The Jayhawks

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The Jayhawks

The Jayhawks are an American alternative country and rock band that emerged from the Twin Cities music scene during the mid-1980s. Their country rock sound was influential on many bands who played the Twin Cities circuit during the 1980s and 1990s like Uncle Tupelo, The Gear Daddies and The Honeydogs. They have released several studio albums, including five on the American Recordings label. On hiatus from 2005 to 2009, the band has since reunited and released a new album, Mockingbird Time, in September 2011.[1]


The band formed in 1985 in Minneapolis, Minnesota with Mark Olson (acoustic guitar and vocals), Gary Louris (electric guitar and vocals), Marc Perlman (bass) and Norm Rogers (drums).[2] Their first album The Jayhawks was released by Bunkhouse Records, a small independent label, in 1986. Their music at the time, mostly written by Olson, showed a strong roots/country-rock influence. Rogers left to be replaced by Thad Spencer and the band worked for the next years on demo tapes in search of a major label recording contract. During this period, Louris left the band briefly (following a car accident) and Dan Gaarder replaced him. Louris returned and the sum of the collected demos from 1986-1989 were brought together to create Blue Earth, released on the Minneapolis label Twin Tone in 1989. On this album Gary Louris shared more of the songwriting with Olson. After touring the U.S. in support of Blue Earth, Spencer left the band due to commitments at home with his business. He was replaced by Ken Callahan in 1988 who stayed with the band until 1993.

In 1991, Dave Ayers, the president of Twin Tone, was on a phone call with A&R representative George Drakoulias from Def American while Blue Earth played in the background. Drakoulias asked about the music, and eventually met with and signed the band to the label later that year.[2]

In 1992 the Jayhawks had their major label release, Hollywood Town Hall, on Def American.[2] The album was produced by Drakoulias and recorded primarily in Los Angeles and at Pachyderm Recording Studio in Minnesota. Though Louris' fuzzy guitar was at the forefront, a clear folksy influence was also emerging in Olson and Louris' songwriting. The album was a hit, powered by the single "Waiting for the Sun", and it brought the Jayhawks a wider fanbase.[3]

Adding Karen Grotberg on the keyboards and vocals, the band toured extensively.[2] In 1995 they went into the studio to produce Tomorrow the Green Grass on the renamed American Recordings label. Lead track "Blue" turned out to be a Top 40 hit in Canada (peaking at No. 33), but the record's production had been very expensive and the album failed to sell as expected in the U.S. Among the album's songs is "Miss Williams' Guitar," a love song for Olson's then-girlfriend, singer-songwriter Victoria Williams (the pair later married, but divorced in February 2006). Drummer, singer and songwriter Tim O'Reagan joined the band for the 1995 tour; session drummer Don Heffington had played on the album.

By the end of 1995, Olson unexpectedly left the band to spend more time with Williams (with whom he would later form the Original Harmony Ridge Creekdippers). The band continued to record as The Jayhawks, adding Kraig Johnson on guitar. Johnson, another Minneapolis musical fixture, had played in seminal SST band Run Westy Run, Iffy and Golden Smog.[3]

The Jayhawks released Sound of Lies in 1997, with Louris composing most of the songs and allowing all of his influences a share in the proceedings. The result mixed straight rock (the ironic "Big Star"), psychedelic, acoustic (the title track) and even some dub elements, taking the band far from its country-influenced origins. The band's sound was often described as Alt-country, or Americana, and drew comparisons with the music of Neil Young.

Smile (2000), produced by Bob Ezrin, had more of a pop music feel (which utilized new sounds for the band like drum loops and synthesizers), jarring some of the band's long-time fans. The New York Times positively reviewed the album, but in a nod to the band's lack of widespread recognition, titled the review "What If You Made A Classic And No One Cared?" Though still a member through the recording of the album, Grotberg left the band before the Smile tour, and was replaced by Jen Gunderman. The song "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" appeared in a Ralph Lauren commercial, the second soundtrack released from Dawson's Creek "Songs from Dawson's Creek Volume 2", and the 2001 film All Over the Guy.

Rainy Day Music (2003), was stripped down, more acoustic, and generally seen as a return to their alt-country roots ("Tailspin," "Stumbling Through the Dark," "You Look So Young"). The band now consisted of founding members Louris and Perlman, along with drummer O'Reagan, and touring band member ex-Long Ryder Stephen McCarthy, from Richmond, VA who also played with Johnny Hott and The Piedmont Surprise. McCarthy added pedal steel, lap steel, banjo, guitar and backing vocals to the album and subsequent live shows.[4] This lineup toured in 2003 and early 2004, including their first ever appearance on PBS's long-running series, Austin City Limits. The band's final show was in Valencia, Spain.

In addition to their studio albums, the Jayhawks released Live From the Women's Club, an all-acoustic live recording of Louris/Perlman/O'Reagan from 2002. It was sold only at concerts as an "Official Jayhawks Bootleg." It includes the demo to the original version of "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" called "Someone Will", and includes a cover of David Wiffen's "(Lost My) Driving Wheel", originally popularized by Tom Rush.[5] A follow-up, Live From the Women's Club 2, contains the rest of the concert, including a cover of Tim Hardin's "Reason To Believe" and a rendition of "Jennifer Save Me" from Golden Smog, the alt/country supergroup of which Louris was a founding member (and which Perlman later joined).

Olson and Louris toured together in the winter of 2005 and spring of 2006, billed as "From the Jayhawks: An Evening with Mark Olson & Gary Louris, Together Again."[6] Both old and new Jayhawks members progressed to solo efforts and side projects, and the band as a whole was generally considered to be broken up, and not expected to produce new material soon. However, the band members appear to keep in touch, tour together in their other projects, and have been known to "reunite" on occasion.

In September 2008, the 1995 lineup of Louris, Olson, O'Reagan, Grotberg and Perlman reunited[7][8] for the Azkena Rock Festival in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain.

In January 2009, Olson and Louris released an acoustic album titled Ready for the Flood.[9]

In April 2009, Billboard reported that the Jayhawks have reunited. The band's mid-1990s lineup will play two shows this summer: One at Barcelona's Primavera Sound Festival on May 30 and one at Minneapolis's Basilica Block Party on July 10. Band co-leader Gary Louris told Billboard that the reunion will be a part-time thing: "I think the plan is that we're going to play festivals. Next year, we're hoping to play Bonnaroo and things like that. We'll see if it grows from there."

In July 2009, Sony Legacy and American Recordings released Music from the North Country, The Jayhawks Anthology a project supervised by Louris. The standard CD features highlights from the band's studio albums, while a deluxe version adds rarities, B-sides, and unreleased material, as well as a DVD of the band's music videos.

On May 18, 2010, the initial release The Jayhawks was digitally remastered from reel-to-reel and reissued on Lost Highway Records. The re-release features an eleven-page booklet designed by Mark Olson. At its release, it was also featured as a $4.99 digital download from Amazon. In fall 2010, the Jayhawks returned to the recording studio, planning to have a new album out by spring or early summer 2011.[1]

In January 2011, Legacy Recordings reissued collector's editions of both Hollywood Town Hall and Tomorrow the Green Grass, each featuring outtakes and B-sides. Tomorrow the Green Grass features a second disc entitled The Mystery Demos, featuring tracks from two Olson/Louris recording sessions that took place in 1992. Prior to the release of The Mystery Demos, several of the featured tracks had been re-recorded and released on various Jayhawks related albums, such as Mark Olson's solo release, The Salvation Blues and the Olson/Louris collaboration Ready for the Flood. To celebrate the release of the reissues, The Jayhawks - Louris, Olson, Perlman, Grotberg, and O'Reagan - launched a concert mini-tour in January 2011, with shows in Toronto (January 18), New York City (January 2021), Philadelphia (January 22), Chicago (January 2728), and Minneapolis (January 29). For the January 20 show at New York's Webster Hall, the band performed Hollywood Town Hall in its entirety, followed by the complete Tomorrow the Green Grass the following evening.[10]

After a hiatus, in 2011 the band reunited and recorded a new album. The lineup consists of Mark Olson, Gary Louris, Marc Perlman, Karen Grotberg, and Tim O'Reagan, and, as Louris says, "Our goal is to make the best Jayhawks album that's ever been done". 18 songs had been recorded, 16 of them new, but only 12 will be on the record.[11] The album, Mockingbird Time, was released September 20.


The current lineup of The Jayhawks consists of:

  • Mark Olson: guitar, lead vocals, backing vocals
  • Gary Louris: guitar, lead vocals, backing vocals
  • Tim O'Reagan: drums, backing vocals
  • Karen Grotberg: keyboards, backing vocals
  • Marc Perlman: bass



Studio albums

Year Album Peak chart
US US Heat US Folk UK
1986 The Jayhawks Bunkhouse
1989 Blue Earth Twin/Tone
1992 Hollywood Town Hall 192 11 American
1995 Tomorrow the Green Grass 92 41
1997 Sound of Lies 112 61
2000 Smile 129 60
2003 Rainy Day Music 51 70
2011 Mockingbird Time 38 2 92 Rounder

Compilation albums

Year Album details
2009 Music From The North Country - The Jayhawks Anthology


Year Single Peak chart positions Album
US Main US Mod US AC Canada (RPM 100) [13] UK
1992 "Waiting for the Sun" 20 29 Hollywood Town Hall
1995 "Blue" 33 83 Tomorrow the Green Grass
"Bad Time" 70
1997 "Big Star" 162 Sound of Lies
2000 "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" 40 163 Smile
2003 "Save It for a Rainy Day" Rainy Day Music

Mark Olson & Gary Louris

  • Ready for the Flood (2009)

Other appearances

Year Song Album Notes
1996 "Waiting for the Sun" ONXRT: Live from the Archives Volume 3 Recorded at The Vic Theatre, Chicago, 7/15/1995


  1. 1.0 1.1 {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography, 5th, p. 499500, Edinburgh: Mojo Books.
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  5. On Tom Rush (Columbia, 1970).
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  10. The Hawks Are Out, by Daniel Alleva, The Aquarian Weekly, January 19, 2011.
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  12. 12.0 12.1 {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}
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External links

  • Jayhawks Fan Page (long established fan run website)
  • Drummer, Tim O'Reagan's page
  • Official Jayhawks Lost Highway Artist Page
  • The latest "official" page
This page was last modified 15.05.2014 20:45:30

This article uses material from the article The Jayhawks from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia and it is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.