Jack Fennimore
Jazz in the Park

Questions for The Jimmys

The Jimmys love playing the blues. But it looks like they’ll never get on the Letterman show.

By - Jun 8th, 2015 03:23 pm
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The Jimmys

The Jimmys

With their blend of blues, soul, funk and R&B, The Jimmys have been jazzing up audiences for nearly 10 years. Jimmy Voegeli, a failed band student turned musical star, has amassed a group with over 50+ combined years of touring and playing with greats such as Davina and the Vagabonds and B. B. King. With multiple awards, including a WAMI Award for 2015 Keyboardist of the Year, the band also has a strong local presence. Besides Voegeli, 51, who handles keyboards and vocals, the band also includes Perry Weber, 59, guitar and vocals, Mauro Magellan, 58, on drums, John Wartenweiler, 56, bass, Darren Sterud, 28, trombone and vocals, Pete Ross, 32, on saxophone, and Mike Boman, 51, on trumpet. You can catch their performance at Jazz in the Park on Thursday, June 11 at 6 p.m. in Cathedral Square Park. Voegeli responded via email to our questions.

How did you get your start in jazz/reggae/rock music?

I was personally forever changed watching Reese Wynans from Stevie Ray Vaughn play Hammond with a unique ferocity yet to be matched by any other. It was around my junior year at UW-Madison, that I started playing in bands and learning piano more seriously. Hearing bands like Stevie Ray Vaughn at first, hooked me, but then I started working backwards in blues piano history to discover an unending treasure of greats from Pine Top Perkins to Charles Brown.

How did your band start playing together?

I’ve been playing with Mauro (drummer from The Georgia Satellites) and Johnny (bass) on and off for 25 years. Perry, I have known for nearly as long, but finally joined forces in the last 3 1/2 years. The horns were hitch-hiking on a back road, we felt bad, picked them up, what do you know, they’re fantastic! Actually, I played many jams with the horns when I filled in with The Clyde Stubblefield Band.

How did you get involved in Jazz in the Park and what do you like about performing there?

I played at Jazz in the Park years ago with my previous band, Westside Andy/Mel Ford Band and still remember the incredible crowd! Honored to be back!

Who are your main musical influences?

Our sound comes from our love of Chicago Blues, to New Orleans Funk and R&B…Hubert Sumlin, Buddy Guy, Pee-Wee Crayton, Pinetop Perkins, The Meteors, Trombone Shorty, The Band to name a few.

How do you try to connect to and work the audience?

What we love about wonderful events such as Jazz in the Park, is people are coming for the music first, to listen and experience the whole night. We want to show our style to the crowd, maybe pick on a few unsuspecting concert goers, and get the band out into the crowd.

How would you describe the state of jazz/reggae/rock music today?

The state of the blues is strong right now, it seems to ebb and flow, but always steady. Blues fans are unique and VERY loyal to the genre.

What is your musical background?

My family always had music in our lives. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, anywhere, we would either have music on, or singing ourselves. My parents met at a gig my dad was playing at. My mom still sings to this day. Always hearing Big Band records was a great introduction into music.

That led me to Junior High and High School band and chorus, starting with the trumpet and leading to the euphonium. I, however, flunked high school band my Junior year! My teacher, Mike Korth, did the right thing, it was the proverbial “kick in the butt, you can do better” moment for me. Although by this time in band, I couldn’t read music very well, if at all, I used my ear to “get by” and started to experiment on the piano with chords taught to me by my mom. Mike Korth never gave up, he also worked with me on the piano, and bass and drums a little as well. I recovered in high school band enough to be chosen to a prestigious touring Honors Band. The Collegiate Wind Ensemble Band assembled students from all 50 states and toured Europe for 3 weeks! I then went on to UW-Madison, had a brief 1&1/2 year stint with the UW Marching Band and eventually got into a band of my own by my Junior Year in Madison. My solo album not only features Mr. Korth on one tune, but I made my failing report card, the album cover.

What are some of your most memorable experiences performing on stage?

Playing side by side with Pinetop Perkins has to be a biggie! We’ve seen people break bones jumping from stage to brawls at Biker Party Wet T-shirt contests. “You can’t make this stuff up” as our friend Jim Liban would say.

What are your hopes and aspirations for the band?

The hopes for this band is to continue what we are doing as a bunch of close friends making music. I reached many goals I set out to do already: A Europe tour, festivals, TV, radio, and we’re just getting started. Although one dream has been dashed, to appear on David Letterman. Sometimes God’s answer to your prayers is “NO”.

What are your fondest musical memories?

I’ve had so many; last year was one. At the huge Windsor (Ont) Blues Festival, guitar great Tinsley Ellis asked me to play on a few tunes during his set. Nothing more exhilarating than “jamming” with a band you’ve never played with before, in front of 8,000 people!

What drew you to the kind of music you perform?

What drew me to Blues is the sincerity and nakedness of it’s music. When performed right, it’s honest and pure from your soul. It can move your spirit.

Where are you performing next/ where can people see you?

We will be all over the Midwest this year, Capital Brewery in Middleton, Wi on June 12; Ambassador Blues Fest in St Peters, MN- June 13; Summerfest/Johnson Controls Stage June 25; Racine on the 18th opening for Los lonely Boys; Ripon (Wi) City Concert Series, Madison Blues Picnic, and our favorite house gig in the world, the 1st and 3rd Thursday of every month in my hometown of New Glarus at Tofflers Pub and Grill. Go to www.thejimmys.net for more shows.

What is your favorite song that you perform and why?

I’m most proud of the songs we wrote and perform, and we are lucky to have many, but two come to mind, “Fool” and “Hell or Heaven.” Others include “Cold Women with Warm Hearts”, “What You’re Doin”, “Going to New Orleans”.

What do you think of Milwaukee as a musical city?

WE LOVE MILWAUKEE!!! Always have a fantastic time here. Doesn’t matter if it’s at Kochanski’s concertina Bar, The Milwaukee Ale House, Summerfest….this town rocks!!!

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