This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
JAM was an occasional conglomeration of three musicians: KEVIN JOHNSON,
DOUG ASHDOWN and
These three are probably the finest singer/songwriters Australia has produced (if you discount Paul Kelly and Glenn Cardier, which I am only for the purpose of this exercise).
They all began their serious performing and recording careers from the sixties to the early seventies and have continued to the present day, although Doug is pretty much retired and doesn't perform often these days.
Mike and Kev, however, are better than ever: it's the decades of performances that hone the skills. The three of them got together for some gigs around about 2001, and were a great combination.
As I mentioned, JAM really was only an occasional thing, they were all mostly solo performers. I've seen them in both categories although in his early days Kev usually had a full band with him.
So, let's run though them in order of their collective name, starting with KEVIN JOHNSON.
Kev's biggest hit, one that has set him up for life because many people have recorded this song and most have sold pretty well, was Rock & Roll I Gave You the Best Years of my Life. I've used that song in a couple of columns, so I'll go with another one from the same album.
This one is Bonnie Please Don't Go. This is about people leaving on ships rather than planes. Remember when people did that?
DOUG ASHDOWN started as a rocker in Adelaide but became better known as part of the folkie scene in the sixties.
He decided to become a professional songwriter and moved to Nashville with his co-writer and producer Jim Stewart. It was there they wrote Doug's most famous song, Leave Love Enough Alone, generally known as Winter in America, which he decided to record himself.
It was a considerable hit in his native country, to which he returned after the success of the song.
MIKE MCCLELLAN has been performing since the sixties and there's no sign of him slowing down.
He released his first album in the early seventies but his second "Ask Any Dancer" is the one that really established him. That one is a classic and contains so many great songs that he didn't need to release any more. Of course, he did.
From the album we have the story of Mike in song: Song and Danceman.
KEVIN JOHNSON may be a Man Of The 20th Century, as his song posits.
The sentiments are equally applicable to the current century. For most of the song he seems to be on a plane, that's something Australians take for granted, especially if they want to go somewhere else. People from other countries seem to grumble if it's suggested that they might want to come and visit us.
I've seen all three performers many times and they mostly play solo with just an acoustic guitar. Late in the evening at some gigs DOUG ASHDOWN has been known to strap on a Fender Telecaster and play full tilt rock and roll.
That's not what we have here. He usually performs the song Marianne without adornment. I prefer it that way, however, the only version I have is from his album from the seventies that has a band with added extras. They weren't needed.
My favorite MIKE MCCLELLAN song, and that's really a hard call, would be Saturday Dance.
I originally had in this spot the version from his album mentioned above which had strings and heavenly choruses, the whole gamut. Just after I finished writing the column I bought a DVD of Mike playing at The Basement in Sydney with just an acoustic guitar.
Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and I watched it over lunch and we both spontaneously applauded when this song finished. There might have been some Kleenex involved as well as some wine.
I hope you like it as much as we did. Here is that version, rather than the one from the album.
If you listen to the words of KEVIN JOHNSON's song Grab the Money and Run, it seems to me that it would make a great film. It would be far from the first one made from a song.
As far as I know no one has done that but you can imagine it as you listen carefully.
There are two songs that DOUG ASHDOWN has to sing whenever he performs.
The first is the one featured at the top, the second is Willie's Shades. This is a version from one of his concerts, with Kirk Lorange playing lead guitar.
MIKE MCCLELLAN is still performing and recording. Indeed he's recently released a fine new album called "No Intermission".
His song isn't from that one, I thought I'd let you know in case you want to search for these albums. The song is Lovers Never Wind up Friends from earlier in his career.
JAM didn't ever record together but a couple of their performances were captured at the Troubadour Weekend back in 2001. This is Kevin with the others singing harmony and Kirk Lorange playing lead guitar. The song is Night Rider.
But wait there's more. When I mentioned to my friend Ann I was writing about JAM she sent me this track. It was also recorded at The Basement and it had the A.M. and me a'hoppin' and a'boppin' to it and we thought it should be included as a bonus track. Taking the Long Road Home.