Gospel 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.
Read more: Inspirational ‘Good News’ music abounds in the RGV
Each 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.
Read more: Sizzling music at McAllen Mobile Park Jams
Chimney 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.
Read more: Jammin’ on the Banks of the Rio Grande River
Mission West RV Park, known as the Star of South Texas in Palmview, invites jammers and listeners each Monday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. to perform country and bluegrass music to an audience already relaxed and satisfied due to their meal of grilled hamburgers starting at 4:30 p.m. The host for the jam is the talented Ted Weishar from Ontario Canada who also performs on stage with his dobro and guitar. The co-host is the sound engineer, Robert Jacques.
Read more: Great music and hospitality at Mission West RV Park
A great experience is in store for you each Friday (January-March) orchestrated by Mary and Rick Guignon, activity directors for Casa Del Sol senior community in Donna. These weekly jams attract 30-40 talented musicians who take turns providing entertainment to the large audience of listeners. In addition, these jammers appreciate the stage band who uses their expansive musical talents to support each jammer.
Each jammer is introduced by the talented MC Darwin Beckman who starts each jam with the Pledge of Allegiance and ends the jam with God Bless America. The sound system for this large ballroom is fine-tuned by the sound engineers Jack Dufour and Ligue Wisdom.
At the January 13th jam, the jammers that played that night were Al Cully, Bob Chafton, Bunnie, Bettie, Cindy Dixon, Rodney Crouse, Ed Black, Jerry Davis, Sharon Eikleberry, Richard Daniels, Bill Davis, Sandy Grady, Charles Hrnicek, Jane Heinen, Wes Jansson, Mike Lane, Judy O’Hair, Conra Marsh, Bob Powell, Sheri Pieﬀer, Gary Rene, Ronnie, Larry Sisk, Jim Stiles, Renie T, Betty Thomas, Wayne Teeple, Pam Willie, and Tom Zeker. Also appearing were guest stars Naomi Bristow and Dave Perryman.
Read more: Extraordinary musical talent and congeniality at Casa Del Sol jams
Each Tuesday (Dec-Mar from 7-9 p.m.) country music is performed at Casa Del Valle Mobile Home Park located at 1048 N Alamo Road in Alamo. The musicians are selected by invitation only. However, the public is welcome to attend at no charge.
Maude (Carol) Agnew, a Winter Texan from Hamilton, Ontario Canada and her squad of volunteers promote and host each weekly jam.
Maude does a lot for her jams, park, and her community. Besides managing a bookstore and singing in a ladies’ barbershop chorus, Maude has helped raise monies for autism awareness plus dog services for children (Maude’s Run for Kids). She has performed since she was a teenager singing harmony with her brother’s rock and roll band. In her words, “music is a connection to feelings, friendships, smiles and love.”
Read more: Maude Squad returns to Casa del Valle Country Jam
Do angels live at Bit-O-Heaven RV and Mobile Home Resort at 1051 W Bus Hwy 83 in Donna? You will need to visit and discover for yourself.
Friendship has always been the driving force for visitors and residents at this 55 and over park which features numerous unique activities including music jams and church services/Bible study.
The country music jams each Wednesday through March from 1-3 are preceded by lunch. The jam hosts are Steve (bass guitar) and Peggy Brown (piano) who also form one-half of the stage band. The jam announcers are Judy Hagen and Betty Thomas.
Read more: BREAKING NEWS: Angels spotted at Bit-O Heaven Resort
Thanks to the Winter Texan musicians from Canada and the US, the RGV experiences rock and roll music that excites seniors living in park communities each December through March.
This season, there are three classic rock and roll jams each week and two every other week featuring the Esquire Band and their jammers.
They play each week on Monday, 1-3 p.m. at Enchanted Valley, Mission; Thursday, 12:30-2:30 p.m. at Bentsen Grove Resort , Palmview; and Friday, 12:30-2:30 p.m., Green Gate Grove, Palmview.
On the first and third week of each month they play on Wednesday, 7-9 p.m., Mission Bell, Mission; and Saturday, 1-3 p.m., Wagon City North, Mission.
Read more: Bentsen Grove Resort experiences weekly tremors and shaking
Lamplighter Mobile Home Park located at 2240 S. Bentsen Palm Dr. in Palmview is a senior community that hosts three jams each week featuring either bluegrass, country, or gospel music. I recently attended their Country Jam that is held on Monday evenings from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., December through March.
Prior to the jam, park volunteers prepare and serve delicious dinners for a nominal price starting at 4 p.m. Then, at about 6:30 p.m., these same volunteers provide free cookies, cakes, and other treats to all those attending the jam.
During my visit to this jam, there were 27 performers who sang classic country hits from the 40’s or earlier through the 60’s.
Why do they sing these older songs versus today’s country? Simply stated, “So that they will not be forgotten. Once we are gone from this earth, these songs may not be remembered. We want to keep them alive for everyone.”
Read more: Lamplighter Jams ignite passion for classic music
The Peppermint Palace, also known oﬃcially as El Valle Del Sol, is a senior park community located in Mission at 2500 East Business Highway 83. This park has a delicious name along with the delightful country music played with the assistance of a stage band and jammers on Thursday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon whenever the Winter Texans are in the RGV.
El Valle Del Sol has a large and spacious hall which is perfect for musical performances and dancing. The stage is roomy and easily accommodates the stage musicians and their equipment. The sound quality is excellent thanks to the expertise of Dean Sides, sound engineer.
Each music jam has a host who organizes and coordinates the activities for each jam. The country jam’s host is Jim Thompson who is also on stage and an excellent entertainer.
The stage band members who accompany the jammers and perform their own selections change occasionally. At the mid December 2022 jam that I attended, the stage band was Isaac Martinez - drummer, Jim Thompson - rhythm guitar, Iris Wiese - vocalist (from Minnesota), Dennis Wiese - Bass guitar and vocalist (from Minnesota), Ted Keim - self-made Cajon Drum Box and vocalist (from Illinois), Chris Koch - lead guitar and vocalist (from Indiana), Irene Griﬃth - keyboard and vocalist (Illinois), and Ken Griﬃth - lead guitar and vocalist (Illinois). Also worth mentioning is Bill Knight - lead guitar, who wasn’t present for this jam.
Read more: Jammin’ at the Peppermint Palace