The Blue Water Ramblers write and sing traditional music with modern themes – the songs of Michigan, America and YOUR life. They perform wherever people want to celebrate: Festivals and concerts, paddle wheelers and lake ships, in cities and out in the woods, on stages and around campfires, at church gatherings and traditional dances. The Blue Water Ramblers’ repertoire comes right out of our Michigan life experiences and the history of the Great Lakes region. It includes lake shanties, lumberman ballads, union rallying cries, farmers’ paeans, Michigan humor, love songs, gospel music and children’s ditties. Everyone agrees that these combine into a versatile repertoire to the delight and entertainment of their audiences. “I think my hero, Woody Guthrie, would approve,” opined Banjo-Jim. “We’re singing the people’s songs about the people’s lives and they can join right in and sing along.” Join us for an incredible evening on Saturday, December 16, 2017 from 7:30pm – 9:30pm, at the Box Factory for the Arts in St. Joseph, MI.
Blue Water Ramblers
The Blue Water Ramblers, est. 2002, write their own songs and take turns harmonizing with each other to create a colorful tapestry of sounds. “Banjo-Jim” Foerch on his acoustic and electric banjos and R.H. “Bear” Berends on his big Marten guitar are the core of the Rambler vocal and writing team. Then add “Dr. Tom” DeVries on mandolin, “California Dan” Lynn laying down the steady rhythm on his doghouse bass and “Deacon Marten” VanEyk adding just the right amount of fiddle harmonies and fills and what do you get: the unique Blue Water Rambler sound. In our performances you will hear songs expressing our unique take on life both present and past in styles from country to Cajun, rock to reggae, bluegrass to the blues and gospel to swing time.
Banjo-Jim Foerch picked up his first banjo in 1965 and hasn’t put it down since. As a founding member of the regional touring band “Beats Settin’ Home,” Banjo-Jim was busy pickin’ and singin’ all over the Midwest for 20 years between 1982 and 2002. He says singing the songs of Michigan, America and our lives to all the people we meet on tour is the best thing he’s ever done. “Everyone I ever met here in Michigan or around the Midwest is proud of our home state and our country. Our songs express that pride the best way we know how- by getting us all singing together!”
R. H. “Bear” Berends holds down the rhythm with his big, black Martin guitar. As with so many baby boomers he started strumming guitar and singing folk songs in high school in the sixties. Bear joined Banjo-Jim and “Beats Settin’ Home” at the Wheatland Music Festival in Remus, Michigan in 1993 and hasn’t stopped playing and touring since. “I wanted to sing with Banjo-Jim, so I learned all his songs and taught him mine and here we are,” he explains. Whether delivering a lead line or harmonizing with his solid baritone, Bear sculpts the Blue Water Ramblers’ sound.
At times Banjo-Jim and Bear collaborate with our musical pals. We love adding “Dr. Tom” DeVries with his blazing mandolin and melodious tenor voice. For that high, lonesome blue grass sound we bring in “California Dan” Lynn and his bass. And for the full 5-piece traditional sound we add the sweet fiddle stylings of “Deacon Marten” VanEyk.
“Dr. Tom” DeVries has been entertaining all over the Midwest since his early twenties. Between 1979 and 2001 Tom was the front man for the popular Michigan bluegrass band, “The Hill People”. When asked why he loves picking with the Ramblers, he responded, “There’s nothing I’d rather do than find or write a song, work it up with the boys and deliver it to an enthusiastic audience. And that’s what the Ramblers are all about!”
Almost 15 years ago at Jam on the Grand a tall fellow with a bass fiddle joined in and told us he’d read about the Jam in the paper. “California Dan” Lynn wondered if the Ramblers might have a couple gigs for him, so Bear and Banjo-Jim offered him dozens! In addition to laying down the foundation of the music, Dan writes and leads crowd-pleasing bluegrass songs and harmonizes with a pure tenor voice on the rest. Dan moved here from California in 2000 where he had played with the old timey band “Crooked Jades”. Dan’s roots in bluegrass and traditional music give the Ramblers a driving honesty which will keep your toes tapping and your fingers snapping.
When the Ramblers need a fiddler we turn to our friend “Deacon Marten” VanEyk. Little did his parents know that years and hundreds of dollars of classical violin lessons would produce a fiddler instead. Whether fiddling old time tunes as Banjo-Jim calls square dances or jamming hot leads on the our bluegrass burners the Deacon is right at home in the Blue Water Rambler repertoire. Many Michigan musicians have fond memories of performing at Mocha ‘n’ Music, Marten’s coffee shop/venue in Hudsonville that featured live music six nights a week from 2005 through 2013.
Blue Water Ramblers Dance Band
When it’s time to dance, the Blue Water Rambler Dance Band presents an evening of singing calls – lines, squares, rounds and reels sung to melodies old and new. If you’ve never participated in a traditional country dance, Banjo-Jim will gently show you what to do. And for you who do know a ‘dosey do’ from a ‘left allemande’, we’ll keep you spinning and whirling til the cows come home! Woooooo-ee!
For more information about the BLUE WATER RAMBLERS, please go to http://www.bluewaterramblers.
The Box Factory for the Arts is located at 1101 Broad Street, St. Joseph, MI 49085.