Singer/storyteller to share Michigan lumberjack history
By Associated Press staff
ALANSON — Escanaba-based singer/storyteller Bill Jamerson will present an hour-long musical program about Michigan lumberjack history at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 26, in the Alanson Village Park next to the library, weather permitting.
With guitar in hand, Jamerson sings traditional lumberjack songs and tells stories and tall 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 hardship of river drives, the importance of camp food and going into town in spring. Many of the stories that Jamerson shares were learned first-hand from the men who worked in the woods and from family members. Along with telling the stories of the lumberjacks, Jamerson performs traditional lumberjack songs that were passed from camp to camp, including “A Lumberjack’s Life,” that tells of the hardships of working in the cold. “Jack Haggerty” is the story of a broken-hearted river man, and “Jolly Shanty Boy” tells of the rivalry between farmers and lumberjacks – as well as others, which range from foot-stomping jigs to soulful ballads.
The lumberjacks included a colorful lot of immigrants who brought a zest for living and a hunger for the American dream. Most of them came to America to become homesteaders, saving money to purchase land and to pay for the passage of family members from the old country. Many lumberjacks who acquired property to farm continued to spend their winters working in the logging camps for income.
Jamerson has produced documentaries for public television and CDs with songs, and penned a historical novel about the Civilian Conservation Corps. He also presents musical storytelling programs about the iron miners, the CCC and ski jumpers.