Photo: Jack and Lois Weber (just right of center) founders of Jack’s Jam in Plevna with members of the Over the Hill Gang house jam band and other players at Saturday’s jam-packed jam on Jan. 21.
Founded almost five years ago by long-time Ardoch musicians Jack and Lois Weber, Jack’s Jam, a free live music event and potluck hootenanny that takes place every third Saturday of the month from September to May at the Clar-Mill hall in Plevna, attracts a large crowd.
On January 21, close to 100 music lovers and players from near and far, including some from as far away as Tweed and Brockville, gathered for an afternoon and evening of good old-fashioned heart-felt country and bluegrass music and a sumptuous potluck meal.
The jam’s regular house band, known affectionately as the “The Over the Hill Gang”, includes Jack Weber on guitar/banjo/vocals, Lois Weber on bass/vocals, Hugh MacDonald on fiddle, Roger Hermer on guitar/bass/vocals, Vern Martyn on drums, and Vie McInnes on piano. They offer up their impressive repertoire of favorites but are happy to accompany any jammers who also want their moment in the spotlight. Like all well-mannered players, they will also gracefully bow out to let others accompany their friends.
Guests who attend are welcomed at the door by Karen Hermer, who makes up a list of musicians wanting to play and on Saturday her list went up to 20, not unusual at this popular event.
Jack’s Jam began when Lois Weber, Jack’s wife, years back identified a need for more opportunities for members of the community to get together to play and listen to music. She was inspired by musical evenings that used to take place at Ed's Place, an Ardoch restaurant owned by Ed Schlievert from 1996-2005. It just so happens that Ed now volunteers regularly at Jack’s Jams as the kitchen manager.
Lois said, “At that time we used to have people into our basement at home to play but there was not enough room to invite others to just come and listen. So when I saw a group of ladies playing cards and listening to the music at Ed's Place on one of his music nights, I came home and suggested to Jack that we should see if we could rent the hall.”
The rest, as they say, is history and the event continues to be a popular draw for both local and area musicians and members of the community of all ages.
The beauty of any jam, and Jack’s in particular, is that not only do visitors get to hear the repertoire of local players and dance on the hardwood floor, they are also introduced to a wide variety of players from near and far. That was the case on Saturday when Kathy Whalen of Tweed, a long-time musician with the Land O'Lake Cruisers, a band she's played in since 1968, got up and played.
Whalen and five friends made the trip to Plevna from Tweed after hearing about the event through a friend. “I have never been to Plevna. I wanted to come and check it out and of course had to get up and play a few songs”, she said. Whalen took to the stage and strummed a few classic instrumental oldies on her strum stick, a handmade three-stringed instrument she picked up in Dolly Parton's theme park, Dollywood, in Tennessee when she visited there recently. Among the pieces she played to a very appreciative crowd were “Soldier's Joy” and “Comin' Round the Mountain”.
Gilbert Riddell of Sharbot Lake has recently started attending the Jack’s Jam along with Guy Cooke and others who decided to come out after hearing of the good time.
Jack and Lois will be continuing to play and attend the jam, but due to illness have recently decided to pass over the organizing duties to Roger and Karen Hermer, who will ensure that event continues on. The next jam takes place on Saturday February 18 from 2 to 9 p.m. Non-alcoholic beverages can be purchased and guests are invited to bring a potluck dish for dinner, which takes place at 5 p.m.