THE STORY OF THE BJs
Bumper Jacksons are hot and sweet, painting America's story from the streets of New Orleans to Appalachian hollers. Unafraid to scrap together new sounds from forgotten 78's, the Bumper Jacksons elegantly balance paying homage to the traditions while fashioning their own unique, playful style. The group began as a duo, a city-meets-country experiment between songstress Jess Eliot Myhre and banjo player Chris Ousley. They hopped on bicycles, touring the country, instruments on their backs, seeking to reimagine roots music. In five short years, Bumper Jacksons grew to a fiery five and six-piece, with horns and pedal steel. They now tour internationally, and have been honored multiple times as the Mid-Atlantic's "Artist of the Year" & "Best Traditional Band" at the Washington Area Music Awards. Bursting at the seams with some of the richest threads of old America, Bumper Jacksons bring you into the center of a party where everyone's invited and the dance floor never sleeps.
VOCALS. CLARINET. WASHBOARD. SONGWRITING. TROUBLE.
A native Floridian, Jess grew up singing in church and swinging from banyan trees. Her mother swears she could sing before she could talk and swim before she could walk. As a girl, she dutifully learned her scales on clarinet and euphonium and marched with gusto in competitive southern marching bands. At Wesleyan University, she set aside her instruments in favor of books, limiting her music to her voice, where she sang in funk and soul bands. After college she moved to New Orleans to teach and build school gardens, but became mesmerized by the big, uproarious glory of the street bands and second lines. She dusted off her lonely old clarinet, built herself her iconic frog washboard, and somehow convinced the local bands to let her sit in. She fell in love with American traditional music and dove right in. Over the last seven years, that deep dive has continued - Jess now performs and teaches all over the country: in performance halls, theaters, universities, festivals, dance tents, music camps, house concerts, the woods, on the back of bicycles... She produces an annual tribute to Patsy Cline, has added guitar and upright bass to her repertoire, and has become an award-winning songwriter.
Jess has an awesomely chubby toddler named Monk and another little rascal on the way. She loves being a mom more than anything in this big, crazy world. She spends her time with her family in Brentwood, MD making Christmas cookies at all times of year, or else she's off hiking a trail.
VOCALS. GUITARS. BANJO. SONGWRITING. SHENANIGANS.
A Maryland boy, Chris 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. He was the one bold enough to believe that he and Jess could make music for a living and is solely responsible for all of the shenanigans that embody the Bumper Jacksons.
Together, Chris and Jess Eliot formed the core of the Bumper Jacksons in 2012. Their initial meeting fueled a riotous impromptu jam on the lawn of a radical bike house in Washington, DC.… The music never quit since.
UPRIGHT BASS. HARMONY VOCALS. DAD JOKES.
Alex swears that it was beautiful sirens who lead him to the upright bass at the impressionable age of seventeen. With lots of practice under his belt and two degrees in music education from Eastman(MM) and James Madison University(BA) he has found a home laying down some groovy bass lines with the Bumper Jacksons. His first music love which lead him to the upright bass was jazz music, something he studied vigorously. Years later he found himself chasing every opportunity to play some happy thumping lines with bluegrass and old-time string bands. Over the past seven years, Alex has become an invaluable third leg of the Bumper Jacksons, tasked not only with bass-playing duties, helping with arrangements and tour logistics, but also keeping Chris in line.
DRUMS. PERCUSSION. HANDSTANDS.
Dan Samuels was raised on a strict diet of polycultural rhythms. From the Jewish music he sang at home, at synagogue and in school to the rhythm and blues, folk, classical, and traditional zulu music constantly played in his parents home stereo - there was seldom a shortage of new sounds for "Bunny" (as his parents still call him) to take in. Dan's love of music from around the world was cultivated throughout his upbringing and lead him to work and collaborate with artists from around the globe - Honduras, Cape Verde, Senegal, Mali, Ghana, Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, Yemen, Cuba, Norway, Tuva, Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Haiti, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Brazil... just to name a few.
As a drummer, Dan's playing creates a deep pocket for his bandmates' sounds to snuggle up inside, while keeping enough room for everyone to get up and SHAKE IT! Mr Samuels also enjoys gardening, hockey, puppies, kittens, and cooking meals with his friends and family. He also loves his mum and dad.
PEDAL STEEL. COFFEE FINDER.
Growing up in rural Northwest Illinois, Dave was learning guitar when he heard a pedal steel guitar being played for the first time at the local music store. He became completely obsessed with the sounds that the instrument could create, bought one, and he would sometimes lock himself in a room and practice for 8 hours a day during summer vacation and play along to a stack of albums of various genres. Since then, he's played and recorded with hundreds of artists and musicians, adding unique sounds and textures to the music. Dave is not only a pedal steel monster, but has donned the very-important caps of "The Captain," "The Rainman," and "Ray-of-Sunshine Hadley" (helping drive the band van Olga on tour, giving us the weather report, and being resident cynicist) for over six years now.
"Bumper Jacksons strike like a band that’s leapt from a scratchy 78 and into an impromptu Mardi Gras jam. They’re all beads and beauty, this mighty uproar... Pulled together as if by a rider who reins in a wild stallion, Bumper Jacksons’ music can quiet to a whisper. Unbridled, they can kick into a wail." - Tom Netherland, Bristol Courier
" Their hellacious devil music will make you get up and dance! ... Too Big World, is nicely varied, tasteful, energetic, well played and sung...you can't not like it... You may come for the jazz: clarinet and horns and swingy rhythms, plus Billie Holliday and Duke Ellington classics. But you'll stay for all the other ingredients in their mélange: fiddles and guitars, bouncy banjo-ukes, weepy country pedal steel, rock-and-roll electric guitar, jug-band kazoo and assorted percussion." - Stephen D. Winick - the Huffington Post
"Bumper Jacksons bring sexy back for back alley jazz - The Alternate Route
"On a humid evening this past August, a crowd of costumed, bicycle-riding revel makers took to the streets of DC, led on their wheels by a six-piece, traditional, old-time jazz band, instruments in tow (including the upright bass and drums) on makeshift pedicabs. To a tourist, the sight must have been one to behold; but to the Bumper Jacksons, it was just another Wednesday.
Since forming in 2012, core duo Jess Eliot Myhre and Chris Ousley, along with the rest of the Bumper Jacksons, have quickly become one of the District’s most well-known and eclectic musical ensembles. When they’re not performing, which is rare, members of the band find a myriad of other ways to bring music – and camaraderie – to the city they call home...The band’s sound and look are old-timey, but not without sass – a bit like a neon victophone. It’s solidly jazzy (notes of frontwoman Myhre’s stint in New Orleans float into many of the tunes), slightly bluesy, but mostly simply makes you want to find a sweetheart and an old pair of swing shoes to shine up and take out dancing." - Courtney Sexton, On Tap Magazine
“There was a golden time before categories like ‘blues,’ ‘country,’ and ‘jazz’ meant anything to anyone listening to American music. Back then, music was just ’fun.’ The Bumper Jacksons, amazingly, have figured out how to get us there again.” - Aaron Henkin, WYPR, Baltimore
"Joyous, diverse and beautifully performed... If you like groups such as Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, Asleep at the Wheel and Squirrel Nut Zippers, you’d be wise to check out Bumper Jacksons." - Jeff Burger, No Depression
"Jess Eliot Myhre sings like a saloon chanteuse, a hypnotic glow lighting her perfectly pitched approach, as much instrument as voice." - Jerome Clark, Rambles
"Jess Eliot Myhre, the band's principal vocalist, never falters. If she won't make you forget Frank Proffitt, the ultimate source of most or all revival versions, she'll definitely leave a mark in your sense of the possible." - Jerome Clark, Rambles.net
"The band fuses jazz, blues, and country swing into a hootin', hollerin' party, full of brass, strings, and backwoods instruments like washboard and kazoo. Their New Orleans-by-way-of-Appalachia sound is stronger than ever on this record, stacking flirty ragtime; mountain ditties; and smoky, Southern soul into a rich revival soundtrack, perfect for a back-porch boogie on a hot June night." - Lydia Woolever, Baltimore Magazine
"One of the grooviest band to come out of Washington, DC." - Fatea Magazine
"If you miss the slightly punky 1930s-style hot jazz of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, then you owe it to yourself to check out the slightly countrified 1930s-style hot jazz of the Bumper Jacksons. This group’s sound draws deeply on driving pre-swing sounds but also on early string band music, Western swing and classic country... hot jazz, with Django-style rhythm guitar, group horn improvisations, and anachronistically chirpy female vocals (sometimes combined, weirdly and brilliantly, with steel guitar). It’s a pretty rare album that follows up “When the Sun Goes Down in Harlem” with “Darlin’ Corey,” and that’s part of what makes this one so much fun. Mostly, though, what makes it fun the sheer and unadulterated joy of the playing and singing. Highly recommended to all collections." - CD Hotlist Pick of the Month
"Bumper Jacksons have been building their repertoire and reputation as one of the premier swing, roots, and country-folk bands in the Mid-Atlantic region. Their latest release, Sweet Mama, Sweet Daddy, Come In (CD, Bumper Jacksons), is a versatile romp of rollicking fun that blends ragtime street jazz with old-time country. Some sultry slow waltzes pepper the disc -- “Darkness on the Delta,” and a husky performance of Tom Waits’s “Clap Hands” -- but the party kicks into high gear with raucous tracks such as “When the Sun Goes Down in Harlem” and a percussive, bounding-freight-train cover of the bluegrass traditional “Darlin’ Corey.” Jess Eliot Myhre sings with a depth of soul that harks back to the great jazz chanteuses of bygone glory. When she puts down the vocal mic and picks up her clarinet or iconic handbuilt frog washboard (which she plays wearing white gloves with thimbles sewn to the fingertips), her array of raw, natural talent is in full bloom. Guitar, pedal steel, bass, trombone, and a suitcase trap kit round out the flavors of the full band. Fans of the Squirrel Nut Zippers or Madeleine Peyroux will appreciate this fun-loving bunch of great young talents."
- Shannon Holliday, SoundStage Hi-Fi
"A Bumper Jacksons show is an exciting blend of the traditional and non-traditional; contemporary lyricism and form is coupled with the early sounds of western swing, street jazz, bluegrass and country blues. Their expansive roots repertoire and unique instrumentation will delight Americana enthusiasts of both traditional and progressive leanings... Trombones battle clarinets and kazoos. Playful, genre-exploding originals pepper their sets. They are solidly a festival party dance band, yet you can tell that the Bumper Jacksons love the quiet. They can summon vulnerability and sparsity when they want to break your heart. Jess Eliot Myhre’s vocals and clarinet playing are rooted deeply in the study of early blues singers; she oscillates between the tender and the ferocious. The big-bearded Chris Ousley imblues a heavy dose of wacky energy and humor – his “mouth horn,” unpredictable falsetto interludes and originals like the “Bacon Adoration” keep the shows light, fresh and funny." - Spot on Magazine