Welcome to the Hall of Fame
LE MARS/SIOUX CITY — A local Siouxland band, The Jammers, has been selected to be inducted into the Midwest All Music Association (MAMA) Hall of Fame in 2018.
The induction ceremony will take place Saturday, Oct. 13, at the Electric Park Ballroom in Waterloo.
The Jammers are a classic rock band with members from Le Mars and Sioux City.
Members include: Dan Ruden – drums and vocals, Le Mars; Denny Wurster – guitar, rhythm and vocals, Sioux City; Gene Nussbaum – rhythm guitar and vocals, Le Mars; T.J. Dennis – lead guitar and vocals, Sioux City; Bill Berens – bass and vocals, Sioux City; and Jim Schroeder – keyboards and saxophone, Le Mars.
The Jammers first got together in 2004 to play for Wurster’s retirement from Security National Bank. At that time, the band consisted of Ruden on drums, Wurster on guitar, John Hagberg on bass and Mike Langley on guitar. They had so much fun they decided to take it to the next level and began to market the band.
There have been a few personnel changes since that 2004 gig.
Nussbaum, a longtime band mate of Ruden, was added on rhythm guitar and vocals. Following that, Dennis was added on lead guitar, Berens on bass and finally Schroeder was brought in to play saxophone and keyboards.
The members have a total of more than 300 years of music experience, dating back to the 60s and 70s, with Wurster starting in the late 1950s.
“I started with a band called the Screamers. They later became the Velaires,” Wurster said.
Ruden and Nussbaum started their first band in 1968.
“In my whole life, this is the longest I’ve been with one band,” Dennis said.
The group actually connected with Berens through Craigslist.
“I wasn’t looking for a band to join, but I got a chuckle out of the ad and said I gotta talk to this guy,” Berens said.
Wurster added, “Doc (Schroeder) really expanded our genre with keyboard and sax and the kind of music we played.”
For this group of musicians, their first gig was at Pioneer Days at Sergeant Bluff in 2011 on a flatbed trailer.
“We did quite a bit of practicing before we actually played out anywhere and truly got paid,” Dennis said.
He added his earlier band experiences included drinking and some drugs.
“So it was kinda hard to find a group of this many people that nobody does that. This has been a lot of fun. That’s probably why it’s lasted so long as it has,” Dennis said.
Berens pointed out he was the only one who didn’t play with a church band.
“And the only bar we go to is the Ice Cream Bar in Le Mars,” Wurster added.
In the past few years, three of the members have battled health issues.
They called being together to make music therapeutic.
“It really helped me get through my two times with chemotherapy,” Wurster said.
Dennis is quick to point out, “What we lack in talent, we make up in hard work. We aren’t the best musicians in town but we’re probably the only ones that practice on a regular basis and actually look forward to it.”
For Schroeder, joining the band meant playing different music.
“As the newest member, this was a new genre of music, kind of alien to me, because I’ve been a dance band and jazz band member for years. I backed up some national rock groups, but you still read music when you back up them up. They trained me,” he said as he looked at the band members.
“We play within our capabilities, songs we can do well. Some songs we’d love to play but we just can’t,” Dennis said.
The group also took some steps to move their music to the next level. The group worked on their vocals and harmony, and with Schroeder’s talents, increased their music selections.
“That paid off for us last year because we got to open for a national act, the 1910 Fruitgum Company, a 60s act,” Ruden said. “That was a blast to play on the big outdoor stage at Milford, before several thousand people.”
Another memorable performance was playing at the Roof Garden in Arnolds Park.
Members called it a thrill to play at the Roof Garden.
“It was huge for us growing up. That was kind of a dream place,” Nussbaum said.
Members of the group are in their 60s and 70s and all are retired except Dennis.
The Jammers have played all over Iowa and in Nebraska and South Dakota and over the last 13 years, including gigs at The Grand Falls Casino in Larchwood; The Riverside Casino in Riverside; The Roof Garden in Okoboji; and the Woodbury County Fair in Moville.
They will be playing Nov. 3 at a Rock 4 Vets event at the Kissinger Community Center in Merrill. In June 2019, they will be playing during the Ice Cream Days/Sesquicentennial Celebration in Le Mars. They also play for charity events.
The Jammers are looking forward to their induction into the MAMA Hall of Fame this Saturday.
Ruden said he received the call from the president of MAMA last November.
“It’s not just rock and roll. There is a harpist being inducted as well as other musicians,” Wurster said.
“We’re pretty honored to be recognized,” Ruden said.
MAMA was started to recognize all genres of music and to give back to the schools to encourage the youth to continue their music careers. MAMA always makes a donation to a school or schools in the community where they hold an event.
The Hall of Fame Extravaganza will be held from 3-11 p.m., Saturday. Proceeds will benefit school music programs and other music organizations.
Doors for the MAMA Hall of Fame Extravaganza open at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $15 by calling Donna Volker at (319)290-8097, or at the door for $20.