For jam session participants, music is the common denominator
By Audrey Posten
“The good thing about music is that it disappears into the air, then starts all over again,” said McGregor musician Rich Palucci.
For the past year and a half, music has disappeared into the air every Sunday evening outside Josie’s River Queen in McGregor, only to start all over again the next Sunday afternoon.
This music—a mixture of classic rock and blues—is courtesy of an open jam session held at the tavern each week. It has brought together a group of musicians who were largely unfamiliar with one another, but have now bonded over what Steve Eagle, one of the jam session’s founding members, called a “common denominator.”
“Everyone comes from different backgrounds and walks of life,” Eagle said of the participants, “but, on stage, it just happens.”
The idea for the jam session originated with the tavern’s owner, Josie Davies, who was looking for a way to re-create one of her favorite Sunday afternoon activities from when she lived in Waterloo. She put the word out to Palucci, who was also in contact with Eagle and Gary “Cookie” Anderson. The crew spread the word to other musicians they knew, soon bringing in up to 13 people each week.
Many of the musicians were or are part of other groups. For example, Palucci, who has 20 years of music teaching experience, plays the keyboards or different woodwind instruments at four to five events around the area each week. Kendall Techau and Jeff Gaunitz play in a contemporary Christian band together, through their church. Through that group, said Gaunitz, Techau taught him some blues chords.
For others, the jam sessions enabled them to climb back on the horse.
“I got married, raised a family and sold my saxophone,” Eagle explained. “This was the first time I’d played in 40 years.”
Anne Loomis stumbled upon the jam session while she was down the street one afternoon in February 2012, taking a break from working on taxes.
“I heard music,” Loomis said. “It was not just some garage band, but a saxophone.”
Loomis did not make it back to the office that day, or any other Sunday, for that matter. She now sings with the group.
While the group size fluctuates each week, sometimes leaving the group without a key instrument, like the drums, Gaunitz said it is all about working with what they have and just having fun.
However, what started as a hodgepodge of musicians is now turning into a cohesive group. It even goes by an official name—Blue Eagle Band.
“We play blues music, my last name is Eagle and there are a lot of eagles in the area,” Eagle explained. “It’s the perfect name.”
Blue Eagle Band has also expanded from Josie’s River Queen, playing three or four other shows each month at places like the Dew Drop Inn in Bagley, Wis., the Main Entrance in Prairie du Chien, Eagles Landing Winery and even on the deck of a Maiden Voyage boat tour.
No matter the venue, jam session members are just happy to be part of the group. Palucci said he especially enjoys trying out and experimenting with different sounds.
“For other events, everybody has music,” Palucci said. “With this, nobody has music. You go by feeling and ear. Since we’ve been doing it for awhile, we’ve been able to work on adapting to different styles and playing songs that everyone likes.”
Some of those songs include popular hits like “I Shot the Sheriff,” “Rock Me Mama (Wagon Wheel),” “Proud Mary” and “Rolling on the River.” Davies has even made some requests, getting the group to play some of her mother’s favorite songs, like “From a Jack to a Queen.”
“These guys are just so talented,” Davies said. “They love what they do. It’s nothing but a good time, and I’m glad other people enjoy it.”
Aug. 11 was Suzy Tegge’s first jam session experience. Standing around a pool table in the back of the bar, she watched her husband, Joe Irvin, gaze longingly at the performers on stage.
“He so desperately wants to be up there,” she said. “I’m hoping he’ll bring his guitar next week and we’ll get him up there.”
Irvin has played guitar all his life, but said he has not recently played in a group setting.
“I would enjoy playing more,” Irvin said. “This week I came to check it out and see how easy or hard it would be. But it looks like fun. I’ll probably get in with these guys next week.”
Eagle said there is always room for more, and invites musicians to stop by Josie’s every Sunday, from 3 to 7 p.m. For more information about Blue Eagle Band, people can contact Eagle at email@example.com.