There’s so much history within the walls of the Indian Crossing Casino in Waupaca with nine decades of entertainment under its roof. And here comes another talented line up scheduled for this season’s Chain O’ Lakes Blue’s Festival with howling guitars, note bending harmonicas, the Hammond B3, and gritty, soulful lyrics from songs belted out by some of the best.
Jimmy Voegeli fronts the headline band for the festival, The Jimmys.
Michael: You grew up on a dairy farm…where did…
Jimmy: Where did it all go wrong (laugh)?
M: Where did the music come from?
J: Growing up we always had music in the house on the record player, usually big band. I grew accustomed to the horns and music of the Benny Goodman’s and Louie Armstrong’s.
M: And your parents met at one of your dad’s gigs?
J: Yeah. My dad played trumpet in a polka band called The Jolly Schweitzers who were based out of the Monroe area. My mom walked in, and dad was smitten. By the time the band took a break, and he went out to find her…she already left. He told the bandleader that ‘If she comes into one of our gigs again someday, I’m gonna put my trumpet down, and go ask her to dance.’ The guy said, ‘If you do that, I’m not gonna pay you.’
M: And a month later?
J: In she walked. He put down his trumpet. Asked her to dance, ended up giving her a ride home, and ran out of gas. Of course he didn’t get paid that night, so he didn’t have any money. So they walked to my future uncle’s farm, and got gas out of the farm tank. As my dad drove away my uncle said to my mom that ‘You’ll never see the money for the gas, or that guy ever again (laugh).
M: That’s a great story. This interview is over!
J: (Laugh) Far more interesting than my story, for sure. My father passed away a number of years ago, but my mom still lights up when she retells it. She’s 84 now, and still sings in the church choir.
M: You spent several years with Westside Andy & the Mel Ford Band, but your musical desire goes back to high school.
J: I’m envious of young kids today, and starting a garage band. I was in the chorus, and marching band in high school, but our school system at the time went through a series of band directors and teachers. I never really followed my ‘calling,’ in other words, I didn’t practice much. I didn’t read music, and relied on my ear, and by my junior year my teacher flunked me! I flunked band! And I deserved it. It was a kick in the ass. He was a great teacher, Mr. Korth. He just retired a fews ago, and is still a great friend of mine.
M: And your first solo CD is an homage?
J: He plays on one of the cuts, and the cover of the album is my report card with the F on it. And every CD I sold, I gave two bucks back to the high school band department.
M: Eventually you did knuckle down and practice.
J: And was part of the UW Madison marching band playing the trumpet, and then the euphonium which resembles a small tuba. Meanwhile I’d been tinkering with the piano, my mom had shown me some chords. I was in an agricultural fraternity, and they had a Steinway grand piano, and I just kept playing more and more. Between my junior and senior year I got into my first band that played U2, XTC, and Pink Floyd covers…nothing really bluesy.
M: After graduating you went back to the family farm?
J: And that’s when I connected with some of the guys I still play with today, it’s been about 25 years.
M: Things changed musically for you when Stevie Ray Vaughn hit.
J: Yes! I could hear this instrument playing within his music, and couldn’t figure out what it was. It turned out it was the Hammond B3 that Reece Wynans was playing. That’s what hooked me. I sort of went backwards in time starting with Stevie Ray, and Johnny Winter, then discovering older artists like Otis Spann and Professor Longhair, the piano players who really invented the sound that influenced every player since. I discovered a world I’d never been told about.
M: You met Reece this past summer?
J: At a festival in Canada, yes. I’d waited 25 years to meet this guy, 25 years to tell him how much he influenced my life with his instrument. I shook his hand. Was star struck. The conversation went so terribly. I was so dumb (laugh). I started talking and just wouldn’t shut up. I think I was talking about farming! Twenty five years, and this is what I’m babbling about. You know how you imagine something like this? You meet a hero, and flash into the future where you’re sitting in a bar, telling stories, becoming great friends. I pictured all that! Best friends with Reece Wynans, my idol. He was polite, but finally said, ‘I gotta’ go stand over here now.’ I said to myself, ‘You dumb ass!’ (laugh)
M: The Jimmys today have been an on and off, interchangeable group.
J: The bass player Johnny Wartenweiler, and the drummer Mauro Magellan and I have been in and out of bands together for 25 years or so. After the turn with Westside Andy I thought it was time to try to put my own spin on things musically. I’ve always heard horns. I’d seen the horn section that played with Clyde Stubblefield who was the drummer for many years with James Brown, jamming in Madison a couple times. I recruited a couple of them, at first as an experiment, but everybody has always been on the same page musically.
M: Tell me about the Chuck Taylor’s.
J: I’ve never been a very snappy dresser (laugh).
M: Chucks have never been so popular!
J: I know. And I’d wear coveralls all the time if I could! In fact there was a phase that I went through where I was trying to dress up on stage, and wear nice shoes (laugh) but my feet would slip off the pedals of my keyboard all the time. I needed rubber soles, and I do move around a lot, I just needed the grip, and that’s how that started. And then Mauro, the drummer who played and still plays with the Georgia Satellites, he’s also our graphic artist, he decided to incorporate the Chuck Taylor’s into our band promo materials.
M: What if Converse gets wind of it?
J: Mauro said, ‘All the better,’ (laugh) there’s no such thing as bad press…let’em sue us, it’ll get us out there even more!
M: Musically, who are The Jimmys?
J: That’s kind of a complex question. I’ve always had this, and I know the guys in the band are tired of me using this word, but ‘vision’ of what I wanted the band to be and how to go about it. I’ve always wanted to be as original as possible, play as much original stuff as we could. We’ve achieved that. We don’t have to do the ‘Brown Eyed Girl’s’ and the ‘Twist and Shout’ kind of classic horn band songs. The songs I’ve written come out of the base of blues, and old-school horn songs. When we do play a cover we’ll mix a Pink Floyd song in with one of ours once in a while or other tunes you wouldn’t normally expect to hear, always wanting to keep it a little on the ‘odd’ side.
M: Your guitarist Perry Weber writes a lot as well.
J: He’s been with us for about three years, and has played with a lot of great bands, and is a fantastic singer and songwriter. It’s something of a relief to have someone of his caliber with us to write music. Perry is true blues all the way.
M: Your writing is rooted in the blues.
J: Yeah, but I’m not trying to fool anybody into thinking that I’m some great blues piano player or artist, because I’m not. But being honest, and able to approach it that way, I can stay true to myself at the same time. Our latest album has some blues in it, but we certainly stray from it. We haven’t pigeonholed ourselves.
M: Speaking of your latest album, that’s your wife Laura on the cover?
J: She’s a very positive and active part of my career and of the band. And yes that’s her. Kind of a play on words in the album’s title, ‘Hot Dish’…she’s definitely the ‘hot dish.’
M: Is your meeting her anywhere near as romantic as your parent’s story?
J: We did meet at a gig (laugh) but it was a dive bar, and she gave me a fake name. But, she did give me her correct phone number…so when I called it, she had no idea who I was asking for…she forgot she had lied to me (laugh). And when I took her to meet my mom, mom wanted to know how we met, and Laura told her we met at the Betty Ford Clinic (laugh). My mom was aghast! I had to explain I had never been in re-hab. Laura’s very funny.
M: How about this gig, and the Indian Crossing Casino?
J: The venue is so fantastic. The people there are wonderful, the owners are great. There’s just so much history there, everybody has played it from Louie Armstrong to the Beach Boys, Ricky Nelson, the list is a long one, you can’t help but love the joint.
Friday, October 2
7:00 pm – Donnie Pick and The Road Band
9:00 pm – Altered Five Blues Band
Saturday, October 3
3:00 pm – Brian Koenig & The Stand Back Blues Band
5:00 pm – Big N Tasty Blues
7:00 pm – Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys
9:00 pm – The Jimmy’s
Order Tickets Online
Friday – $15 in advance, $20 at the door
Saturday, $20 in advance, $25 at the door
Weekend Pass – $25 in advance, $30 at the door
Prices include sales tax
Available online until October 1st, by phone at (715) 258-7343 or (888) 417-4040 or at the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce, 221 S. Main Street, Waupaca, WI 54981.
Online tickets will be held at “Will Call”. Pick up at the Indian Crossing Casino Friday evening or Saturday.
Individuals not 21 years of age will not be admitted to the Festival. Identification required at the door. Carry-in beverages and seating will not be permitted. Handicap access into the Casino is available on the east side of the building.