Ann Arbor Weather:
Sunday May 31, 2020
Follow us: facebook twitter RSS feed
The Terraplanes

The Terraplanes

Local institution

by James M. Manheim

From the September, 2019 issue

The Terraplanes played their first gig at the 1993 Art Fair, so they've just completed their twenty-fifth year. They'll kick off their twenty-sixth with a show at the Zal Gaz Grotto Club on September 21 and another at Live on October 25.

Few other bands, blues or otherwise, have lasted as long, and it's worth asking what the sextet's longevity reveals about our town, which--Shakey Jake notwithstanding--was never a place for blues roots.

The band was the creation of Saginaw-born singer, songwriter, and guitarist Jerry Mack. He says he "knew rock was based" on the blues, "but it never really hit me until I started playing it on my guitar. So I realized if I was going to call myself a musician, I had to be able to play or sing the blues."

The Terraplanes landed a regular gig as host band of a Sunday blues jam at the Blind Pig. That came to an end in 1997 as the club chased the swing craze, but the Terraplanes motored on to the Tap Room and then other local nightspots--the Cavern Club and Arbor Brewing, but also half-forgotten ones like Enzo's, Goodnight Gracie, the South Lyon Hotel, and Club 23. Mack says he doesn't know how many gigs the band has played, but it's probably at least 1,000. They're part of Ann Arbor's musical fabric.

They used to play a dozen shows a month. In recent years it's been down to one or two, but it's fluctuated in the past and may again. "Now I've got the best band," Mack says. "Now I have a band where everybody likes each other. I've been with these guys for five to seven years, and we're really tight."

The Terraplanes' recently concluded long-term gig at Guy Hollerin's provided abundant testimony to that, with varied sets that might include Elvis or Dr. John in addition to straight blues. The band routinely gets even septuagenarians out on the dance floor.

It takes motivation to

...continued below...


keep it fresh, and that motivation is Mack's creative personality. Supporting himself variously as a postal worker and a house painter over the years--"I have to work for myself, I can't have a boss," he says--Mack remains enthusiastic about the blues, and he knows the music back to its origins. (Check out his "Nothin' But the Blues" and acoustic "Yazoo City Calling" shows on WCBN). He's continuing to write new music, including an "Oil and Water Don't Mix" blues song about the Line Five pipeline up north.

"My advice to younger blues players is to put more space between the notes, and let the space fill up with your soul," he says. In a time when agents and consultants often rule even the music known as folk, Mack is as honest as musicians come.

That's where the Terraplanes fit into the culture of Ann Arbor. This is a town where you can live out a musical identity for a quarter of a century.     (end of article)

[Originally published in September, 2019.]

 

 
Bookmark and Share
Print Comment E-mail

You might also like:

Mr. Alan Shoes Is Now Snipes
A German multinational buys a fast-talking Detroit brand.
Britain Woodman
BioVigil's Boom
Suddenly, everybody cares about handwashing.
Cynthia Furlong Reynolds
Daycares and Preschools
Chain of Command II
The firing of city administrator Howard Lazarus was timely for police chief Mike Cox.
James Leonard
Comedy, Storytelling, & Performance Art
Today's Events
Gift Cards and Cargo Bikes
Selling through the shutdown
Cynthia Furlong Reynolds
Restaurants with Military Discount
A clickable zoomable map
Nightspots: Blue LLama
Photo: Volunteers for Operation Facemask at work on Spring Street, community action in a crisis
One of the finest university art museums in the country, UMMA holds collections representing 150 yea
Te Ann Arbor Observer is hiring an administrative assistant
Vicki's Wash and Wear Haircuts