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Oganookie Reunion at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center

By Julie Horner

Guitarist, piano player, and songwriter Jack Bowers talks about it like it was yesterday. “We came to Brookdale in 1970 and set up camp in a big house on the top of Western Drive with an apple orchard.” Dubbed the “Oganookie Farm,” Bowers said it was “14 musicians, a manager, and kids and women living cooperatively.” 

According to legend, Bower’s band, Oganookie, was the most popular outfit in Santa Cruz. “We played all the “in” clubs at that time: Saturday nights at the original Catalyst on Front Street, The Town and Country Lodge in Ben Lomond, Club Zayante, Château Liberté.” The Town and Country was a big thing. “We went there almost every Sunday night for the spaghetti feed,” he said. “It was a beautiful scene.”

One of the first to create the jam band sound, which included extended versions of traditional bluegrass compositions like Bill Monroe’s Uncle Pen and Orange Blossom Special, the musically eclectic group featured Bower on piano; George Stavis on electric banjo, bass, and vocals; Timmy Ackerman on drums; Bob Stern on vocals, fiddle, and bass; and Bruce Frye on vocals, guitar, and bass. Bowers said, “It was electric bluegrass, people loved to dance to the music we created.”

The band is reuniting after 50 years at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center on Saturday, April 23 at 7:30. Tickets: kuumbwajazz.org. Oganookie has a website where you can see all the videos and photos from the time, including glimpses of life in the commune. oganookie.com

“It feels really good to do it again,” Bowers said. “Everyone in the band is an accomplished musician, and putting it back together is a wonderful thing. This will get folks off the couch! Including the band! You’ve got four 75-year-old band members plus their sons and daughters, and the manager’s daughter. Three generations of Oganookie on stage.”

Hat tip to Felton record collector/musicologist Glenn Howard for information and connections for the Oganookie reunion. Howard is credited by the band for exposing them to diverse musical perspectives including jazz and big band.

Oganookie Reunion
Saturday, April 23 at 7:30 pm
Tickets: kuumbwajazz.org/calendar/oganookie
Kuumbwa Jazz Center
320 Cedar Street, Santa Cruz

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