Born on September 22, 1948, Jim Byrnes grew up in St. Louis, the middle child of a middle class family. He learned to play blues guitar at thirteen years old, and continues to play on his favorite guitar, a Gibson 1969 Hummingbird. An eclectic soul, he studied for the priesthood in a seminary, and was even a professional shepherd at one point. He studied acting at Boston University and St. Louis University. Byrnes is a gifted actor and an inspiring person. He lost both his legs in an automobile accident on February 26, 1972 - the same date he landed his pivotal "Wiseguy" role as Lifeguard fifteen years later.