Part 2 - 'Get outta town'
1990 - 2008
Never one to stray too far from Country music, Jim was anxious to establish a pro country band and get back to the dance halls. The opportunity came to fruition when the ‘Hickory Creek Band’ formed around singer, songwriter Larry Cote. Larry had recently recorded his CD ‘Horses in Heaven’ in Nashville and with the backing of Jim, Sue and Jim and Al Zoller, the band had a quality sound and presence which was exciting. Shows from London to Windsor to Sault Ste. Marie kept the calendar full. In the middle of all that Jim found time to produce and play many instruments on Peter Yeoman’s 1999 debut ‘Trouble Tree’ CD.
Career opportunities in education brought the Ryan family from Elgin County to Huron County in the fall of 2001. Good fortune brought Jim together with Juanita Wilkins within days of moving to Wingham. The two found instant musical chemistry, mutual respect, silly jokes and an audience which appreciated it all. A 3 year ‘house gig’ at the Riverboat restaurant branched into a number of dances and concerts with a full 5 piece band playing throughout the area. Juanita’s talent as a singer, songwriter and interpreter of others’ songs was well supported by Jim’s experience as the consummate sideman. A highlight of their collaboration was Juanita’s debut CD ‘Stronger’, recorded at Jay Riehl’s Signature Sound Studio near Stratford. The 2004 CD was impressive, showcasing Juanita’s voice and songwriting supported by a stellar cast of musicians. Juanita continues to perform regularly and her second CD, ‘Four Corner Town’, produced by Canadian Folk Icon James Gordon is well worth a listen.
All things change; it keeps life interesting. The Riverboat Restaurant closed down, the management opened The Anchor Pub a little further north on Josephine Street. At that point Juanita had other projects on the front burner so Jim and Sue took on the weekly house gig at the new Anchor Pub. It was a great experience; it became a drawing card for regional musicians and anyone who appreciated an eclectic variety of music, played with skill and passion in a family friendly atmosphere. Bob Donnelly, Eric Varillas and a rotating cast of other great musicians stretched the playlist to include everything from Johnny Cash to U2, John Prine to Radiohead, Steve Earle to Bob Seger . . . basically anything. In the middle hour each week, either guest performer was featured (often playing their original music) or a particular artist or theme (Willie Nelson, British Invasion, Buddy Holly etc) dictated the song choice. One evening stands out, a John Mellencamp tribute with full band (Jeanette Sears on Fiddle and Bill Townsend on Drums joining Bob, Sue and Jim for a great time). Much of the tradition continues to this day under the able skills of Trevor Hammer and Jim McCutcheon.
Also during the Wingham days, Jim got back into home recording of his own material which had been out of the spotlight for way too long. While writing had always kept pace with life, sharing it had not. That and playing on ‘The Rocket Rooster’s’ CD were and indication of what was to occur over the next few years.