Photo Credit: The Sensational Country Blues Wonders!
Jersey City has become a hub for Hudson County creatives looking to share their passion and talent with other Jersey Citians. Our beloved city is abounding with artists of all types - painters, graffiti artists, writers and, of course, musicians. Recently, I had a chance to catch up with "The Sensational Country Blues Wonders!" a local Jersey City band known for its own unique interpretation of American Roots Music.
Read along as member Gary Van Miert tells us a little more about the band’s history, where they find their inspiration and what’s in store for fans & locals this year.
How did “The Sensational Country Blues Wonders!” come together?
The music that inspired “The Sensational Country Blues Wonders!” was born in Nashville and Memphis, TN, as well as in the Mississippi Delta, but the “Wonders” were born and bred in Jersey City. The group was actually conceived at a reunion of two old college friends at a music festival in New Orleans in 2012, where I reconnected with guitarist and former Jersey City resident Rudy Moni. We began playing together and eventually recorded a cd. I came up with the concept for "The Sensational Country Blues Wonders!” by cobbling together the names of different groups from my extensive collection of Gospel 45’s.
Photo Credit: Dr. Jo Ann Neal
I soon got the fire in my belly to take this music out to the clubs. Since Rudi didn't have the desire to go slogging around the dive bar circuit, I went out on my own, meeting Malcolm Marsden at an open mike in Jersey City. Malcolm and I found that we shared a passion for American Roots Music and began a musical partnership that took us from the open mic in Jersey to the clubs of Manhattan and Brooklyn and beyond. In 2015, we added John Warren on upright bass to the group.
What or who inspires you musically?
“The Sensational Country Blues Wonders!” is a band that replicates the original instrumental lineup of acoustic rhythm guitar, electric lead guitar and upright acoustic bass used on the first rock and roll records recorded by Elvis Presley at Sun Studio in Memphis, Tenn. So Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records and Elvis loom large in our list of influences. Other who have inspired us include many seminal figures in American music, such as Hank Williams, Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, Reverend Charlie Jackson, Wilbert Harrison, Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Brother Joe
May, Charlie Feathers, Carl Perkins, Smiley Lewis, Brother Claude Ely, and Ernest Tubb. The “Wonders” have their own unique interpretation of American Roots Music - classic Country music from the fifties and sixties, down home spiritual songs from the Golden Age of Gospel, and time-honored Blues numbers that go back to the greats hailing from Mississippi and Chicago.
What has been one of your most memorable gigs in Jersey City?
There have been so many that it’s hard to pick just one. Not only do we play traditional venues, but also do many other non-traditional gigs. We’ve performed at a vintage car show, a historic cemetery, a lumberyard, and even the Men’s Department in Macy’s at Newport. My personal favorites are the outdoor shows and street festivals in the different neighborhoods of Jersey City, such as Live at the Lumberyard, Music in the Park at Riverview/Fisk Park, Celebrate Mother Earth Festival at Harsimus Cemetery, Central Avenue Auto and Music Show, and Hamilton Park BBQ Festival.
Photo Credit: Dr. Jo Ann Neal
What’s next for the “Wonders” this year and what can your fans look forward to in 2017?
More gigs and more songs! You’ll see more live performances for sure and we are constantly adding new songs to our repertoire. At some point in the not too distant future, I’d like to write some original tunes in the same vein as what we are now doing, so there will probably be some recording further down the road. We have played some private parties in the last few years and would like to do more. Anyone who wants to hire the “Wonders” for their private party or event can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have any “words of wisdom” or advice for emerging musicians in JC?
Take the time to find your own unique musical voice. We’ve all been influenced by other artists, but even if you are doing other people’s songs, you need to make them your own. Stay true to your vision of what your music should be and sound like. Never compromise that!