The Jayhawks

Mark Olsen(vocals) (guitar)1985-1995, 2008-
Gary Louris(vocals) guitar)1985-
Marc Perlman(bass)1985-
Norm Rogers(drums)1985-1988
Thad Spencer(drums)1988
Ken Callahan(drums)1988-1993
Karen Grotberg(keyboards)1992-1998 2008-
Tim O'Reagan (drums)1995-
Jen Gunderman(keyboards)1998-2001
Kraig Johnson(guitar)1996-2001
Stephen McCarthy(guitar)2003-2005
  • The Jayhawks formed in 1985, with vocalist Mark Olson and guitarist Gary Louris writing the songs. The other two original band members were bassist Marc Perlman (who is still with the band) and drummer Norm Rogers.
  • Based in Minneapolis, they were one of the first bands tagged by the music press as Alt.Country. Their Country-Rock sound was influential on many bands who played the Twin Cities circuit during the 1980s and 1990s such as Uncle Tupelo and The Gear Daddies.
  • Their eponymous first album was released by Bunkhouse Records, a small independent label, in 1986. The Jayhawks' LP, Blue Earth, comprises remixed demos the band had been stockpiling and was released by Minneapolis independent label Twin/Tone in 1989.
  • The Jayhawks were signed to Def American in 1991 after one of the label's A&R reps, George Drakoulias, heard Blue Earth playing in the background during a phone call to Twin/Tone's offices.
  • Mark Olson left the band in 1995 to join his wife, Folk-Rock singer/songwriter Victoria Williams, in a new act called the Original Harmony Ridge Creekdippers. Sans Olson, The Jayhawks released three albums without him with Gary Louris taking on the mantle of frontman and principal songwriter. Olson returned to The Jayhawks for their 2011 release Mockingbird Time.
  • When we asked Louris who wrote the lyrics and who the music in his songwriting partnership with Olsen, he replied that "Mark was always more of the lyric guy in certain periods of our career," before adding "not 100%. That depended on the song."

    After Olsen left the band, Louris "took over the lyrics completely 90% of the time." However he was much influenced by his songwriting partner and " went to the school of Mark Olson as far as lyrics go." Louris concluded that he has always been "more comfortable with the melody - I think you'll find that with most people in music. It's like you can come up with a million melodies, but the lyrics are more difficult."
  • The band have yet to land a single on the Hot 100. However, they did achieve a top 40 entry in Canada when "Blue" peaked at #33 in 1995. The same year "Bad Time" peaked at #70 in the UK, their only single to chart across the Atlantic.
  • Mockingbird Time became the Jawhawks' highest-charting album when it peaked at #38 on the Billboard 200.
  • Speaking to us about his songwriting process, Louris compared himself to such songwriters as Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen, "who show up dressed in their suits at 9 a.m. in their office and approach it as a job." He, however "needs to be inspired to write a song." Louris explained that he is "not somebody who wakes up and writes every day" as it then becomes a job. He feels that "a benefit of being an 'artist' is "you don't have to be a 9 to 5er." And much as Louris admires the structure and reliability that working 9 to 5 brings, "the freedom of writing when you really need a song to save yourself is usually when the song is most important."
  • Gary Louris has also achieved success working with other artists, including co-writing with the Dixie Chicks ("Baby Hold On)" and "Everybody Knows") and co-producing Dar Williams' Many Great Companions album. The latter artist told us what Louris brought to her project: "He doesn't over-think stuff," she said. "He lets the magic of the moment come through, I think because he's got such a magically expressive voice and he must be used to the experience of not overdoing things, not wanting to overdo things. Because then you quash your special voice."


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