THE JUKE JUMPERS formed in 1977 in Fort Worth, Texas when Jim Colegrove and Sumter Bruton decided to form a band that played rhythm and blues, blues, jump and rockabilly in a traditional Texas style. The group’s first performance in June that year included Jim on bass and vocals, Sumter on guitar, Bud Johnson on guitar and vocals and Mike Buck on drums.
Bud Johnson and Mike Buck left the band before 1977 was over. Jim switched from bass to guitar and Jack Newhouse joined the band to play bass. Mike Buck was replaced by Mike Bartula on drums. The Juke Jumpers soon became the house band at the New Bluebird Nite Club in Fort Worth. There they were able to experiment with tunes and expand their repertoire.
In 1978 Jim Colegrove arranged to record an LP for Flying High Records in Fort Worth. That record was titled Panther City Blues and featured the current line-up of Juke Jumpers which included Jim, Sumter, Jim Milan on bass and Mike Bartula on drums. Jeff Gutcheon from Hungry Chuck joined in on piano for the record.
The band added a fifth member in 1979. Johnny Reno, who had just departed Stevie Ray Vaughan’s band Double Trouble, joined the Juke Jumpers on sax. In 1980 the band recorded their second LP. That record became the first LP issued by the new Fort Worth label, Amazing Records. The LP was titled Border Radio.
In 1980 the Juke Jumpers became a six-piece band when pianist Craig Simecheck joined the group.
They recorded their third LP, The Joint’s Jumpin’, issued by Amazing Records. The band began
to tour throughout Texas, Louisiana and the upper-Midwest. Then regular touring began nationwide. During the early ’80s the Juke Jumpers were one of the most popular R&B
bands touring in Texas and the upper-Midwest, working over 200 dates a year, 60% of which were on the road—hardly a "sedentary" group as it has been stated by one writer. The group was also had a hand in reviving the careers of Texas R&B stars Zuzu Bollin and Goree Carter.
Tracks were recorded for their next LP in 1983. It was at that time that Johnny Reno left the band to start his own group. Johnny was replaced by Robert Harwell, Delbert McClinton’s former sax player. The LP Jumper Cables was issued in 1984 on Rounder Records’ Varrick label. The band continued to tour, playing from coast-to-coast.
In April 1985, the band decided to breakup. But in the following year they reunited when a new club opened in Fort Worth. The Juke Jumpers were the opening act at Fort Worth’s J&J’s Blues Bar and became a standard there for the next 7 years. Jerry Smith joined the group on tenor sax in October 1986. Sax player Rene Ozuna joined the band the following month to create a Juke Jumper sax section. Jerry departed the band in September 1987 and Robert Harwell rejoined that November. In December 1987, the Juke Jumpers recorded a live album at The Caravan of Dreams in Fort Worth. Their fifth LP was issued on Amazing and titled Live!. They appeared in the motion picture, A Tiger’s Tale, starring Ann-Margret and C. Thomas Howell.
Mike Bartula left the band in 1988. He was replaced by Doyle Bramhall on drums and vocals. The group continued to tour making two trips to Europe in 1989 to play the Belgian Rhythm and Blues Festival and the Blues Estafette, in Utrecht, Holland. They were also the backup band for Texas artists Zuzu Bollin and U. P Wilson at Utrecht. Jim Milan left the band in 1990 to tour with Anson and the Rockets. He was replaced on bass by Mike Judge. That’s the same Mike Judge who would later create the popular cartoons Beavis and Butt-head and King Of The Hill.
Doyle, Mike Judge and Craig Simecheck left the group in 1991 and the Juke Jumpers reformed. Mike Bartula returned to the group on drums. Tom Reynolds became the bass player and Ruf Rufner joined on keyboards. The group continued to play in Fort Worth until Mike Bartula decided to move to Nashville in 1994. The band had been together for 17 years and had recorded 5 LPs. It was then they decided to jump their last juke and go their separate ways.
1997 marked the 20th anniversary of the Juke Jumpers. Jim Colegrove, Sumter Bruton, Jim Milan, Michael Bartula, Craig Simecheck, Johnny Reno and Rene Ozuna reunited Memorial Day weekend to play for the Fort Worth fans at Horny’s for 2 nights. The club set new attendance records and a rockin’ good time was had by all!
The band reunited again on their 21st anniversary in 1998 with all original members in the line-up. They performed together again during the year and planned to continue performing on a limited basis. 1999 marked the 20th anniversary of the release of the LP Panther City Blues. They celebrated their 25th anniversary at J&J’s Blues Bar in Fort Worth June 21 - 22, 2002. Cool Groove Records issued a new CD in December 2003. It includes both Border Radio and The Joint’s Jumpin’! sides. On Labor Day weekend of 2007 the Juke Jumpers celebrated their 30th Anniversary. They officially released a new CD titled On Stage that contains previously unissued live performances. The group also went into the studio and began work on new recordings early in September 2007. They reunited in 2008 once again and continued to work on new recordings. A new CD, titled Villa Acuña, 1963, was released by Cool Groove Records December 29, 2009. All Juke Jumper CDs are available online at Amazon.com or at Record Town in Fort Worth. 2017 marks their 40th anniversary.
Today most of the members of the Juke Jumpers regularly perform in their own groups. Jim Colegrove recorded with his own band Lost Country and has an instrumental CD of his own out titled 3 Quarter Dime. He has also released a CD titled "We Made It Ourselves" by Men of Extinction. Jim Milan plays in several bands. We lost former members of the Juke Jumpers, Doyle Bramhall on November 12, 2011 and Robert Harwell on May 22, 2014. For information on obtaining Juke Jumper recordings contact Gerard Daily at Record Town, 3025 S. University Drive, Fort Worth, Texas 76109, 817-926-1331 or send e-mail to The Juke Jumpers.
JUKE JUMPERS DISCOGRAPHY
Fort Worth, Grand Prairie and Dallas, Texas
All Juke Jumper CDs always available at Record Town, Fort Worth, Texas
This is from the motion picture A Tiger’s Tale. That’s the Juke Jumpers playing Matilda in the background, 1986.