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Country/Gospel and Rock & Roll Jammin’ at Paradise Resort Estates

20240320 Paradise Resort Estates 1 webSince December, Rock & Roll music jams have been standard this season each Friday from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Since February 2024, Country/Gospel jams are new to this park each Tuesday from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Each jam is managed by the park’s activity director, Jim Stiles. The ‘balanced sound system’ is a feature designed by sound engineer Craig Clampitt allowing each musician to be easily heard over the supporting music generated by the two outstanding stage bands. Each jammer is announced by the jam’s MC David Harston for the country jam and Cathy Squier for the rock & roll jam.

The rock & roll jams feature the Esquiers Band with Cliff Squier on drums, Claude Babin on keyboard, Allen Cully on rhythm guitar and vocals, Gilles LaFlamme on lead guitar and vocals and RK Welander on bass guitar and vocals. The music played is primarily classic rock & roll from the 1950’s to 1970’s.

During this season, there were 26 individual musician jammers who performed with the five-piece band. On average, there are seven to 10 musicians who routinely perform each week.

The new six-piece band includes Andy Anderson on lead guitar, Howard Bedient on keyboard/piano, Allen Cully on bass guitar, Dale Eichor on rhythm guitar, Troy Reese on drums and Rich Rohrback on pedal steel guitar. The music played is primarily traditional country-gospel classics.

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Jammin’ at Oleander Acres

20240313 Oleander Acres 3 webOleander Acres Resort is the oldest family-owned RV resort in Mission purchased in 1978 by its current owner Ed Welliver. Ed’s daughter, Salome, plus third generation family members and office manager, Lois, also manage the resort. On site is a butterfly garden plus a tropical nursery with plants for sale to the public.
Tuesday, February 6 and 13 from 1 to 3 p.m., I attended two of their country-gospel jams in their recreational hall. I met with the co-managers of the jam, Ervin Bertrand and Frank Deramus. It is important for the band, jammers, and audience to have a great sound system. Claude LaBelle, the sound engineer, has developed an excellent sound system that delivers a ‘balanced’ sound between the band and singers that is pleasing to the listeners.

The February 13 stage band members were Ervin Bertrand, jam manager, guitar, cajon drum and vocalist; Bill Foster, harmonica and vocalist; Irene Griffiths, keyboard and vocalist; Ken Griffiths, lead guitar and vocalist; Bill Knight, lead guitar and vocalist; Frank Rinchiuso, guitar and vocalist; Ray Trudeau, guitar and vocalist; and Dennis Wiese, bass guitar and vocalist. The February 6 stage band consisted of Ron Liptow, guitar and vocalist; and Larry Robertson, harmonica and vocalist; plus the other members of the February 13 band (with the exception of Ray Trudeau and Bill Foster).

20240313 Oleander Acres 2 webThe 28 jammers who sang and performed at either or both of these jams were Delbert Allen (guitar), Don and Bonnie Ausland, Don Baker, Keith Churchill (keyboard), Joyce Congdon, Frank (guitar) and Linda Deramus, Mark Fecho (banjo), John Filo, Bill Foster (guitar), Verna Funk, Diana Gibson, Judy Goolsby, Tim (guitar) and Shelli Johnson, Charles Josephes (guitar), James Kropenske (guitar), Patrick LaBore, Janie LaPoint, Tony Ozark (guitar), Ryan Pels (guitar), Dixie Rinchiuso, Carole Robinson (guitar), Nelson Skryock (guitar), John (guitar) and Sara Weihmiller, and Iris Wiese.

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Jammin’ at Pharr South

20240306 Pharr South Jam 2 webAnother fantastic park and country jam is held on Thursdays from 1-3 p.m. during the winter season at Pharr South, located at 1402 South Cage Boulevard in Pharr. I attended a February jam and was warmly received by the office manager Lefa Pendleton and the activity director/chair of the jam, Ted Yoder. The master of ceremonies was Jane Heinen who announced each musician prior to their performance. Jane was assisted by Judy O’Hair and Margie Katzmann. This was the largest jam that I attended so far this season with over 200 people in the audience.

Each jammer was supported by talented musicians who comprised the stage band: Dale Eichor (bass guitar), George Epley (stage band manager and lead guitar), Red Foster (rhythm guitar), Judy Pinner (keyboard), Phillip Raiche (drummer), Rich Rohrback (pedal steel guitar), Dean Schilling (trumpet), and Leah Wuestenberg (fiddle).

The following are the 28 musician jammers who entertained the audience: John Bennett, Bart Bergquist, Ed Black, Janet Bland, Charlie Cassaday, Allen Cully, Richard Daniels, Stephan Estys, Harvey Goehring, Sandy Grady, Jane Heinen, Peggy Hertzfeldt, Billy Hick, Alice Johnston, Jane Kumor, Judy O’Hair, Joy Padgett, Dave Perryman, Anna Pisano, Evelyn Ringlar, Jill Rohrback, Darrell Rogers, Bobby Rosier, Tom Schneider, Alex Vahey, Gaylan and Murt Van Houten, and Mark Wuestenberg.

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Jammin’ at Split Rail RV Park

20240228 Split Rail RV Jam 3 webAnother park with great country/gospel music, stage band and musician jammers. I visited Split Rail on Friday, January 26 when the jam was on from 1 to 3 p.m. I especially want to compliment the kitchen personnel who prepared the fantastic homemade desserts that are available for free for everyone halfway through the jam.

I met one of the family owners, Stephen Polanski whose parents Joseph (deceased 2005) and Maria Polanski purchased the land and converted the orange grove to a park in 1978. Maria and Stephen are active today in parks management with day-to-day management responsibilities by Gwen Lamley and Lori Nelson. The park continues as family owned with the third generation now involved in the park’s future. I could feel that the residents and management have a sense of family and community.

Joseph named the park appropriately knowing that its up-north visitors were familiar with split rail races. Joseph is also known in the Valley for insisting to the local governmental and chamber officials that its winter visitors not be called snowbirds but referred to as Winter Texans.

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Jammin' at Mission Bell Resort

20240214 Mission Bell Jam 1 webI visited the Mission Bell jam on January 18 and was impressed that this event started with the pledge of allegiance and a prayer. I was welcomed by the Master of Ceremonies, Rusty Rierson, who also plays the guitar and cajon drum as part of the stage band. In addition to Rusty, the stage band is composed of Pete Gibson, bass guitar; Kevin Hagbom, rhythm guitar; Terry Pendlay, pedal steel guitar; Ken Griffith, lead guitar; Irene Giffith, keyboard; and Bill Knight, lead guitar.

In addition to the seven stage band members, who each performed, there were 27 jammers from Canada and the US who performed with either their vocal renditions or with vocals plus their accompanying musical instrument. Jammers were Delbert Allen, guitar; Bob Anderson, guitar; Rick and Karen Anderson, guitars; Erven Bertrand, guitar; Sharon and Randy Calendar, accordion/banjo; Keith Churchill, keyboard; Russell Comar; Jane and Mel Curry; Jim Fultz; Charles Josephes, guitar; Jesse Land, dulcimer; Judy Minden; Charlie Nelson; Ron Norbie; Joy Norris; Ronnie and LaJuanda Ressel; Al and Donna Schulz, guitar; Susie Q Schutz; Banjo Bill Swartz, guitar; Ray Trudeau, guitar; Mike Wuendlek; and Dick Wynne, guitar.

This article features Terry Pendlay from Illinois, who at the age of 15 was motivated by his mother and uncle to pursue music. Terry taught himself to play the pedal steel guitar and chose country music because of his love of country music from the Grand Ole Opry. Terry started performing in public once he reached retirement age. He has performed in Illinois with the Opry shows, with Miss Dunaway, and at nursing homes. Here in the RGV, he is on stage at Chimney Park, Mission Bell, Split Rail, and The Grove in San Juan.

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Country Jammin’ at McAllen’s Paradise Park

Paradise Park 02 webOn Tuesday, January 23, I entered this amazing 55+ park’s recreational hall to be greeted by nearly 200 lovers of country and gospel music who warmly welcomed me to Paradise Park (100 E. Hackberry). I was also welcomed by Dolly Mireles, activity director, Rosemary, the office manager, and Andy Anderson, the manager of the jam/stage band and one of the lead guitarists and vocalists.

This jam is one of the more popular music jams according to the jammers who were interviewed. A large amount of the credit, according to the jammers, is due to the members of the stage band. Along with Andy Anderson, there is Ed Augstein, tenor sax; Claude Babin, keyboard; Al Cully, bass guitar; Larry Lange, lead guitar and vocals; Rich Rohrback, pedal steel guitar and vocals; and Dean Schilling on trumpet and vocals. The jam also has a master of ceremonies, David Harston, who announces each musician and recites poems.

Paradise Park 03 webIn addition to the stage band, this jam had 32 jammers. They were John Bennett, guitar; Bart Bergquist; Ed Blac; Dwight Blackman; Ann Butler; Randy and Sharon Calendar; Richard Daniel; Lenny Falcone, guitar; Sandy Grady; Ralph Hartnicker; Jane Heinen; Billy J Hicks; Charles Josephes, guitar; Jane Kumor; Gilles LaFlamme, Guitar; Elaine Nelson, guitar; Judy O’Hair; Joy Padgett; Bob Powell; Gary Rene; Rusty Rierson, guitar; Carole Robinson, guitar; Deral Rogers, guitar; Al Schulz, guitar; Susie Q Schutz; Peggy Soucek, guitar; Wally Sternberg, banjo; Carolyn Sternberg, accordion; Bill Swatz, guitar; Betty Thomes; and Marilyn.

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Jammin’ at Dream Valley Ranch

20240207 Dream Valley Ranch Jam 1 webAs I entered the hall at Dream Valley Ranch located off of US Route 83 at the western edge of Mission on Abram Road on January 11, I was greeted by residents and musicians of the park plus musicians and jammers from other parks who were already enjoying the dinner that is prepared and served prior to the country jam by chefs living at the park. The Activity Director, Aileen Martin, is responsible for every detail of this jam, including finding the volunteers required to run this jam taking place each Thursday evening during December through March.

The on-site leader of the jam, and manager of the stage band, is Frank Rinchiuso who also performs on stage with his guitar and voice. Accompanying Frank on stage are several musicians who provide the musical support for each jammer and musician. They are Fred Davidson, bass guitar/vocalist; Jess Elrick, lead guitar/vocalist; Leon Hampton, lead guitar/vocalist; Bill Knight, lead guitar/vocalist; Larry Robertson, harmonica/vocalist; and Richard St. Germaine, drummer.

20240207 Dream Valley Ranch Jam 3 webThe master of ceremonies is John Mosqueda. The jammers sang/performed country/gospel music during the jam. Those jammers included Delbert Allen, guitar; Richard and Karen Anderson, guitars; Kathy Baehr; Erven Bertrand, guitar; Dee Bethel; Ron Brehm, guitar soloist; Ketih Churchill, piano; Sue Craig; Verna Funk; Ray Glenn; Judy Goosley; Arlie Heisterberg’ Patrick Kent, guitar; Janie La Point; Beverly and Emmet Moore, guitars; Tony Ozark; Cathi Robertson; Dave Reavis; Al Schulz; Susie Q Schutz; Dave Swanson; Banjo Bill Swartz, guitar; Beverly Tokensgard; and Anna Weins, harp.

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Jammin’ at Bentsen Palm RV Park

20240131 Bentsen Palm Jam webThe owners, Billy and Willeta Borden, have created an inspirational ambiance to motivate 55+ musicians to provide memorable artistic experiences to the listeners who attend the weekly country-gospel jams on Fridays from 1 to 3 p.m. at Bentsen Palm recreation hall.

Both the activity director, Karla Laackmann and the office manager, Victoria, assist in getting volunteers to ensure that each jam is functioning effectively. One of these volunteers is Ed Ervin who manages the jam and arranges for the members of the stage band that supports each musician. Ed is on stage with his guitar and is accompanied by Pete Gibson who plays dobro guitar/lead guitar and Michael Kilmer at bass guitar.

Besides the stage band, this jam was blessed to have the following 15 jammers perform their country favorites: Rick (guitar) and Karen (mandolin) Anderson, Kathy Baehr, Vickie Ervin, Mark Fecho (banjo), Judy Goolsey, John Mosqueda, Tony Ozark, Gene (guitar) and Mary Scott, Ron Stacy (guitar), Dixie and Frank (guitar) Rinchiuso, Ted Weishar (guitar) and Marvin Willis (trumpet).

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Jammin’ at Alamo’s Roadrunner RV Park

20240124 Roadrunner Jam 2 webMusicians and listeners should not miss the inspirational country-gospel music available every Tuesday (November through March) from 1 to 3 p.m. at Roadrunner RV Park’s clubhouse, your home away from home since 1960, located at 1222 N. Cesar Chavez Rd. The park is named after the cartoon character, the ‘roadrunner’ which is a Warner Bros. 1949 creation of a fast ground running ‘bird.’

The welcoming starts immediately as you enter with a warm greeting from Connie Dziuh (50/50), followed by greetings by Sherry Hogan of the activity committee and Monika Shaw who served participants lunch. In addition, each jammer is introduced on stage by the announcer Carlene Chebuhar who coordinates the jammers with George Epley, the manager of the stage band.

The stage band is composed of the following volunteers: George Epley, stage band manager, lead guitarist, mandolin player and vocalist; Rodney Crouse, bass guitarist and vocalist; Tom Rivers, lead guitarist and vocalist; Bunnie Sigrist, rhythm guitarist and vocalist; and Wayne Teeple, fiddle, guitar, and vocalist.

20240124 Roadrunner Jam 3 webThe 19 country-gospel jammers who performed were Connie Benedict, John and Judy Campbell, Carlene Chebuhar, Linda Crouse, Richard Daniel, Joyce Fratt, Verna Funk, Tom Masha, Gail Miles, Elaine Nelson, Tony Ozark, Shire Pfeiffer, Deral Rogers, Larry Sisk, Dave Swanson, Bettey Thomas, Bo, and Ralph.
Two musicians were standouts – George Epley and Bunnie Sigrist.

George Epley, who lives full time in Pharr, is the manager of the Roadrunner stage band and also performs weekly at the Heritage Square jam in Mission. Twice per month, he is at the Brook Ridge Retirement Community in Pharr.

George started his music career at age 12 learning to play the left-handed guitar and mandolin by ear without any lessons. He is a great vocalist learning many songs by listening to the Grand Ole Opry. He was also inspired to pursue music from his father who played the old-time fiddle. Because of his love for music, George has inspired his son and grandson to pursue music.

In the RGV, he has performed with the Bob Droze Band; Louie Long and Texas Three band, that played at senior parks; Terry Smith, a popular songwriter and vocalist from Nashville; and his own four-piece band for shows at senior parks. Back in his hometown of Wichita, George had his own band performing for shows and at the VFW dances. He has also performed on radio and produced several CDs.

20240124 Roadrunner Jam 4 webBunnie Sigrist performs with her guitar and voice and currently lives full time in Alamo. She was motivated to study music by her Sunday school teacher taking piano lessons starting at the age of 10. She performed in school bands, choirs, and a girls glee club.

Later in life, she was motivated by her children and grandchildren to continue to pursue music. She has performed with Don Barnard, George Epley, Ron Ford, Louie Jett, Red Johnson, Jim King, and Coleman Smith. Bunnie plays at several jams, including Countryside MH and RV Park, Siesta Village, and Trails End as well.

Because of her pursuit of music, she has inspired her oldest son and grandson to study music.

Bunnie also volunteers and shares her musical talents at nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Her philosophy is “Musicians are family. We pray for each other and take care of each other.”

Jammin’ at Quiet Village II

20240117 Quiet Village Jam 1 webQuiet Village’s clubhouse is an exceptional environment for a musical jam. Everyone is greeted by either Doreen Gillespie, activity director, and/or by the jam hosts Linda and Rodney Crouse. Rodney is also the park’s vice president.

The jam that I attended was their country jam on Wednesdays from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. There is also a gospel jam on Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m. These jams run the entire year.

Supporting each musician/performer is the stage band consisting of Rodney Crouse, bass guitar/vocals; Joyce Fratt, guitar/vocals; Dorren Gillespie, keyboard/vocals; Tom Rivers, lead guitar/vocals; and John Thomas, lead guitar/vocals.

The stage band and jammers sang a variety of classic country, gospel, and Christmas music. The jammers included Connie Benedict, Carlene Chebuhar, Linda Crouse, Doris, Gary Hughes, Charlie Hrnicek, Elaine Nelson, Tony Ozark, Deral Rogers, Angele Ryan, and Dave Swanson.

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Jammin’at Greengate Grove

20240110 Green Gate Grove Jam 1 PRINTAt Greengate Grove, the country/gospel jam takes place in the recreational hall each Saturday from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. It is managed by George Bowers, who with his wife, live full time at Greengate Grove. George also performs with his vocals and guitar at the jams. Prior to the start of each jam, a delicious meal is served at a modest price. Halfway through the jam, the residents provide home baked cookies and cakes. The jam is a success thanks to George and residents like Katie Gallaway who greet each jammer and visitor personally while also helping to prepare and serve the food, treats, or handling the 50/50 sales.

This jam took place in November and featured country songs such as Amarillo by Morning, Blackboard of my Heart, Ashes of Love, Big River, Dreams of a Dreamer, Help Me Make It Through the Night, Don’t Worry About Me, Hey Good Lookin’, I Started Loving Her Today, and so many more great country tunes. Some gospel songs included I’ll Fly Away, Where Could I Go, and I Saw the Light.

The stage band, which supports each jammer, features Lewis Long (rhythm guitar/vocalist), Ron Ford (rhythm and bass guitar and vocalist), George Epley (lead guitar and vocalist), Don McGhghy (bass guitar and stage band manager), and Frank Deramus (rhythm guitar/vocalist).

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Heritage Square hosts jams all year round

20240103 Heritage Square Jam stage band webEach Wednesday from 1 to 3 p.m., there is a variety jam (country, gospel, and rock/roll music) led by master of ceremonies and outstanding bass guitarist Don McGhghy. This is one of three parks in the lower RGV that provides a place for area musicians to perform all 52 weeks of the year in their recreation hall.

During the November 2023 jam, I was welcomed by President Bruce Wright who provided me an overview of the park community and residents who live in mobile homes covering 35 acres. Heritage Square opened its doors to the seniors in 1979 and incorporated it in 1981.

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Inspirational ‘Good News’ music abounds in the RGV

20230329 Jam Lamplighter 01 TOzark webGospel or ‘good news’ music is sung throughout the RGV including the two jams that I attended at Lamplighter Park in Palmview on February 26th and at Valley View Estates in Mission on March 12th. Other gospel jams take place at Bluebonnet RV Park in Mission, Leisure World in Weslaco, and Paradise Park RV Resort in Harlingen.

Gospel music is a traditional genre of Christian music with its definition varying according to culture and social context. It’s a style of ‘church’ music which emerged from hymns with songs easier to grasp and more singable than traditional church hymns.

Gospel music can be traced to the early 1600’s with the first published use of the term ‘gospel song’ appearing in 1874. Black and Southern gospel music are largely responsible for gospel’s presence in today’s contemporary Christian music.

The hosts for the Lamplighter jam were Carole and Leon Hampton. The stage band featured Sandra Arvold on fiddle, Dave Evans on lead guitar, Lernie Fulk on bass guitar, Leon Hampton on rhythm/lead guitar, and Frank Rinchiuso on rhythm guitar.

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Sizzling music at McAllen Mobile Park Jams

20230322 Jammin Band and Jammers McAllen Mobile webEach Friday in November through March from 1 to 3 p.m. the Blue Wolf band, and associate band members with jammers, entertain audiences of listeners with country, bluegrass, rock and roll, and other music genres at McAllen Mobile Park. The co-hosts are Jerry and Shirley Spanhanks assisted by the sound engineer, Dennis House, announcer Les Watkins, and entertainment coordinator Betty Dennison.

On stage, is the Blue Wolf band comprised of Steven Kelley on drums, Birger Olson on bass guitar, Shirley Spanhanks on guitar, and Jerry Spanhanks on lead guitar and other string instruments. Don Leet and RK Welander (both play bass and regular guitar) recently joined the stage band.

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Jammin’ on the Banks of the Rio Grande River

20230315 Jammin Chimney Park Group Photo webChimney Park RV Resort in Mission with its landmark 106-foot chimney, has played an important historical role in the RGV area. In 1907, the land that now encompasses this resort supported the first lift station in the area powered by a boiler supplying power which pumped and distributed water from the Rio Grande River to other areas. Chimney Park Resort, which opened in the 1960’s, retains its rustic charm though it has undergone extensive renovations.

Each Wednesday from December-March, musicians and fans from around the RGV gather at Chimney Park Resort’s Hall to perform and listen to classic country music. On February 8th, I visited this jam and was warmly greeted by the Winter Texan co-hosts Ron Liptow from Alma Center, Wisconsin, and James Kropenske from Mitchell, South Dakota who organize and manage the weekly jam.

The weekly jam has seven musicians on stage that accompanies each jammer’s musical selections comprised of the following individuals: Keith Churchill-keyboard, Bob Doughty-guitar, Elvin Jones-guitar, James Kropenske-lap Cajun drum and guitar, Ron Liptow-guitar, Cathie Robertson-bass guitar, and Larry Robertson-harmonica.

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