Second annual Root River Jams to include two bands

Wisconsin-based band The Jimmys will again headline Root River Jams this Saturday beginning at 7 p.m. in the Sterling Pharmacy parking lot.
Chad Smith

The second annual Root River Jams event is coming to Rushford on Saturday, August 10, and will feature some familiar faces. For the second-straight year, the Wisconsin-based band The Jimmys will appear in the Sterling Pharmacy parking lot at 7 p.m. But the music actually begins at 3 p.m. when Mr. Blink, a four-piece band from La Crosse, plays by Shawnees in downtown Rushford. Mr. Blink will play until 6 pm.

The Jimmys keyboard player/vocalist Jimmy Voegeli said he’s really looking forward to the band’s return to Rushford. “Oh yeah, we had a great time,” Voegeli said. “They treated us so well to start with. The man that put it together (Gary Marcoux) has been so great to us. We had a ball and what a beautiful area to visit.”

The schedule never slows down for The Jimmys, who made a trip to Fargo, N. Dak., a couple weekends ago to play a blues festival. One of the more recent road trips included a drive to Chippewa Falls, Wis. They also played a concert in Milwaukee, Wis., in front of about 5,000 people. “We’re putting on a lot of miles right now, but it’s a lot of fun too,” Voegeli said.

The most exciting thing the band is doing right now is waiting for their new CD to come out. “While it won’t be ready for the Rushford show, we’re hoping to have it out in two-three weeks,” he said. “It’s sometimes like pulling teeth on these kinds of things to make it happen. If people like what they hear in Rushford, they can go to our website and get a copy of the new CD at when it finally does drop.”

For those who missed last year’s event, The Jimmys are a seven-piece band. “We’re seven smelly guys,” Voegeli said with a laugh. Six of the seven band members are the same, with a trombone player the only new addition. “I’d like to talk smack about him but he’s sitting next to me as we do this interview,” Voegeli said.

The exact point at which The Jimmys were born is a “bone of contention,” Voegeli laughed. He’s contended the band was 10 years old but did confess it may have been 12 years because “they didn’t keep very good track of their early gigs.”

One thing Voegeli knows for sure is his music career dates back 35 years.  “Our bass player (John Wartenweiler) has actually been at it for 40 years,” he said. “My family was the biggest factor in my start in music. My dad played in a polka band called the Jolly Schweitzers and my mom, who’s still alive, sings in the church choir.

“They actually met at one of his gigs. It’s a really cute story. He saw my mom one night and during a break, then went out to try and find her but she’d already left. My dad told the bandleader that if that woman came back, I’m going to put my trumpet down and dance with her. The bandleader said that’s ‘all fine and dandy’ but I’m not going to pay you if you do that.

“So, flash ahead about a month and my mom showed up again and my future dad goes out and dances with her. He convinces her to let him drive her back home and it was further than he thought. My dad actually ran out of gas at the farm where she lived. My mom woke up my future uncle to get some gas out of the farm’s tank so he could go home, even though my dad had no money from the gig. As he drove away, my future uncle told my mom she’d never see that guy again. Glad he was wrong.”

Voegeli started out playing music in his high school band, which he admitted to “flunking my junior year.” He also played with the University of Wisconsin marching band for two years during college. Voegeli made the jump into rock and roll bands as he neared the end of college and the rest is history. When he sat down to form The Jimmys, Voegeli said his years in the music business made it less difficult than it could have been.

“I had been with a very popular Midwest band when I decided to form The Jimmys,” he recalled. “We had played a lot of stuff for 16 years, appearing at a lot of festivals, and had a great cast of blues players. When it came time to form the new group, it was just a matter of making phone calls because there was a fabulous pool of talent available.

“I had a good core band to back me up right away. It was a band I was in after getting out of college. When I left my other band, I called a bunch of these guys up and asked if they wanted to do this with me. They said yes. I found a whole horn section that had played with Clyde Stubblefield, who at one time was James Brown’s drummer.”

Voegeli said their first gig as a new group was at a blues festival and “they haven’t slowed down at all.” He describes their sound as a “gumbo of musical styles” and says the typical Chicago blues a backbone of the group. “We’ll mix in a little bit of New Orleans funk and a little bit of R&B too,” he said. “We sprinkle a little bit of everything over the top and just kind of make our sound our own.”