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.
I attended both the February 10th and March 3rd jams. The jammers who were at one or both jams are as follows: Roger Bolstad, Johnny Butten, Al Cully, Jerry Davis, Ray Glenn, Jessie Greene, Mike and Tesa Heldenbrand, Charles Josephes, Vanessa Kenaston, Tony Ozark, Barb Porter on a hammer dulcimer, Cynda Renner, Karen Redding, Carole Robinson, Jim Stiles, Suzy Schutz, Banjo Bill Swartz, Jolene Walters, and Bob and Lily Wiebe.
This week I will feature four musicians. The first is Carole Robinson, a Winter Texan from Minnesota who four years ago, following her retirement as a diabetic educator RN, started playing the guitar by taking lessons and learning from other musicians. She began singing in junior and senior high school choirs. Carole performs at jams throughout the RGV and in her home state performing at nursing homes and non-profit organizations. She has composed five songs with her “Grandma” song reaching one-half million views on Facebook.
Steve Kelley, drummer, has been living in Texas for 40 years. He was motivated as a pre-teen to play drums after watching Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. Louie Belsen taught Steve drumming techniques. As a teenager living in Michigan, he and his cousins formed “The Monks” band and performed throughout the United States and Canada. His “Hitchcock Railway” band in Michigan performed with BB King while his Colorado band, “Exit 42,” opened for Marty Stewart and Janna Jay. Steve’s “Night Shift” band opened for Leon Parnell and also for the “Grass Roots.”
Shirley Spanhanks from Minnesota was taught the accordion by her mother at age eight. She began performing at school functions at age 12. Shirley also plays the bass guitar, rhythm guitar and is a great vocalist. After age 40, she returned to college to study guitar while receiving a degree in a commercial music program. Besides performing in churches and assisted living facilities, Shirley performed with a five-piece bluegrass band, “Outskirts,” and at numerous bluegrass festivals in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Canada, plus on radio for the March of Dimes.
Shirley played bluegrass music with a band while traveling on the road for 13 years. Her band won first place in a Minnesota bluegrass band competition and she personally won first place at the Minnesota State Fair guitar ‘flat picking’ contest. Shirley played accordion for a traveling puppet show “Heart of the Beast Puppet Theatre” for two years traveling throughout Canada and the United States. She currently performs in Minnesota and Texas with her husband, Jerry, in their Blue Wolf band.
Shirley’s husband, Jerry Spanhanks from Minnesota, was motivated at age eight, by his father, to play guitar. Jerry could get out of doing his chores if he instead practiced playing his Gibson guitar. He learned to play the guitar by listening to records and playing along with the music. He also performed with school bands. Following his knowledge of the guitar, he learned to play the dobro guitar, banjo, fiddle, and both the lap and pedal steel guitars. He also is a great vocalist.
Jerry formed the Blue Wolf band performing with his wife Shirley and drummer Steve Kelley. Prior to this band, he performed with the “Blue Velvet” and “Lariat” bands and has performed with Marvin Rainwater and Crystal Gayle in addition to entertaining at retirement and dog rescue centers. Jerry was twice the Minnesota State Champion Instrumentalist and his bluegrass band won first place in Minnesota.
There are so many reasons for you to attend next seasons country and variety jams at McAllen Mobile Park. The music is sizzling along with outstanding musicians.