Editor’s Note: This story is provide compliments of Pam Renig, Editor of the Clayton County Register
Where can you hear the best loved songs of Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, and Johnny Cash? At the Elkader Opera House on February 14, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. when Tom Waselchuk and Jami Lampkins weave the lives of the four most famous country music stars into a show that invites the audience into the private lives of these stars, showcases their hits with top quality musical skill, and helps to bring back memories in an exciting and new way.
Tom emphasizes that they don’t set out to “impersonate” these legends. Although many of their arrangements stick pretty close to the original music, others are very much their own take on the songs. “I believe that great songs can lend themselves to a wide variety of interpretations,” Tom explains, “Whether sticking to the originals or putting our own spin on them, we try to capture the essence and spirit of every song.”
Tom recollects on the duet’s love of these particular legends and their desire to share their music. Ever since he started playing guitar as a teenager, Tom has played the music of Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. “As my knowledge of guitar and music in general increased, Hank’s importance and genius became clear,” he expounds, “and like a lot of musicians, I took the time to go back to the original source material. According to Tom, it’s nearly impossible to be a guitar player and not to know and love Johnny Cash’s music.
Jami grew up idolizing Patsy Cline and reminisces about being a pre-teen and singing along with Patsy Cline records at the top of her voice, using a hair brush for a microphone. Both Tom and Jami knew a little less about the scope of Loretta Lynn’s career when they put this show together. However, they wanted to add another female who has made a huge impact on country music, and Loretta was among the top artists. Jami is an excellent guitarist, but she is also plays a mean banjo, and it’s something they wanted to feature in Sweet Dreams & Honky Tonks. Loretta’s material lends itself to the banjo more than other great classic singers.
Tom and Jami have similar musical backgrounds. Both of them started playing guitar at the age of 14 and both were primarily self-taught. “I know a little bit about a lot of different styles of music,” Tom claims, listing them of as bluegrass, swing, folk, jazz, rock, Irish, and world music. He did acquire some formal musical training, starting with piano lessons when he was in grade school. During college, he took some basic music courses for a couple of years. He later studied for two years with a great jazz player and teacher, Roy Plumb, in Madison, WI.
Tom has been performing for 43 years, 35 of which he has performed as a full-time professional. He was a member of a Gypsy swing band for 10 years during which he not only performed all across the United States, but he also toured in Taiwan.
As for Jami’s musical background, she started playing in her family’s bluegrass band as a teenager. She played bass then started picking up other instruments, including banjo and mandolin. Based out of their home in Las Vegas, the Lampkins Family Band performed all over the western and southern United States. She moved to Nashville where she tested the career waters and became a finalist in USA Network’s “Nashville Star” competition. She also lent her talents to several Nashville bands and found a friend and mentor in the great country artist Gail Davies. With Ms. Davies’ help, Jami was able to realize a lifelong ambition to perform on the Grand Ole Opry Stage.
With both performers residing in Wisconsin, Jami sought out Tom as a guitar teacher early in 2009. “I remember being struck by her abilities,” Tom recalls. When his band had an opening for a singer later that year, Jami was the only person he called. “We didn’t have an audition,” he admits, “I already knew what a hot picker she was.”
This is the third year that Tom and Jami have taken “Sweet Dreams and Honky Tonks” on the road. “I have been gratified and somewhat amazed by the enthusiastic response we’ve gotten,” Tom admits, “This music truly is universal, a part of the fabric of American life, and it’s so wonderful to be able to share it with music lovers everywhere.”
There are five musicians in the show who all have to be on the same schedule for arrivals, departures, meals, and sound checks. Tom cites such logistics as being challenging at times. However, he’s quick to recognize the rewards of touring. “The people we meet on the road are, almost without fail, as friendly, welcoming and helpful as one could possibly imagine.” He also loves going to new towns and cities and seeing parts of the country he’s never seen before. Performing on the road affords them the opportunity to do just that. Tom often wishes they had even more time in the places where they perform.
Tickets are $18 in advance & $20 at the door, and can be purchased at email@example.com, or at Moser Pharmacy, Elkader, or by calling 563-873-2378. Tickets can also be purchased online with credit card on with PayPal.