Featured Music: Wednesday, July 25, 2002
Jump Start

After 25 years, there’s still some spark to the Juke Jumpers.


It’s hard to believe that there was once a time when there wasn’t a blues band in every neighborhood dive and barbecue joint in Fort Worth, but it’s true. When I came to the Metroplex in 1978, the local blues scene centered around Robert Ealey and His Five Careless Lovers and the New Bluebird Nite Club at Horne and Wellesley. Austin bands like Omar & the Howlers and the Fabulous Thunderbirds, led by Detroit native Kim Wilson and Oak Cliff’s Jimmie Vaughan, were occasional visitors, as was Ray “Mr. Linda Lu” Sharp. And Jimmie’s little brother Stevie was starting to make waves in the region with a band called the Triple Threat Revue.

Back then, the cream of the local crop was the Juke Jumpers, a unit formed by Jim Colegrove and Sumter Bruton which became a Fort Worth institution before disbanding in 1994. Unlike the post-Stevie Ray crop of Hendrix-oid guitar slingers and one-dimensional shuffle kings, the band played an eclectic mix of jump blues, R&B, zydeco, and rockabilly — drawn from Colegrove and Bruton’s extensive record collections. Recently, the band reunited to play a two-night stand at J&J Blues Bar, celebrating the group’s 25th anniversary. Now, plans are afoot to release some Juke Jumpers material on c.d. under Colegrove’s Cool Groove imprint. The band made several releases on vinyl, but until now, only 1988’s Juke Jumpers Live! has been available on disc ... in Germany.

Guitarist/vocalist Colegrove was a transplanted Yankee who’d had regional hits in southern Ohio in the early 1960s as a member of Teddy & the Rough Riders; played bass in two bands (Bo Grumpus and Jolliver Arkansas, both produced by Felix Pappalardi of Cream and Mountain fame); and played in Canadian folksingers Ian and Sylvia Tyson’s country-rock band, the Great Speckled Bird (which also recorded separately under the name Hungry Chuck). Colegrove relocated to Fort Worth in 1974 after meeting guitarist Stephen Bruton, and the two recorded a still-unreleased Atlantic album as Little Whisper & the Rumors.

In 1977, Colegrove formed the Juke Jumpers with Stephen’s older brother Sumter. The Brutons’ father was a jazz drummer who owned the Record Town stores on South University and Camp Bowie. The younger Sumter had been playing guitar since 1962 and was an authority on Texas blues guitar and R&B in general. He’d played with Ealey since 1968, the first white Fort Worth musician to venture into the black blues scene, and led the bands Boogie Uproar and Rhumboogie, both blues and R&B units with horns.

Over the years, an impressive roster of musicians passed through the Juke Jumpers’ ranks: bassists Jackie Newhouse (who went on to play with Stevie Ray in the earliest incarnation of Double Trouble), Jim Milan, Mike Judge (later to achieve fame as creator of tv’s “Beavis & Butthead” and “King of the Hill” and director of the film Office Space), and Tom Reynolds; drummers Mike Buck (later of the Fabulous Thunderbirds and the Leroi Brothers), Mike Bartula, and Doyle Bramhall (an early associate of Jimmie Vaughan who contributed several songs to Stevie Ray’s albums); saxophonists Johnny Reno (ex-Double Trouble, later Fort Worth-Dallas’ Lounge King), Robert Harwell (ex-Delbert McClinton), and Rene Ozuna; and keyboardists Craig Simecheck and Ruf Rufner (currently a mainstay of El Paso legend Long John Hunter’s touring band).

After playing on Colegrove’s Panther City Blues album, released on Slim Richey’s Flying High label in 1978, the Juke Jumpers cut Border Radio for Jim Yanaway’s Amazing Records in 1980. The label (its motto: “If it’s a hit, it’s Amazing”) went on to release albums by Fort Worth-born jazzmen David “Fathead” Newman and Cornell Dupree; Jerry Jeff Walker’s backing group the Lost Gonzo Band; ex-Mother of Invention Jimmy Carl Black; accordionist Ponty Bone; and Austin R&B worthies Omar & the Howlers and the Leroi Brothers. In 1981, Amazing released the Juke Jumpers’ follow-up, The Joint’s Jumpin’!, and a Robert Ealey set, Bluebird Open, featuring the Juke Jumpers. The band released Jumper Cables on Rounder subsidiary Varrick in 1984 before returning to Amazing with Live!, recorded at Caravan of Dreams in 1988.

Said Colegrove of the reissue project: “We’re working on it. Capital remains an issue. There’s no release date as yet. We’ve planned all along to reissue two c.d.’s, one that’s a combination of Border Radio and The Joint’s Jumpin’!, one that would be a combination of the Live! LP plus previously un-issued live tracks. The Robert Ealey LP is another story. It would be nice to do that one in Robert’s memory. I expect the Juke Jumper project to pick up some steam before the year is out.”

Added Bruton: “We’ve got another 40 minutes of good material from Caravan in addition to what was released. There’s a 17-minute version of a Muddy Waters song that would’ve taken up a whole side of an LP.” He also has tapes of a 1969 Ealey gig from Rendon, the original 1973 Robert Ealey and His Five Careless Lovers album (produced by T-Bone Burnett at Pantego Studios), and a live 1974 video of the Five Careless Lovers from KERA-TV studios.

Colegrove’s current band, Lost Country, which has released two c.d.’s, Broken People and Down On The Borderline, will be performing at 6th Street Grill at the end of August. And Bruton also performs with Hank Hankshaw’s band and the Bruton-Price Swingmasters Revue, with pianist Mike Price. (A new Swingmasters c.d. is in the works.) For information on the Juke Jumpers reissue project, contact Colegrove at coolg@thecoolgroove.com or Bruton at Record Town on South University, 817-926-1331.

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