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P.I. program to feature musical tribute to lumberjacks

July 22, 2011
The Alpena News

Escanaba-based historian Bill Jamerson will present the program, "It's Daylight in the Swamps," at the New Lighthouse Park in Presque Isle on July 27 at 8 p.m. His appearance is part of the summer-long Presque Isle Township 2011 Summer Parks Programs.

"It's Daylight in the Swamps" was shouted at the men by cooks at lumberjack camps to wake them in the morning. With guitar in hand, Jamerson sings traditional lumberjack songs, tells stories and tells tall tales about life in the lumber camps. He takes his audience on a musical journey with songs about working the woods, living in a bunkhouse, the hardships of river drives, the importance of camp food, and going into town in spring.

The program is very kid-friendly with opportunities for youth to come up on stage to sing, role play or compete for prizes.

In camp, lumberjacks entertained themselves in the evening by reading, sewing, playing card games and telling tall tales. Jamerson shares several of these stories, including the legend of the "side hill gulger" and the feared "hoop" snake.

He explains how many of the lumberjacks saved money to purchase land and bring family members over from the old country. Most lumberjacks aspired to be farmers to escape the hardships of working the camps all winter.

Jamerson performs songs from Earl Becks, "Lore of the Lumberjack." The wording in the songs changed as they passed from camp to camp and state to state.

Some of the songs Jamerson performs include, "A Lumberjack's Life," which tells of the hardships of working the cold. "Jack Haggerty" is the story of a broken-hearted river man from Greenville 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 "The Ballad of Jimmy Hale" is the story of a young man who met an early death. "Pete Bateese" is about a Frenchman who always gets in trouble, and "Shanty Boy Wins" tells of the rivalry between farmers and lumberjacks. The songs range from foot stomping jigs to soulful ballads.

Jamerson is an author, PBS filmmaker and songsmith. He presents his programs in schools, libraries, festivals and other venues. His musical programs contain stories of strength, wit and charm they are as entertaining as they are informative, as honest as they are fun.

To find out more about this performance, call 595-2296 or visit Jamerson's website at



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