Jay Stielstra

Jay Stielstra

 Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

Known as Michigan's " treasure" Jay Stielstra has been performing and writing his timeless, songs for over 3 decades--pure folk with a touch of country, close harmonies and unforgettable lyrics.Playwright, poet, author, actor and self-proclaimed "old jock", Jay and his music are one of a kind.


Genre: Acoustic folk-country originals
Origin: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Official Band Website: www.myspace.com/jaystielstratrio
2010 Folk Alliance Region Midwest Showcase Performer

Band Members:
Jay Stielstra: songwriter, vocals, guitar
Judy Banker: vocals, mandolin, guitar

Often described as "a Michigan treasure", Jay Stielstra has been writing and performing his original songs throughout the midwest for several decades. The author of a number of musical plays -- North Country Opera, Tittabawassee Jane, America America and The Prodigals -- Jay is an award-winning actor and gifted playwright.
Jay's songs have that indefinable quality that instantly makes a song an old friend. Jay Stielstra "classics" tell stories that cut to the heart of the human experience. With clarity, wry observation, humor and honesty Jay captures the universal elements of friendship, love, loss, war and the wonder of fly fishing in the still of the north woods.

Jay has performed solo and with many musician friends over his career. In 2008, Jay formed the Jay Stielstra Trio with long-time friends, husband and wife musicians Judy Banker and John Sayler and has toured with them since that time. Judy's pure vocals and John's versatile dobro playing are the perfect complement to Jay's weathered voice and solid guitar licks. Part folk, part country, part Irish pub song and part polka---Jay's music enriches the spirit and captures the essence of our lives.

We deeply mourn the loss of John Sayler.
4/20/37 - 4/20/12


Manistee River Waltz

Written By: Jay Stielstra

Will the whippoorwill call by the river tonight
And the big trout rise to the fly
Will old friends gather in the campfire light
As we have in the years gone by

Will we talk small as we always have done
And pretend to change not a thing
Will one of us there strum a guitar
Pick out a song and sing

(ch) The Manistee River runs through Deward
And the Manistee runs through Sharon
She flows, I know, when we're thinking out loud
And she flows when nobody's caring

Will she run clear as Stolichnaya
From Yellow Trees to the Ranch
Will the beer stay cold in the Mecum Bar
When the mayflies rise to dance

Will the weather be as unpredictable
And the fishing as well the same
Will we carry on as we've always done
And scarcely mention his name


Will a solitary mink hunt on her bank
And the coyote sing out tonight
Will bank beavers gather at their favorite holes
In the warm June's late twilight

Will the Manistee River give us a nod
To tell us that she really knows
We're weaker and fewer this year by one
And trying to not let it show


The Lake

Written By: Jay Stielstra

Some come to bask on the beach by day
Some to make love when the sun sinks away
Some come in quest of the fish by the pier
The Lake infatuates in the warm of the year

But you can't begin to know it 'til you've seen it in November
When the breakwall disappears and the waves have turned to thunder
It doesn't roll, it thrashes and you shudder at its anger
No colors blossom on its beach, no lovers sit upon its lap
And a man is but a cricket you remember

Mothers bring their babies to the shore in June
To play in the sand with a pail and a spoon
They take off their shoes and most of their clothes
And giggle at the tickle of the Lake on their toes

But you can't begin to know it 'til the month of January
When there is no beach at all 'cause the icebergs have it buried
Only fools and suicides dare risk its fury
One can't even dream of spring, such an odd and distant thing
There is naught to do but fret and worry

They shoot fireworks on the Fourth of July
Up from the sand to the fat purple sky
Crowds on the beach they cheer and they clap
The Lake sleeps calm as a kitten in your lap

But you can't begin to know it 'til you've seen the front come in
Always late in August to mark the summer's end
And bring a grim reminder of who we are and when
It closes down the fine resorts, locks the yachters in the ports
And a man is but a cricket once again

She's pretty as a woman and big as the sky
Angry as God in a churchgoer's eye
She'll float a boat ‘til it’s nearly home
Then let it sink like a granite gray stone

She’ll float a boat ‘til it’s nearly home
Then let it sink like a granite gray stone

Tittabawassee Jane

Written By: Jay Stielstra

(ch) Tittabawassee Jane, Tittabawassee Jane
The river there must be named after her
She's Tittabawassee Jane

I met her in Midland Michigan long long time ago
She loved me down on the edge of town
Where the Tittabwassee flows


She worked at the old Dow Chemical plant
I waited for her shift to end
She made napalm or some kind of bomb
But I wasn't too political then

The air it smelled like kerosene
Whatever Dow blew out
The river was laced with lumps of waste
Called Tittabawassee trout


Now I haven't been back in quite some time
But the company magazine
Says the air blows fresh in Midland Mich
And the Tittabawassee's clean

Now I won't tell you what to believe
Dow's been known to lie
Though we all care what they do to the air
The Tittabawassee's mine

(ch and yodel)

Liam O'Reilly

Written By: Jay Stielstra

My name is Liam O'Reilly and from Boston I am come
My father was a soldier back in World War I
The Brits took him from Galway and sent him to the Marne
My mom become a widow shortly after I was born

An aunt living in Boston invited Mom and me
We boarded ship in Dublin and sailed across the sea
I arrived at manhood when World War II began
They sent me off to Normandy to save the Brits again

From Cherbourg to the Rhine I never took a scratch
Some were not so lucky and many did not come back
When it was over there here again I came
To marry Mary O'Holleran, as Irish as her name

Soon we had a son, we called him Paddy Joe
The name, it was his grandfather's so very long ago
A score of years flew by, he too became a man
Just about the time another war began

We're not the ones to shirk, my own father nor me
The lad he had a heart at the age of twenty three
Some said the war was wicked, that it was bound to fail
Many went to Canada, some even went to jail

But Paddy went to Vietnam to fight the foreign was
And do the royal bidding as his people had before
Though I prayed in private and Mary went to Mass
The enemy in Asia had other gods, I guess

So we lost our Paddy Joe in far-off Vietnam
We remain in Boston where the nation first began
The wars go on and on, but all I know they done
They took away my father and they took away my son

Don't Let Me Down Easy

Written By: Jay Stielstra

Don't let me down easy, keep me hangin' out there
If you really are leaving, if you no longer care.
For the sooner I know babe, the sooner I'll heal.
Don't let me down easy, tell me right how you feel.

There once was a time, love, we trembled inside.
And the thought of us parting, brought a tear to your eye.
Well if it's all over, and your going away
Don't let me down easy, say what you gotta say.

(ch) Don't let me down easy, 'cuz my heart's gonna break
Don't let me know easy, for the old time's sake.
Don't tell me you're sorry, that we still can be friends.
Don't say that some day, we may meet again.
If you really are going, my world's gonna fall.
Don't let me down easy, just tell me that's all.

(repeat chorus)


Recent CD released:
Don't Let Me Down Easy

Times That We Had
Songs of the North Country Opera

Cuts available on our Myspace page at http://www.myspace.com/jaystielstratrio
Videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/JayStielstraTrio

Set List

We typically play 20-22 songs over two hours. Our material is almost entirely original music penned by Jay Stielstra.
Sample set list:
Don't Let Me Down Easy
Old Fool
November Love
Tittabawassee Jane
Manistee River
It's a Wonder
Judo for Jesus
The Same Folks We Hated
Leave the Bottle
Since You've Been Gone
Last Night You Came Alive
Liam O'Rielly
Pitcher and a Glass
Cross Over the Line
I'm Singin'
The Lake
The Road Less Travelled
Suino's Song
Never Been to Dixie
I Want A Million Dollars