time favorite songs.

How can you not like Jimmy Buffett? You have to have fun when you listen to Jimmy Buffett. The first time I saw Jimmy Buffett was in a place in Atlanta called the Great Southeast Music Hall down at Piedmont. It was a Sunday night and there were 30 people in the audience. It was him and another guitar player. I've been a fan since. That was 1975.

Those were good times.

CT: Do you go to many concerts still?

JH: No, I really don't. With kids and schedules and stuff. What's interesting is when I go to the arena for something other than hockey, I sort of feel out of place. But I'm kind of a homebody. I like to just chill and get whatever the kids want to get done. I love to go out and play golf, but I don't get a chance as much as I want. I love to go fishing. Rarely get the chance to anymore. But there's time for that.