Jumpin’ Time with Nashville’s Finest

TimeJumpersStationInn.jpgThree blocks removed from Nashville’s famed Music Row, a little road house known as the Station Inn hosts a packed house every Monday night to witness a group of eleven seasoned studio pros join together on a journey back in time.

The band, appropriately known as The Time Jumpers, performs songs from days gone by – compositions deeply rooted in Americana history.  The songs may be old, but The Time Jumpers play them with a passion and precision that makes them sound every bit as fresh and vital, if not more so, than any new music being written today.


The Time Jumpers formed in 1998, when several of the regulars at the Grand Ole Opry jammed back stage in Jimmy C. Newman’s dressing room (#6).  Initially, the band consisted of Hoot Hester, Michael Blaustone, Danny Parks, and Dennis Crouch.  Sole remaining original member, Crouch recalls the early days of the band fondly, “When we first got together, we were just jamming backstage at the Opry while we were waiting to go on stage and perform with other artists.  It was great jamming with Hoot, so we decided to start playing out in public.” 

To round out their lineup, the band invited Andy Reiss, Aubrey Haynie, Kenny Malone, Johnny Cox, and Robert Bowlin to join, and soon thereafter they found a home at the Station Inn. While Monday nights are traditionally slow, it did not take long for word to spread that many of Nashville’s most in-demand studio players were now performing live, and soon the crowds begin to expand.  With band members spending their days in the studios recording with some of the biggest names in the music industry, their audience often consists of a who’s who in the music world.   On any given Monday night, you never know who is likely to be sitting across the table at the Station Inn, or joining the band on stage. Recent guests have included Robert Plant, Jimmy Buffett, The White Stripes, Kings of Leon, Reba McEntire, Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, and Vince Gill (who serves as a regular replacement any time Reiss is not available). TimeJumperswithVinceGill.jpg

The Time Jumpers roster has changed over the years, with Rick Vanaugh taking Malone’s place on drums, and Kenny Sears taking over for Bowlin on fiddle and vocals.  The band has continued to add new members, including female vocalists Carolyn Martin and Dawn Sears, as well as pedal steel maestro Paul Franklin, who plays the sweetest steel this side of heaven.

Franklin, who first began performing with the band as a substitute for John Huey, has been an official Jumper for just over a year. One of the most in demand session players in Nashville, he loves the respect that comes with being a Jumper.

“The first night we played the Opry,” Franklin recalls, “when we looked over in the wings and saw they were full with other musicians watching, everyone realized this is more than just a jam band, that there is a real credibility to what we are doing.  I’d played at the Opry with other artists over the years, but to see Nashville come out and support this band, like that, was really wonderful, it is something that you just don’t get.  You can’t hype it; it is something that you either get it or you don’t.  That night was a real highlight for me.”

Asked to elaborate on his “jam band” comment, Franklin adds, “For me, being born in 1954, I consider jams to be a group of people getting together to play something they really love, in an informal setting.  That is the way this band evolved, a couple guys getting together to jam on some songs they love. When the public starts getting it, like the crowds every Monday night packing the Station Inn, then you realize, it has grown beyond that, and it is a really cool experience.”

The crowds flocking to the Station Inn come expecting to hear many of their favorite older songs, tracks that we’ve all grown up with such as “Route 66,” “All of Me,” “Roly Poly,” “Sweet Memories,” and “Honeysuckle Rose,” as well as a healthy dose of the originals the band continues to write. Asked to comment on the band’s choice of material from days long since gone, drummer Rick Vanaugh jokes, “We know all the dead ones, and if they are sick, we are working on them.”

Of the many memorable pieces of music the band has written, one of the most exciting tracks is “Jumpin’ Time,” a song brought to the Jumpers by Jeff Taylor. 

“That’s a fun tune that I wrote for our first record,” says Taylor, who plays accordion. “I wrote it with a skipped beat, initially thinking it would be funny, because we are called the Time Jumpers.  So I wrote a song missing a beat in the head.  I am glad we are still playing it.”

While the best music often defies labels, Franklin offers an excellent explanation of The Jumpers’ unique sound.  “I don’t try to label it,” he says, “but we call it cowboy jazz.  We are a swing based band, and everybody on stage has studied jazz, from Louie Armstrong to Chick Corea.  We all have diverse backgrounds, and have also studied the likes of Kitty Wells and Ernest Tub.  Our instrumentation makes the music sound country, but when you really analyze the notes, if you listen to the notes these guys are playing, they are not playing them from any kind of country background.

“If you took the notes everybody plays, wrote it out and had horns play it, it would sound like a jazz band.  If you analyze the music, chords, and notes, it is not country music. We just start playing a song, and then it arranges itself on stage.  It is like you get out on the edge of what you know, and start trying to find your way back.  Everybody pushing everyone else, and that is why it is so much fun every Monday night."

TimeJumpersJeffandDawn.jpgTaylor agrees, “Everyone one of the guys has just knocked me out in their ability to solo and then their ability to be a team player. It is cool that everybody likes soloing, but we also like hearing what the other guys are playing. We feed off one another and it is great. It is a band of mature, humble players with the chops to make it work in such a large unit, which is really rare. You can’t deny the joy that there is in this type of music; you can’t hardly listen to it and not smile. It is just pure fun.”

If history is any indicator, The Time Jumpers will be having fun on stage for many years to come.   After all, their timeless tunes will never go out of style, and no one knows what will unfold from one Monday to the next.

As Franklin says, “What is great about this band is that we have an outline of arrangements, but each night, on all of the solos and most of the fills, everyone challenges each other, firing off missiles, like a musical conversation.  Most of us moved to Nashville hoping to play in a band like this, and it is so different from what all of us are doing in the studio during the day that it is sort of like a lab band. When you come back in here, it is like going back in time, which is why the band was appropriately named The Time Jumpers.  It’s music that we all love and grew up listening to.”

It’s been said that there is but six degrees of separation between you and anyone else in the world.  When stepping back in time with The Time Jumpers, it seems as though you are never more than one or two notes away from the hearing the next great jam, or from seeing one of music’s biggest stars jump right up from the chair next to you to join in the fun on stage.  If you love classic American music, played by artists displaying nothing short of extreme virtuosity, then head on over to the Station Inn one Monday night and you too, can be swinging to the sounds of Nashville’s finest.

The Time Jumpers are:

Andy Reiss – A native of San Francisco, CA, Andy has spent nearly three decades as a Nashville studio musician, first working with legendary producer/steel guitarist Pete Drake and Slim Pickens.  He has played on hundreds of records, including two Grammy winners, BJ Thomas’ “Amazing Grace” and the Reba McEntire’s number one hit “Does He Love You.”

TimeJumpersAubrey.jpgAubrey Haynie – This two time winner of the Academy of Country Music’s Fiddle Player of the Year award studied with legend Mark O’Connor, before taking over his students.  Aubrey’s 2003 record, The Bluegrass Fiddle Album, won the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Instrumental Album of the Year prize.  Since quitting the road in 1995, Aubrey has become Nashville’s pre-eminent session fiddle player.  He has recorded with Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Alabama, Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Keith Urban, Dolly Parton, Randy Travis, Kenny Rogers, Kenny Chesney, the Oak Ridge Boys, Carrie Underwood, and numerous other country artists, while also playing on rock albums with diverse artists such as John Mellencamp, Bob Seger, Mark Knopfler, and Kid Rock.

Carolyn Martin – One of two female vocalists in the band, Carolyn joined the Time Jumpers in 1999. STimeJumpersCarolynMartin.jpghe was recently honored by the Academy of Western Artists with their Female Singer of the Year award.

Dawn Sears – Best known as the Grammy winning featured female vocalist for Vince Gill, Dawn has also recorded on her own, and tours with husband, fellow Jumper Kenny Sears.

Dennis Crouch – The lone remaining original member of the band; Dennis was recently nominated by the Academy of Country Music as best bassist of the year.  Dennis helped pioneer the famous “Pickin’ On…” tribute series, in which a band of Nashville studio hot shots performed bluegrass versions of many rock-n-roll classics.  He is proud to be T Bone Burnett’s bassist of choice, an honor that has seen Dennis record with John Mellencamp before joining Robert Plant and Alison Krauss for their multi-Grammy winning Raising Sand project.  Johnny Cash also requested Dennis as the bass player for his last recording sessions.  He has appeared on records with Ralph Stanley, Elvis Costello, Sting, Steve Earle and more, while also recording soundtracks for movies such as Walk the Line and Cold Mountain.

TimeJumpersJeffTaylor.jpgJeff Taylor – This multi-instrumentalist has recorded with Amy Grant, George Strait, The Chieftains, Martina McBride, Buddy Greene, Vince Gill, numerous Ricky Skaggs projects and many others.  He was a featured artist on the Ricky Skaggs’s and Kentucky Thunder Instrumental CD that won a 2007 Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album.  He plays accordion, concertina, penny whistles, mandolin and bouzouki with a Celtic group called "The Boys of County Nashville," who recently released a Celtic tribute to Led Zeppelin.

TimeJumpersJoe.jpgJoe Spivey – When founding Jumper Hoot Hester left the band in 2004, Joe was asked to become a Time Jumper.  An Academy of Country Music  nominee for the best fiddler, Joe has been performing with John Anderson since 1986, and has recorded with artists such as Merle Haggard, Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Kris Kristofferson, Joan Baez, and Hank Williams Jr, to name a few.

  TimeJumpersKennySears.jpgKenny Sears – The band’s defacto leader (he makes out the set list each night); Kenny has been playing professionally since age 11.  A classically trained violinist, he spent his early career playing swing with Billy Gray.  He moved to Nashville in 1975 and soon found himself on the road with Mel Tillis, surviving 12 years playing 300 dates a year.  He had not heard of the Time Jumpers before being asked to sub for one of the fiddle players. When he heard that they were "swinging" on Monday nights at the Station Inn, he jumped right in and has never left.

TimeJumpersPaulFranklin.jpgPaul Franklin – The Academy of Country Music named Franklin Best Pedal Steel, while the CMA recently nominated him for their "Musician of the Year" award. Paul has been playing pedal steel since the early 1970’s, working with Barbara Mandrell, Jerry Reed and Mel Tillis.  In 1981, he decided to quit the road and focus strictly on session work in Nashville.  Since then, he has recorded with such artists as Sting, Mark Knopfler, George Strait, Alan Jackson, Barbara Streisand and Megadeth.  Paul has also been instrumental in bringing several new musical sounds to the forefront of Country Music: the Pedabro, the acoustic lap steel (nicknamed "The Box") that was built and patented by Paul’s father. The Pedabro looks and plays like a steel, but sounds like a hybrid of the Dobro or resophonic guitar.  Paul last toured in 1992 as a member of Dire Straits.

TimeJumpersRangerDoug.jpgRanger Doug – A true veteran of the music scene, Ranger Doug toured with Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys while in college in late 1960s.  He later formed Riders in the Sky, a band that has played nearly 10,000 shows since November of 1977, recording 35 albums, making over 200 national TV appearances, three television series, named Western Music Association Entertainers of the year six times, named members of the Western Music Hall of Fame (the first contemporary group inducted), nominated for four Grammy awards and won two (best Musical album for Children, 2001 and 2003).

TimeJumpersRickVanaughandRangerDoug.jpgRick Vanaugh – The band’s drummer moved to Nashville in 1975 and got his first job playing with Charlie Louvin.  He has since played with Kitty Wells, Jimmy C. Newman, Dottie West, Mel Tillis, and Jack Greene and Jeannie Seely, in addition to joining the staff band for TNN’s New Country and Church St. Station TV shows.