If you take an accordion, a guitar, and a bass along with some old-time music, you would have the JMB Band. The band will be playing each night of the Norsk Hostfest on the North Dakota State Fairgrounds this week for people to enjoy and dance along with.
The band, which consists of Jerry Schlag on accordion, Myron Dammen on guitar, and Merlyn (Bud) Witty on bass, entertain crowds with their music at various events and have recently released a CD, their eighth one. Their latest CD is titled "Good Times in North Dakota" and all of their albums have the name North Dakota in the title, Schlag noted, because they play and sell their CDs at the Pride of Dakota show.
"Good Times in North Dakota" was dedicated to Witty because he had played with the JMB Band for several years and will probably not play with them again due to medical problems, Schlag explained. He and Dammen had asked Witty to play a couple of songs for the CD, he added, but he wasn't able to so Larry Nelson played the bass instead. Then the band did the recording in Nelson's studio, Nelson made a master recording for them, and sent it off to Nashville to get it processed, Schlag said.
Members of the JMB Band, from left to right, are Jerry Schlag, Merlyn (Bud) Witty, and Myron Dammen. They have been playing together as the JMB Band since 2005 with Schlag on accordion, Witty on bass, and Dammen on guitar. From 7 to 9 p.m. each night at the Norsk Høstfest in Stockholm Hall, they’ll play old-time music for the crowd.
Making a CD is a lengthy process for the JMB Band. They have to find someone to record the music, which Nelson volunteered for on the eighth album, pick out the songs and then play them, and then back up and correct mistakes, Schlag explained. Once they have the mastercut of songs, they send it to the record company in Nashville, then the record company polishes it up and makes it into a CD and sends it back to the JMB Band for them to make sure everything looks and sounds right, he continued. After that, the band sends the CD back to the record company where they then make the amount of copies the band wants, Schlag said.
"Then we cross our fingers and hope we sell a couple," he added.
The time it takes to make a CD varies, Schlag noted. The band has made a mastercut of songs in two days or a week, he said, and to get a finished product from Nashville usually takes one to two months. "We always try to get the finished product done by Hostfest," Schlag added.
The JMB Band has their latest CD on sale at Homesteader's Restaurant, Home Sweet Home, the Minot Convention and Visitors Bureau, and at the Norsk Hostfest, Schlag said. People can also purchase CDs by calling Schlag at 839-2893 or sending an email to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The most enjoyable part about being in the band has been making CDs and taking them to events to sell, Schlag remarked. "We just hope to break even or make a few bucks in the end."
The band has been playing together since about 2005, Schlag said, and they mostly play instrumental tunes. They play a variety of songs in waltzes, polkas, country western and old gospel standards, he noted.
Schlag said he and Witty played with another band at one time, while Schlag and Dammen have been playing off and on together since 1961. Then in 2005, the three of them just got together and started playing, he added, forming the JMB Band. "Our first gig was at 4 Bears Casino every other week and we did that for about 14 years," Schlag remarked. "We had a lot of practice on stage." They also played on a polka show on KBMY out of Bismarck, Schlag also said.
The JMB Band has played for other events as well. They have played at the Norsk Hostfest, 4 Bears Casino & Resort, dances, the Germanfest in Fargo, the Focus on Life event in Jamestown, and Arts in the Park in several different places, Schlag said. The band has also played at local night clubs, the North Dakota State Fair, the Frozen Fingers Festival, and the Lutefest in Crosby. They also perform twice a month for the Northwest Polkateers Dancing Club. Schlag said they used to play at wedding dances and have also played at funerals. "We've played for all kinds of events," Schlag remarked. "But Hostfest is one my favorite events. It's like a reunion every year."
Schlag said the band will continue on without Witty. It's rough to say if they'd ever make another JMB Band CD, though, he added.
The JMB Band will be playing at the Norsk Hostfest each night from 7 to 9 p.m. in Stockholm Hall on the North Dakota State Fairgrounds. Schlag will also be playing the accordion at the front door each morning at the Hostfest from 8 to 9 a.m.