Bumper Jacksons
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Bumper Jacksons

Baltimore, Maryland, United States | SELF

Baltimore, Maryland, United States | SELF
Band Americana Jazz

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Music

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Murder ballads, an amphibian-themed washboard, fast-pickin' banjo playing, melted faces - all of these things and more will be on tap when The Bumper Jacksons perform at Big Harry's Tavern on Feb. 12.

The 5 p.m. show will feature duo Chris "Beardy McGee" Ousley and Jess Eliot Myhre. The pair also make up half of the D.C.-based Sligo Creek Stompers, which performs an amalgamation of Appalachian bluegrass, New Orleans ragtime, Texas swing and more. Admission to the Big Harry's show is free.

Some of the pair's musical influences include Bessie Smith, Sophie Tucker, Ella Fitzgerald, Django Reinhardt and Marcy Marxer.

It was a sudden change in employment status, however, that led Ousley and Myhre to start the duo.

"We made this group because we wanted to travel more, and Chris and I had lost our jobs," Myhre said. "So, we figured we needed some repertoire the two of us could do. We couldn't just call ourselves half of a band."

Ousley said the sound of Sligo Creek Stompers is inspired by old, scratchy 78 rpm records, contra dancing, whiskey and moonshine. They have created a similar sound with The Bumper Jacksons.

"The musical lens is squarely focused on traditional American jazz, jug band, and folk - stuff from 1910 to 1940," Ousley said. "The Bumper Jacksons don't suffer from the same wild musical ADD as the Stompers."

Ousley sings vocals and plays a mean banjo, in addition to guitar, ukulele and a mouth horn. Myhre plays clarinet, ukulele, banjo, trombone kazoo and the washboard.

The pair said they met at a party in Washington about 18 months ago. Shortly thereafter, Myhre joined the Sligo Creek Stompers, and the group started playing various contra dance performances up and down the East Coast.

The duo discovered Fayetteville during a trip to see Myhre's family in Florida.

"We were driving to Florida and had all our instruments in our trunk, and I said we should stop somewhere along the way and play," Myhre said.

Fayetteville, it turned out, was going to be the right place at the right time, so Myhre phoned a friend for research.

"I called my dad to look online and find an open mic night in Fayetteville," said Myhre. "It was fun to walk in and see lots of guys playing blues - we were worried what they'd think of us."

The crowd, however, was mesmerized, said Paul Thompson, owner of Big Harry's Tavern owner, who received glowing reports from patrons.

"Everyone said these two came in and were just amazing," said Thompson. "So, I knew I had to check them out and bring them back."

The selling point, Thompson said, is the group's washboard.

"You just don't see that every day, and everyone told me she was playing the heck out of it," Thompson said.

Myhre's washboard, decorated with wooden blocks in the shape of frogs, was a gift from Ousley, who wanted to encourage Myhre to push herself musically.

"I started experimenting with it. Chris encouraged me," Myhre said. "It's more melodic than most washboards, and I've incorporated bells into it with the different wood blocks."

Myhre said she draws inspiration from New Orleans street bands to help her develop her own washboard performing style. For Ousley, the washboard allows him to show his deep appreciation for music history.

"Allow me to historically nerd out here," said Ousley. "There are plenty of instances where people played out with what they had on hand. When jazz got big in the cities, the people in the country couldn't get full drum kits, so they'd use a washboard or tools they had with domestic use to re-create the sound they heard. The washboard took over for the drum kit, so there's a tradition of people playing with homemade instruments that we honor."

While the two enjoy honoring music's past and performing a mix of traditions, they are starting to look to the future.

"We are just getting our feet wet with the idea of writing original material," Myhre said. "I'm still learning about the masters and music that's already been made, and I want to get a solid grounding of that."

Ousley has a similar opinion, although he has written some music already.

"I've written some instrumentals for the banjo, but there is so much material that hasn't been recorded yet," Ousley said. "Right now, it's just inspiring hearing other folks and playing with them and knowing that we're all in this same craft together of digging up American roots and pushing them forward. It's a real musical community." - Fayetteville Observer


Murder ballads, an amphibian-themed washboard, fast-pickin' banjo playing, melted faces - all of these things and more will be on tap when The Bumper Jacksons perform at Big Harry's Tavern on Feb. 12.

The 5 p.m. show will feature duo Chris "Beardy McGee" Ousley and Jess Eliot Myhre. The pair also make up half of the D.C.-based Sligo Creek Stompers, which performs an amalgamation of Appalachian bluegrass, New Orleans ragtime, Texas swing and more. Admission to the Big Harry's show is free.

Some of the pair's musical influences include Bessie Smith, Sophie Tucker, Ella Fitzgerald, Django Reinhardt and Marcy Marxer.

It was a sudden change in employment status, however, that led Ousley and Myhre to start the duo.

"We made this group because we wanted to travel more, and Chris and I had lost our jobs," Myhre said. "So, we figured we needed some repertoire the two of us could do. We couldn't just call ourselves half of a band."

Ousley said the sound of Sligo Creek Stompers is inspired by old, scratchy 78 rpm records, contra dancing, whiskey and moonshine. They have created a similar sound with The Bumper Jacksons.

"The musical lens is squarely focused on traditional American jazz, jug band, and folk - stuff from 1910 to 1940," Ousley said. "The Bumper Jacksons don't suffer from the same wild musical ADD as the Stompers."

Ousley sings vocals and plays a mean banjo, in addition to guitar, ukulele and a mouth horn. Myhre plays clarinet, ukulele, banjo, trombone kazoo and the washboard.

The pair said they met at a party in Washington about 18 months ago. Shortly thereafter, Myhre joined the Sligo Creek Stompers, and the group started playing various contra dance performances up and down the East Coast.

The duo discovered Fayetteville during a trip to see Myhre's family in Florida.

"We were driving to Florida and had all our instruments in our trunk, and I said we should stop somewhere along the way and play," Myhre said.

Fayetteville, it turned out, was going to be the right place at the right time, so Myhre phoned a friend for research.

"I called my dad to look online and find an open mic night in Fayetteville," said Myhre. "It was fun to walk in and see lots of guys playing blues - we were worried what they'd think of us."

The crowd, however, was mesmerized, said Paul Thompson, owner of Big Harry's Tavern owner, who received glowing reports from patrons.

"Everyone said these two came in and were just amazing," said Thompson. "So, I knew I had to check them out and bring them back."

The selling point, Thompson said, is the group's washboard.

"You just don't see that every day, and everyone told me she was playing the heck out of it," Thompson said.

Myhre's washboard, decorated with wooden blocks in the shape of frogs, was a gift from Ousley, who wanted to encourage Myhre to push herself musically.

"I started experimenting with it. Chris encouraged me," Myhre said. "It's more melodic than most washboards, and I've incorporated bells into it with the different wood blocks."

Myhre said she draws inspiration from New Orleans street bands to help her develop her own washboard performing style. For Ousley, the washboard allows him to show his deep appreciation for music history.

"Allow me to historically nerd out here," said Ousley. "There are plenty of instances where people played out with what they had on hand. When jazz got big in the cities, the people in the country couldn't get full drum kits, so they'd use a washboard or tools they had with domestic use to re-create the sound they heard. The washboard took over for the drum kit, so there's a tradition of people playing with homemade instruments that we honor."

While the two enjoy honoring music's past and performing a mix of traditions, they are starting to look to the future.

"We are just getting our feet wet with the idea of writing original material," Myhre said. "I'm still learning about the masters and music that's already been made, and I want to get a solid grounding of that."

Ousley has a similar opinion, although he has written some music already.

"I've written some instrumentals for the banjo, but there is so much material that hasn't been recorded yet," Ousley said. "Right now, it's just inspiring hearing other folks and playing with them and knowing that we're all in this same craft together of digging up American roots and pushing them forward. It's a real musical community." - Fayetteville Observer


Discography

Bumper Jacksons' Debut Album, "High Rollin" - January 2012
Live Studio Album "Big Horn Mama" - January 2013

Photos

Bio

Jess Eliot Myhre
clarinet . washboard . vocals . ukulele . melodica . kazoo

A native Floridian, Jess Eliot grew up singing in church and swinging from banyan trees. After performing in hip hop and funk bands in college and DC, she moved to New Orleans and became mesmerized by the sounds of the street bands and second lines. She dusted off her lonely old clarinet, built herself the iconic frog washboard (with Chris' help!), and hopped on the wagon. She now performs along the Atlantic coast, from the Kennedy Center in DC to busking in your city's streets. She is forever grateful to the New Orleans Jazz Vipers, who let her sit in every week at the Spotted Cat and taught her to love the big, uproarious glory of the old, old sounds.

Chris Ousley
guitar . banjo . ukulele . vocals . mouth horn

A Maryland boy, Chris was allergic to the state’s famous shellfish, so he tramped off to the hills of western Pennsylvania to study the 3 B’s: books, beer and banjos. There he woodshedded with old hill cats in barns outside of abandoned steel and coal towns playing any instrument he could take a turn on. Hitting mountain trails, biking over rough terrain, rafting down rivers, all with a bottle of whiskey and a banjo on his back. Chris’s deep jazz pocket and graceful Kentucky-style banjo is only outmatched by the snarlyness of his beard.

Together, Chris and Jess Eliot are the Bumper Jacksons. Their initial meeting fueled a riotous impromptu jam on the lawn of a radical bike house in Washington, DC.… The music never quit since. A duo born from two very different parts of the American South, the musical synergy created is undeniable. They perform the old traditional sounds of America, heart-wrenching and youthful, and always in the spirit of raw adventure.