Jim Peterman cooking up music for the soul at the BBQ Festival

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I caught Jim Peterman playing at Lilac Wine Bar one evening with Shane Pruitt and enjoyed it so much I try to make a point to stop by on a Tuesday night just to see who&squo;s playing when I&squo;m in town. I&squo;d heard a rumor about him playing with the Steve Miller Band and was curious to find out more about his travels before landing in Tryon. The only problem was finding a time for our schedules to match up. After trying to talk by phone during a thunderstorm while he was driving to a gig, we finally settled down and finished the conversation in person. What bands have you played with at this point? The ones people around here would know are Steve Miller, the Cocktail Frank Band with Wanda Johnson, and the Shane Pruitt Band. Where are you from? Milwaukee, Wisconsin. What brought you to Tryon? My in-laws moved down here to retire and my wife and I decided we liked the area when we came down to visit, so we moved. When did you start playing with Steve Miller? In Madison, Wisconsin we all went to school up there, Steve Miller and Boz Skaggs. Steve left school a couple years before I graduated and started that band in San Francisco in 1966. I went out in 1967 to see how it would sound and it sounded good to add keyboard. After I graduated in June of 1967 I went out there and joined the group. Boz and I both left the band in November 1968 and he went on to do his own thing and I moved back to Milwaukee. I did the first two albums with the band and then left. Left before the money started coming in. Why did you leave the band? Personal reasons and I wasn&squo;t happy. What did you do when you moved back? We actually moved to Beloit, Wisconsin a little college town. My wife, that was her former residence and her folks were living there so we picked that as a spot. I worked in a factory there for a while. Then got an interview with people at Electra Records to work as a PR man and got the job and moved to Cincinnati, OH. What did you study in college? I was an art major with painting and ceramics and then studied music. Do you still paint? It pretty much got left behind for music. I&squo;m a remodeling general contractor; I&squo;ve done that for 35 years. I get to use the drawing part of art in that and some design and color choice. I&squo;ve been able to use it some. It&squo;s been nice. Music is more my passion than art. I&squo;ve ended up where I should be I believe. How long were you in Cincinnati? I lived there for two years and then they wanted me to move to California and I didn&squo;t want to go, so I left that job behind. I was farming and teaching, whatever I could do to pay the bills. I went pretty much from something to nothing in one day, but we did all right. I learned how to do farming with some animals and doing hay and that sort of thing. I slept good with that work. A friend of mine, who was the first rhythm guitar player with Steve Miller, Curly Cook came to visit me where we were in living outside of Cincinnati in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. He came to live with us for a while and he and I were working on music just the two of us. He plays guitar, so it was guitar and piano. That was working very well but we decided to move back to Wisconsin and he moved with us. Then we started a band there called the Watermelon Band. What type of music? Old rock and roll, more rhythm and blues than blues stuff. We were a hot bar band. A fellow name Ben Sindran who we knew from college played piano with us then and I was playing organ. He&squo;s had a show on NPR for many years Jazz Alive. There was one show he had where he went to a performance and was running the show live from a club. He&squo;s got a book called Black Talk that they use for teaching jazz in some schools. He&squo;s a well rounded individual and hot player. But I had a wife and daughter and music wasn&squo;t good for family life at that point in time. I tried my hand at carpentry and stayed with that up until now as far making a living. I just wasn&squo;t providing as much as I wanted to provide as far as the hours I was working, so I went into construction full time. I would play in a band every once in while. Bands tend to come and go. I was a weekend warrior. I played in a black Baptist church in Wisconsin as the organist for five years. I probably learned more about music and developing a style in that five years as anywhere. I would bring my friends in when we did concerts. During church they didn&squo;t allow any drums. This girl brought me in who was the piano player and I played organ, but then when we had a concert we brought in drums, bass, and horns. It was a lot of fun. Nobody read music. I mean I studied it in school and I can still read chord charts, but I play by ear. The choir in that church, we&squo;d learn by rote, just playing a tape over and over until everyone learned their part. Then I started playing with a girls group from that choir. We traveled in Milwaukee and Chicago for about five years. You played in Greenville recently? Yeah, at the Bohemian Caf´ and then at the Music & Sports Festival in Asheville&squo;s Carrier Park. This was with the Shane Pruitt band? Yeah. I played solo at Rogers Park for something that Crys Armbrust put together. I guess it was just a fun thing to do for Tryon. It was me and Woody Cowan had a group there. There was a black church group from Landrum there. Crys did some shape note song with two other ladies. Barbara Tilly and Pam McNeil did a number. Barbara Tilly had a woodwind quintet there and they did two songs. It was just soup to nuts. Tuesday I play at the Lilac Wine Bar and I do that by myself, and the rest is with the Shane Pruitt Band. It&squo;s seems like I&squo;ve heard you do everything from gospel to southern rock, do you have a way of classifying what you do? Do you have a genre that you prefer? Shane Pruitt Band at HubBub (photo submitted) I guess that you&squo;d say that we&squo;re a blues/R&B oriented band. We&squo;ve got a strong gospel thing. The organ is a pretty commanding instrument anyway and the Hammond organ has got that really unique sound. That&squo;s the organ in all the black churches and what jazz is played on is that Hammond. We&squo;ve got that and then the time that I spent in that black Baptist church in Wisconsin and with that group afterwards. That&squo;s always a sound that I really loved anyway before I did all that. Having gone to school for those years while I was playing behind the choir there and the men&squo;s chorus, the women&squo;s chorus, and the children&squo;s choir. In the end you end up playing for everybody and you&squo;re there all the time. They were wonderful folks. I made just dear friends in that community, but it got way too time consuming. What I learned playing-wise from that experience is probably thirty percent of what I play now. Consequently I think people would say we&squo;ve got a strong spiritual sound as well as blues. It&squo;s who we are and everybody plays into it well. Find out more about Jim Peterman and the Shane Pruitt Band in the Friday edition of the Bulletin. Even better, catch them playing live at the Blue Ridge BBQ & Music Festival on the Main Stage in Harmon Field on Saturday at 4 p.m. Check out the entire line-up of great music this year at www.blueridgebbqfestival.com.

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