A native of Lanarkshire, Scotland, James “Jim” Kerr immigrated to the United States in 1956 along with a cousin, Alex Colville, who served as leading-drummer with Worcester Kiltie band in Worcester, Massachessetts for many years. Jim Kerr joined his father, Robert, in the US, as well as his brother, Blair, who was also with the band. Jim Kerr’s older brother, John, was a renowned and idiosyncratic snare drummer in Ontario with several Grade 1 bands. He died in 2011.
Under Jim Kerr’s leadership, Worcester Kiltie became the first pipe band in the United States to rise to international prominence at the Grade 1 level. In 1964, Worcester Kiltie became the first band from the United States to compete at the World Championships, held in June in Glasgow.
In 1969 Worcester took a first prize at the Lesmahagow Highland Games against deep competition from top Scottish bands, including Muirhead & Sons, the reigning World Champions. It was the first time that an pipe band from the United States won a competition in Scotland. Worcester also gained at least one prize at the World Championships under Kerr’s direction.
Worcester Kiltie won three consecutive North American Championships from 1960 to 1962 and five in total, the last one in 1971, the first year medleys were introduced into competition in North Amerca.
The group assembled talent from the eastern United States and was well known for recruiting players from Scotland and coordinating jobs for them in the States. Jim Kerr himself was originally brought to the US with the express purpose of playing in the band.
Jim Kerr served as Pipe-Major of Worcester Kiltie until 1983 when he retired. He subsequently became a well regarded band and solo judge throughout North America, and also manufactured pipe chanters for some time.
James Kerr died on the morning of April 19, 2012, at the age of 80
Bio courtesy of Andrew Berthoff and pipedrums.com, May 2012.