Subscribe for 33¢ / day
The Jammers (full band)

The Jammers


Entertaining just comes easy for The Jammers.

The Siouxland band -- made up of guitarists Denny Wurster and Gene Nussbaum, lead guitarist TJ Dennis, drummer Dan Ruden and bassist Bill Berens, as well as keys and sax player Jim Schroeder -- has been performing all across Iowa for the past 13 years.

Fueled with a desire to perform well and have fun onstage, The Jammers aim to keep a laid-back-yet-professional approach playing hours and hours of rock 'n' roll cover songs for audiences. Combined, the guys have well over 300 years of experience playing music. By now, playing shows has become muscle memory for these veteran musicians.

The Jammers will be closing out the year with a New Year's Eve show starting 9 p.m. Sunday (Dec. 31) at Krause's Tap in Hinton, Iowa. The band will have much to celebrate, especially since The Jammers were selected to be inducted into the Midwest All Music Association (MAMA) Hall of Fame in 2018.

The induction show will take place Oct. 13, 2018, at the Electric Park Ballroom in Waterloo, Iowa. Wurster said each musician's musical backgrounds helped earn The Jammers a spot on the Hall of Fame.

"All our history that we have together," said Wurster. "Having played in bands for years and years and years and years, I think that's qualified us."

The Jammers

Gene Nussbaum, TJ Dennis and Jim Schroeder of The Jammers. 

Ruden said the band found out about the announcement in October, one month before the news was made public. "It's a multi-state organization," the drummer said of MAMA. "They try to raise money for schools and music programs. [...] Any money they make with admission and stuff will probably go towards that."

According to a press release from The Jammers, MAMA "always makes a donation to a school or schools in the community where they hold an event." Past MAMA Hall of Fame inductees include the Iowa-born opera singer Simon Estes, blues artist Ernie Penniston, the Des Moines Symphony conductor Joseph Guinta and the 1960s rock 'n' roll group The Rip Chords.

For a band initially formed to play Wurster's retirement party in 2004, that's not a bad list of names to now be associated with. The Jammers first consisted of Wurster and Ruden on guitar and drums, along with guitarist Mike Langley and bassist John Hagberg. If old members left, new musicians came by to pick up where they left off.

"We wanted to have fun with the band and I wanted to do more," said Wurster, who had previously played in the 1950s Sioux City rock 'n' roll band The Screamers; a band that would later find moderate success after changing its name to The Velaires.

"We decided to take it to the next level. And we have done that."

The Jammers found itself playing more often, averaging about two gigs a month throughout the tri-state area. Berens, who has been in the band since 2011, said he's contributed to well over 100 shows with the Siouxland rock 'n' roll group.

"My first love is this kind of music," said Berens, who discovered The Jammers through a want ad on Craigslist. "It said is there anybody interested in playing bass for a band that plays this type of music? But the catch was, it said, was that we actually get paid. So I answered it.

"You never know what you're walking into with something like that. But I remember very distinctly you guys did two songs that just blew me away. One was 'Tell Mama' and the other one was the Elvis song, 'Don't Be Cruel.'"

The Jammers

Dan Ruden, Denny Wurster and Bill Berens of The Jammers. 

The Jammers stick to playing cover songs -- mainly rock 'n' roll and classic rock. As a result, the band members entertain audience members of all generations with appealing tunes by Elvis, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly -- you name it.

"Young people love the music, too," said Wurster. "I think it has something to do with the beats and the lyrics."

But what has kept The Jammers jamming for all these years? Wurster said the relationships between each members help significantly. Everyone is on the same page and keep the same attitudes about practice and professionalism.

"We're tight," he said.

Experience also plays a factor. Apart from knowing just about every new song someone brings to the table, the guys know the ins and outs of band life. With bandmates holding steady jobs or retired altogether, there's no pressure to expend time creating original songs, tour schedules or studio time.

"We all consider ourselves professional," said Berens. "We want to do a professional performance, so none of us drink or do any of that crazy stuff. And I think that shows."

Added Ruden, "And we're also real comfortable onstage."

They're focused and know what they've come to achieve: entertain. Whether it's catering to the crowd's musical needs or telling jokes about their band mates' ages or the graying of their hair. It doesn't matter if it's in front of bar patrons or fans of the 1910 Fruitgum Company (which the group opened for this past summer), The Jammers make sure they're prepared.

"We all want to have fun and we all want our fans to be entertained," said Wurster.


Weekender reporter

Load comments