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updated 7:51 PM UTC, May 23, 2018

Musical Tribute to Wisconsin Lumberjack at BRF Library

  • Written by Bob Gabrielson
  • Published in News

(4/23/13) Upper Peninsula based singer/songwriter Bill Jamerson will present an hour-long musical program about Wisconsin lumberjack history on Tuesday, May 7 at 6 p.m., at the Black River Falls Public Library. 

The title of the program is "It's Daylight in the Swamps," a phrase shouted by cooks at lumberjack camps over a hundred years ago to wake up the men in the morning.  With guitar in hand, Jamerson sings traditional lumberjack songs, tells stories and tale tales about life in the lumber camps.

      Dressed in costume, Jamerson takes his audience on a musical journey with songs about working in the woods, living in a bunkhouse, the hardships of river drives, the importance of camp food, and going into town in spring. The lumberjacks were a colorful lot, mostly immigrants who brought a zest for living and a hunger for the American dream. Most of them came to America to become homesteaders.

      In camp, lumberjacks entertained themselves in the evening by reading, sewing, playing card games, playing musical instruments and telling tall tales. Jamerson shares several of these tales including the story of the "side-hill gulger," and the feared "hoop snake."  Lumberjacks saved money to purchase land and pay for the passage of family members from the old country. Many lumberjacks acquired property to farm but continued to spend their winters in the logging camps to earn an income. Jamerson shares many stories he has learned first-hand from men who worked in the woods.

      Jamerson performs traditional songs that were passed from camp to camp. Some of the songs include, A Lumberjack's Life, which tells of the hardships of working in the cold. Jack Haggerty is the story of a broken-hearted river man, and Men at Play explores the revelry when lumberjacks blew into town. A Shanty Boy in the Pines tells of the many jobs in the woods while Pete Bateese is about a Frenchman who always gets in trouble. Shanty Boy Wins tells of the rivalry between farmers and lumberjacks. The songs range from foot stomping jigs to soulful ballads.

     The program contains stories of strength, wit and charm.  The stories are as entertaining as they are educational; as honest as they are fun. Jamerson also presents "History Through Song" programs on Iron Miners, the Civilian Conservation Corps and Ski Jumpers. He produced eleven documentaries for public television, recorded three CD's of songs and stories and has written a historical novel. For more information about Jamerson's programs, contact Historian Mary I. Woods at The Black River Falls Public Library-Jackson County History Room, 715-284-4112. 

The library is located at 222 Fillmore Street, Black River Falls, WI. 


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