Ruby Jewel Jamboree: The Growling Old Men


The first of the Ruby Jewel Jamboree concert series was a success.

They filled 75 seats at Ruby’s Inn & Convention Center for the Kathy Kallick Band and Phyllis Erck met her goal to be the first to stream a Jamboree Concert live via Ustream on the internet. The Kathy Kallick band was seen and heard as far as Hawaii, where Phyllis’ brother Charley watched the whole show in real time.

Phyllis says, “Charley was interested because he was old enough to remember the Reilly Springs Jamborees. The old theater had a large red velvet curtain and Charley’s job was to open and close it. He is super excited and happy I am streaming the Jamborees.” Phyllis’ father Lou Erck is her inspiration for this where he was the first radio DJ to broadcast live Jamborees. More of Lou’s story is featured in “A Missoula Jamboree Family.”

Phyllis’ friends in New England took part in viewing the live stream of the Ruby Jewel Jamboree Concert and some took time to post a comment on the website. Dan Booth, who plays acoustic bass and sings lead and harmony vocals for Kathy Kallick, was excited to see a text message go off on his phone while in concert. It was his mother in Alaska telling Dan she was watching him “right now!”

The next concert in the series is tonight, May 4, from 7-10, with local band openers Mike and Tari Conroy and the headliners is the Growling Old Men.

Bluegrass musicians The Growling Old Men

Ben Winship and John Lowell make up the dynamic, not so growly duo. They play acoustic music on guitar; mandolin, octave mandolin, and both sing vocals. They will perform an eclectic mix of music: bluegrass, americana, folk, and swing. They write original songs and improvise during shows.

Phyllis says, “John has been in the music business for over twenty years. They have a prolific background in music and toured nationally together. Their funny band name ‘Growling Old Men’ came from an old fiddle tune.” They are a favorite among the crowds due to their great songwriting, connection with other on stage, spontaneous sense of humor, and their ability to engage the audience.

After the concert tonight Ben and John are opening up the floor for an acoustic jam session. “Bluegrass pickin’ is what we call it” says Phyllis “anyone is welcome to come and participate with both bands.”

Jam sessions and bluegrass pickin’ time is not unusual at Ruby’s Inn.

During the long winter months, Phyllis invites other musicians around the Missoula area to play in the Winter Jam Series that’s now at least seven years running. “People come to jam and bring potluck” says Phyllis. The idea is to play together, encourage musicians, including the younger generation. “We teach each other and learn together”.

Strong, youth-filled bluegrass bands developed from frequent winter jam sessions. The local band Derailed learned to play bluegrass with other musicians when they were the ages of thirteen and fourteen. Now they are seventeen and eighteen and Phyllis says, “These high school age kids have a hot bluegrass band due to playing with others at the Winter Jam.”

A big push happened the day before the Kathy Kallick concert. Phyllis was determined to stream live and really had to pull some things together to make it happen. What was once Phyllis’ father’s dream made into reality is now a dream come true for Phyllis as well. She is making it happen.

If you can’t be there in person, Growling Old Men will stream live tonight. You can view the concert live on the website. Please note that Ustream is best viewed with Firefox or Safari (Ustream has issues with Internet Explorer). The cost for concert tickets at the door is $10. If you want to join in acoustic bluegrass pickin’ after, it’s free.


Read more of Leisa’s stories about the Missoula music scene.


Missoula writer Leisa Greene Nelson

Call her a big city girl at heart, finding and satiating that appetite in the city of Missoula. Born in Butte and raised in Missoula, she is fascinated by people and looks for interesting characters to write about.  Everyone has a story to tell, or not, but the people and places in Missoula are unique.

Moving fast in life (for that big city feel) Leisa’s passions bounce around music, theater, food, art, family, and  friends that’s supported by an IV line of dark roasted coffee. Single and a recent graduate from the University of Montana with a BA in Creative Writing, she learned what it was like to be a co-ed in her 40s.

She currently works as an Office Manager at Inter-State Studio and Publishing, working on school photos and yearbooks. Her personal life and nightlife is where she discovers and creates creative non-fiction stories. She has four supportive, loving children:  Dustin, Michael, Jalynn, and Mark (adopted through marriage to Dustin) who are all artistically creative in writing, theater, dance, and singing.  Leisa likes to think she moves faster than they do.