Juke Jumpers

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The Juke Jumpers went through numerous changes in its lineup, and its membership never stabilized for long periods. When the Fort Worth band was first established in 1977, it was comprised of guitarist…
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The Juke Jumpers went through numerous changes in its lineup, and its membership never stabilized for long periods. When the Fort Worth band was first established in 1977, it was comprised of guitarist Sumter Bruton, vocalist and bassist Jim Colgrove, drummer Mike Buck, and guitarist and vocalist Bud Johnson. The group landed a steady gig in the city as the New Bluebird Nite Club's house band, but not before Buck and Johnson dropped out. Mike Bartula stepped in to take over Buck's duties on drums. Johnson's departure prompted Colgrove to take over on guitar and drop the bass, which was taken over by newcomer Jack Newhouse. By 1978, Jim Milan stepped in as the group's bassist. That same year, the Juke Jumpers were ready to record Panther City Blues, the group's first release. The album was put out by Fort Worth's Flying High Records and featured Hungry Chuck's piano player, Jeff Gutcheon. The lineup shifted again the following year when former Double Trouble saxophonist Johnny Reno came aboard. He was present for the recording of the band's sophomore release, Border Radio, which was put out by Amazing Records, another label based in the band's hometown.

Before making their Amazing Records album The Joint's Jumpin'!, the Juke Jumpers expanded from a five-piece band to a six-man combo in 1980, with the addition of Craig Simecheck on piano. An extensive touring schedule followed, with the band traveling across Louisiana, the Midwest, and its home state of Texas. In 1994, the Varrick label put out the band's Jumper Cables album. The release featured Robert Harwell on saxophone. Harwell, who formerly worked with Delbert McClinton, stepped in when Reno opted out to form his own band. The group expanded its touring, but in the spring of 1985, the Juke Jumpers disbanded. The breakup didn't last long, however, and bandmembers got back together in 1986. Their first gig was at J & J's Blues Bar, which had just opened its doors. The nightspot welcomed the Juke Jumpers back consistently for seven more years.

Before recording a live album for Amazing Records late in 1987, the band grew with the addition of a second saxophonist, Rene Ozuna. That same year, the group was featured in the film A Tiger's Tale. Drummer Doyle Bramhall stepped in the following year when Bartula dropped out. Performances followed at Holland's Blues Estafette, and the Rhythm & Blues Festival in Belgium in 1989. Bassist Mike Judge took over for Milan the following year. The lineup, however, refused to stabilize. By 1991, Simecheck, Judge, and Bramhall had departed. Bartula came back to the group, which also added keyboardist Ruf Rufner and bassist Tom Reynolds. Three years later, the group disbanded. Reunion performances took place in Fort Worth in 1997, 1998, and 2001.