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Jail House rock time?
Retired deputy launches singing, acting career
Jim Anderson - photo by Photo Contributed

Jim Anderson calls it fate.

After being forced to retire from law enforcement due to an injury sustained while in the line of duty, the 43-year-old former Stanislaus County Sheriff’s deputy is going back to his first passion – music.

Interestingly enough, that was the career that appeared to be his destiny even before he graduated from East Union High School in 1986.

“I was the guy who used to sing Elvis’ music all over the place when I was a bit younger,” he said with a little laugh.

But that was not quite a laughing matter then. His natural talent as a singer and performer became his ticket to fame. His performances, boosted no doubt by his a la Elvis Presley clean-cut looks and stage charisma, elicited such strong crowd reactions that he soon found himself being booked for more appearances. Over the next few years, he accumulated quite a following that he was soon doing opening acts for such big names as the Coasters, Platters, Del Vikings, Marvalettes, Isley Brothers, Doug Kershaw, and Zydaco Flames.

However, a funny thing happened on his way to a rendezvous with fame at that time. After six years of being in the limelight, Anderson let the music stop and turned his attention to pursuing a career in law enforcement.

That was in 1992.

He attended the police academy and, finishing that, he promptly landed a job with the Sonora Police Department. After his two-year stint in Sonora, he landed a job as a deputy sheriff with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department. He proudly wore his badge for eight years until he was sidelined by an injury sustained while pursuing a homicide suspect.

 What followed was years of surgeries which was complicated at one point by a “large blood clot” that, he was told, he was “unlikely to survive.” But survive it, he did, following more years in critical care and in a hospital bed at home for long periods of time. Anderson has continued to rehabilitate himself to this day.

Return to music prompted by need to provide for  his family

After being “medically retired” as a law-enforcement officer, Anderson was faced with the reality of finding other ways to keep providing for his wife, Michelle, and their three young sons. After a bit of soul searching, he thought, “I could come up with singing and, of course, acting.”

Last year, he made the decision to reconnect with his musical roots and pick up where he left off more than two decades ago. It became apparent to him that his decision to retire from law enforcement was “fate leading (me) back to (my) first passion.” In fact, he said that in retrospect, his longing for that passion continued to stay with him even through his years as a deputy sheriff.

For his return engagement and his first show this year, he will be performing a nostalgic Early Presley Tribute Show at Sunday’s Elk Grove Western Festival. His band, the Jim Anderson & the Rebels, will be headlining the event’s entertainment on Sunday, May 1, starting at 2:30 p.m.

It will be a show “especially for those who enjoy Elvis’ early style of music and performances,” he said.

He is also set to start recording his first album this fall with the title, “Unfinished Business,” in reference to his second chance at music fame.

Music, though, is not the only thing he has under his belt. The father of three and grandfather of two is also kicking off his acting career with TV series and feature films now under his belt. He has appeared “a couple of times as a police officer” on the Discovery Channel. He also has a small part in a movie coming up in theaters in October/November titled Contagion.

Living with tragedy, being active in the community

Anderson has had his own share of tragedies but has never let any of that hold him down. While he was in the elementary grades, his father was diagnosed with Amyothropic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease after the famed baseball player who died of ALS. While his father, Ted Anderson III, struggled with the debilitating disease for 23 long years, Anderson who was the oldest of three children bravely took on the role of head of the family. He stayed constantly by his mother’s side all through the years, even when his father offered his body to science by agreeing to be a guinea pig for the then largely experimental drug called Interferon. The story was picked up by the now defunct San Francisco Examiner which ran it on page one along with a large picture of Ted and his wife Sherry taken by Manteca High School graduate and Examiner photographer Kim Komenich who would soon earn for the paper the Pulitzer Prize in photojournalism for his coverage of the People Power Revolution that toppled the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines.

The performer’s life was again visited by tragedy barely two weeks ago when he lost his 24-year-old son, Brandon Valdez, unexpectedly.

In spite of those life’s challenges, Anderson has managed to maintain grace under pressure.

“I am, and have always been, a Manteca boy,” he said. And he has shown that he not only talks the talk but also walks the walk. He was a president as well as coach for the Manteca Chargers. He was also assistant coach for the Sierra High School Varsity football. And just recently, he said, “I’ve been asked to be the head coach for the Freshmen Football at Sierra.” He also volunteers at Brock Elliott School “as well as anywhere I can help and get into my schedule.”

Sierra High and Brock Elliott happens to be the schools where his children with wife Michelle attend. Oldest son Joshua, 16, is a junior at Sierra where middle child Storm, 14, is a freshman. Youngest son Carson, 11, is a fifth grader at Brock Elliott School.

His mind today may be focused on his budding music and acting career, but Anderson’s heart is still with his years as a sheriff’s deputy in Stanislaus County where he spent “some of the best times of my life,” he said.

“You cannot beat the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department. They are wonderful, ethical, and hardworking men and women. I love them all and miss them every day. They have to be one of the best agencies in the world,” Anderson said.