BLAIRSBURG - When the musicians played at the Blairsburg Opera House jam session last Friday night, only the women were wearing earrings and any tattoo was proudly worn as a badge of honor by a veteran.
But make no mistake about it - these folks really know how to jam.
On the last Friday of each month, the Blairsburg Opera House hosts a jam session that draws musicians from throughout northcentral Iowa. Last Friday night, four Iowa counties were represented by guitar players, drummers, mandolin and accordion players.
- Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Teresa Wood
Don Myers and George Sweazey were two of the musicians who participated in the Blairsburg Opera House jam session on March 30.
Jam etiquette finds the musicians seated in a semi-circle. In turn, each musician calls out one of their favorite tunes and indicates which key in which it will be played.
The session is open to all skill levels but sometimes a participant will defer their chance to lead a tune and choose to follow someone else's lead.
Representing the Dows area, Terri and Annie Avery came with Vicky Boyington from Clarion and Marlo Watts. The Dows Jam is a celebrated event which draws scores of musicians as well as hundreds of audience members, said Deloris Ayers, of Webster City.
Lee Ayers, Deloris' husband plays acoustic guitar and leads the band, "The Good Timers." On Friday night, the Ayers were enjoying their second night of celebrating their 61st anniversary with friends. On this night, Annie Avery lead an anniversary tribute in their honor.
Most of the participants are simply music enthusiasts. Some have had years of training. Others are self-taught.
Don Wrolson, of Hampton, said he didn't pick up a guitar until he was 21 years old and has been playing ever since.
"Of course, that was only last year," he joked.
Viora Welsh was born into a musical family and longed to play the accordion. Her older brother owned both a button and a piano accordian. He would allow her to play the button accordian, but the piano accordian was off limits.
"I used to sneak into his room and pull it out from under his bed," she said. "I never played it, though."
Welsh was so enthralled with the accordian that when she was old enough to get her first job, her first paycheck from detassling went to buy a piano accordian.
Before her polka selection at Friday night's jam, she spoke about how she mastered the song under the guidance of her mentor.
"He made me sit on his front porch until I learned this song," she said.
Old time country dominated the playlist. Standards such as "You Are My Sunshine," "Just a Little Lovin' Will Go a Long Way," "There Goes My Everything," a collection of Irish melodies and "Daddy Sang Bass" were some selections shared.
Mandolin player George Sweazey, of Webster City, shared his own composition, "The G Boogie."
Area jam sessions are free and open to the public with a goodwill offering. Dows, Boone, Ames, Webster City, Iowa Falls and Blairsburg are just a few towns that host monthly jam sessions.
The next area jam session is scheduled at the Dows Convention Center on April 21. The Blairsburg Opera House jam will be held on April 27.