Every once in a while a band comes along and throws new light on old classic rock tunes. Juke Joint Jive are that band. With a setlist of songs by such acts as Little Feat, The Police, Gov’t Mule, The Beatles, Joe Cocker, Jethro Tull and The Box Tops, a Juke Joint Jive gig is not your typical cover band gig.A tight four-piece comprised of players who’ve paid their dues and logged plenty of miles, Juke Joint Jive, according to bassist and backing vocalist Steve Grote, formed to satisfy a simple desire: “We’re there to entertain you.”
Joining Grote in Juke Joint Jive are drummer Tim Coffel, lead vocalist Cliff Edmondson and guitarist Jay Speck.
“We take stuff that nobody’s ever heard of, like Jon Cleary, and put our spin to it,” Grote said. “I don’t wanna do stuff everybody else has done.”
At a recent rehearsal at the Jam Crib which, incidentally, Coffel owns and operates, Juke Joint Jive played the Joe Cocker version of the classic Traffic song “Feelin’ Alright” but with Cleary’s funky “Mo Hippa” stuck in the middle. The result was a seven-minute groove that made sitting still an enormous task.
But then that’s Juke Joint Jive’s goal. If a crowd spends too much time planted in their seats, something’s not right. As Edmondson said, “We want to keep them off their seat and on their feet,” to which Coffel added, “[Rock 104’s] Doc West said he watched the women at our Rock The Plaza gig and said we kept them moving. He told us we were a breath of fresh air.”
If the women are dancing, the men will follow.
Grote came up with the idea for Juke Joint Jive while recuperating from having his left leg amputated below the knee a few years back. He’d spent a quarter-century touring the country with numerous bands and, given his health, decided it was time to stick closer to home.
“I’ve been incapacitated for five years, and during that five years I was working to make a formula for a band that’s enjoyable and successful,” Grote said. “Tim and I used to jam together. He was into playing jazz and fusion. I kind of turned him onto the idea and he liked it.”
“I like the idea of not playing the same 42 songs everybody else is playing,” Coffel said.
Speck and Edmondson both answered ads on Craigslist and Juke Joint Jive came into being. Edmondson had spent a number of years in Nashville as a session vocalist. Speck and another guitar joined at the same time, but the other guitarist didn’t last long, Grote said.
Juke Joint Jive got rolling in style playing high-profile venues right out of the box. They played their first show at C2G Music Hall, their second at Rock The Plaza and their third during the Friday lunch show at Ribfest. Since then they’ve been playing a lot of gigs at clubs and bars outside Fort Wayne.
“If they can get the butts in the bar we’ll do our best to keep them there,” Coffel said.
And with the songs they cover, lovers of classic rock album tracks won’t want to leave. Juke Joint Jive put their own spin on Little Feat’s “Dixie Chicken,” Jethro Tull’s “New Day Yesterday,” Gov’t Mule’s version of the Gospel tune “John the Revelator,” “Come Together” by The Beatles, “One Way Out” by The Allman Brother Band and Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” to name a few.
“We zeroed in on people we like,” Coffel said. “Mule, Cleary, Feat. It’s got to have a good groove to it. That’s the big thing with Steve and me. We understand what a pocket is like, and we groove off each other. We do songs that we can make our own. We don’t want to sound like the record. Everyone who sees us loves what we play.”
And with good reason. At the Jam Crib practice the band tore through “One Way Out” with the urgency the song embodies and gave “Dixie Chicken” just the right amount of Southern steam. The chemistry in the band is palpable.
“We’ve all been doing this a long time,” Grote said. “We’re all road musicians and have played about everything you can imagine. We’re doing this to have fun.”
“We enjoy what we’re doing,” Speck added, “and we want everyone else to enjoy it too.”