‘Jammers have become like family to us’

From our January 2014 issue

By Jean lawrence Spy Hill, Sask.

We started jammin’ at Spy Hill on June, 22, 2008, and five years later we had our 48th show on Sept. 22, 2013. We’ve had 177 different entertainers in five years and we have had 5,252 people sign our book at the door. That’s over 1,000 people a year, entertainers included.

The Spy Hill Museum sponsors us. They put on beautiful lunches, pay for the hall, and they get the rest of the ‘good will offering’ that comes in at the door.

The Jammers and those who put on the jams don’t get any money at all. In fact, we give at the door too. The museum has been able to put up a new building with the help of the proceeds from our jams.

Our entertainers have come from all over the place: Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and B.C., even Albuquerque, New Mexico and Montreal.

There are jams ever Sunday of the month in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. We go every Sunday somewhere – to Virden, Binscarth, Elkhorn and Beulah, the fifth Sunday; Roblin, the first Saturday of the month; and Melita, the first and third Thursdays. There were also jams that have been discontinued in Kenton and Oak Lake.

Birtle has a Pasture Pickin’ jam the long weekend in May and a fall jam in October. Russell has some jammin’ on Thursday nights in the park. We have had an odd Jam at McAuley, Manson, and Reston, and in Saskatchewan at Spy Hill and once at Wapella.

We see the same people and some new ones at all these jams and it’s like having a family reunion every weekend, but we jammers don’t have to worry about the food or where people will sleep.

The jammers have become like family to us all. We have a couple of jammers who put on their own little weekend jams once a year at their home places in Lake of the Prairies and at Elkhorn.

Back left: Ken Dennis, Foam Lake, Sask.; Russ Baldwin, Yorkton, Sask., Ken Harman, Birtle, Man. Front: Rylan Eckersley from Rocanville, Sask.; David Sparrowhawk, Esterhazy, Sask.; and Spy Hill, Sask.’s own Gough boys – Ron, Lorne, and Ben.

This jammin’ has become a big thing. There are 15 towns in which we have played. The trip to Melita is 2 hours one way for us from Spy Hill. Some are over an hour and some only a half-hour away.

This picture I took at the Spy Hill Jam is of our youngest jammer who is six years old. He cannot play, but he sits from 1 to 5 p.m. and strums his guitar or plays the spoons and entertains like all the big people. His 12-year-old brother, Mason Eckersley, started out that way too, at his age, and now has his own guitar bought with money earned cutting grass.

Little Rylan Eckersley plays hard and imitates the Gough Brothers. If one stands up to play, he does too. If one guy crosses his legs, Rylan does too. Their grandpa, Keith Eckersley, taught them to love music and play.

Keith helps my husband, Ralph, and I put on these jams, along with Jean Istace, who runs our sound system, and sometimes our daughter, Carlene Bergstrom, helps with the sound system and setting up for the jams as sell as singing.

We get anywhere from 25 to 38 entertainers at our jams. We had 50 once which were too many to put through.

Each entertainer does two selections up at the mike and everyone else plays along but doesn’t overshadow the ones at the microphone and we go two rounds. The second round we may only do a song each, depending on how many entertainers we get.

We never know who or how many are coming because we don’t invite anyone, it’s just by word of mouth or posters, but most of us know when the jams are coming up.

We’re trying to keep country, bluegrass, and country gospel music alive. There’s no horns, no karaoke or dancing, and we invite talent of any level. You don’t have to register, just come.