No problems: Peterman constructs life full of music

Published 10:09 pm Sunday, February 2, 2014

The winters got cold in Wisconsin, and working construction there meant that if the temperature went above 10 degrees Fahrenheit, work kept going anyway. Jim Peterman, musician and owner of No Problems Construction, fell in love with the climate in Tryon, North Carolina. The weather here chased away his blues.

Peterman will be performing during the “Chase Away the Blues” event this weekend along with singer Wanda Johnson and Chuck Beattie, who plays guitar and sings.

“I am glad that I can play music more than anything,” Peterman said.

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He’s lived in North Carolina since 1994, and he’s become a guiding light for many musicians in this area. He plays with his own group, the Jim Peterman Quartet. JPQ consists of Peterman on keyboards, Mac McCloud on guitar, Moss Mack on saxophone and Tim Blackwell on drums, which has Hammond organ, guitar, drums and sax. They play rhythm and blues and a funky, fine jazz.  In 2005 he started playing bass on the organ with the Shane Pruitt Band. That band will be opening for the Marshall Tucker Band in Charlotte, and they have completed a couple of CDs.

The groups have completely different working styles, but Peterman knows how to blend. Peterman leads exciting jams, bringing diverse people together and coaxing the best from them.

“I get along and play well with others. I’m good at putting things together and getting the most out of situations. When you jam together, you find out how to get the best out of everybody there and you encourage each other and listen. Being non-threatening is the most important part.”

Each band has a unique way of bringing all the elements together to play in tune and in time.

“JPQ has to get a lot done in a short amount of time,” Peterman said. “We have a little chat to get back together, since we live in three different cities, so when we get together we’re efficient and we don’t waste time. The other band uses about a third of time with constructive working on something.  SPB worked hard at the beginning and we made a good splash.”

Peterman has played in many bands, and he learned keyboards to keep a gig when he was lead singer for the Playboys in Milwaukee, WI.

“Well, I was a singer! I had to learn an instrument fast because we got booked at a place that didn’t want the band unless we all played instruments, so it was hard,” Peterman said. “I did the majority of the singing and it was tough to sing and play at the same time. A friend at church taught me some three note chords.”

Peterman hadn’t played piano since he’d tried it for a few months at the age of nine, but he put all he had into learning fast for the band’s first gig at a bar in Austin, MN, on the border of Iowa.

“We got an apartment included for a two week gig with option for a third week. We played on the hour for thirty minutes and then 15 minutes with a dancer,” he said.  “Well, it turned out to be a stripper. We were these high school kids and we all agreed we would not tell our parents. So we’d play and then we’d have fifteen minutes of Intoxicating Tonya. Of course nobody paid much attention to the band when she was stripping, so it gave me a chance to play and not have to sing, and get a little better.”

Peterman recently returned to Tryon from a vacation in France with a dear friend who speaks French. He visited the village of Limoges, toured the Salvador Dali Museum, and walked along the Mediterranean Sea. Every willing to try something new, he played a couple of hours of punk rock with a group in a studio in Paris. To his surprise, a friend in Paris had a copy of an album by his cousin’s garage band.

It’s less surprising to him to find some of his own older works in other people’s music libraries. As the original keyboardist for the Steve Miller Band, Peterman played his Hammond B3 organ with Miller, guitarist James Cooke, bassist Lonnie Turner, and drummer Tim Davis.  Boz Scaggs soon joined on guitar, and the group played at the Monterey Pop Festival. Peterman visited England with the group in 1968 to record their debut album, “Children of the Future,” and he put his energies into the second album, “Sailor.” He had married and had a little baby, though, and the touring and band personalities took a toll on him. He and Scaggs left the band at the same time.

“I was making a lot of money, but Steve Miller was a difficult personality,” Peterman said. “I couldn’t have stayed in that situation.”

Peterman returned to the Midwest and settled into family life, steady work and steady hours. In the band, he had stayed out sometimes until four in the morning, and he wanted a different kind of stability for his family, a constructive upbringing for his little girl.  Years later, when he moved to Tryon, he brought his construction company and his love of music with him.

“As a carpenter, I fixed up the house where Nina Simone lived,” Peterman said. “It was nice. I felt reverence for the situation, respect for the house’s history. ”

Nina Simone, a renowned jazz and blues singer, began life in Tryon under the name of Eunice Waymon, and her childhood home needed repairs.  Jim Peterman and No Problem Builders lifted and leveled the northeast corner of the house. The house had no concrete foundation, so the house gradually had begun to sink and fall, but Peterman and his crew set it to rights on fresh sill plates with new rim boards and brick piers with flashing. He likes working with people whose work he can trust, in construction and in music.

“I’m lucky to have a foreman I can trust,” Peterman said. “He can take care of things.”

Peterman said he was looking forward to “Chase Away the Blues,” one of many special arts events in this area.

“Tryon’s a unique place because of the wealth of the retired community,” he said. “We have quite a few civic things possible here that would not be in an average town of this size. It attracts people. It isn’t wealth with attitude or too much country club.

He also enjoys working and playing with his two bands and jamming with a variety of musicians here.

“Once you hit a little adversity, it’s like a wrong note,” Peterman said. “If it’s right all the time, there’s no friction, and you could do whatever you wanted and they’d always like it. Well, once the honeymoon is over, you decide to roll up your sleeves and work on it, and you will miss a real opportunity if you don’t stick with it. The harder you work at it, that’s how much better you feel when it comes right.”

Later in February, Peterman will visit his daughter, son-in-law, and grandson in New York City. He plans to play at the 55 Club with his grandson’s music teacher, something new. Peterman relishes the opportunity for another new challenge in his life.

“There’s good and bad in everything,” Peterman said. “A band can be like a marriage. When the honeymoon is over, you get the opportunity to start working on it, and that’s when the good really starts happening. You get more drive and sacrifices, give and take together. You find that things you do alone can be even better when done together with the right person. There’s no point in only doing things that come to easy. There’s a reward to sacrifice and work.”