Familiar music promoter to be honored
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 2:20 AM
He's never played a note in his life, but Jim Juve's career has still been one of the best instruments of success for rock 'n roll in Iowa. For nearly 60 years, Juve has spun records as a disc jockey, promoted concerts and owned bars with a decidedly rock 'n roll influence.
Future Iowa Rock ‘n Roll Music Association Hall of Fame inductee Jim Juve shows a few of the many posters he created as a DJ, concert promoter and bar owner throughout the tri-state area. Juve will be inducted into the Iowa hall of fame next Aug. 31. ANTON ADAMEK/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
His work took him throughout the tri-state area into southwestern Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota. However, it was in Iowa that Juve built his biggest reputation and for that he will be honored by the Iowa Rock 'n Roll Music Association (IRRMA) by being inducted into its hall of fame next Aug. 31.
Juve, 75, grew up on a farm near Decorah as the oldest of nine children. The only exposure he had with live music growing up was when they went into town for dances at historic Matter's Ballroom every Saturday night. It was enough to hook him.
At 10 years of age, Juve started working at Matter's cleaning up after dances and a few years later he started working as a bartender. He found the atmosphere to be irresistible.
"It was the music," recalled Juve, launching into a list of rock 'n roll artists who performed at Matter's beginning in the 1950s.
In 1957, Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps brought their hit "Be-Bop-A-Lula" to Matter's. In the years that followed, such acts as The Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Conway Twitty and Johnny Cash performed at Matter's.
Many others performed and Juve was soaking it all up.
When he was 17, Juve started traveling around with Dale Wood from KOEL in Oelwein, putting on record hops at local dance halls. Soon, he had his own show titled "Jim Juve's Coca-Cola Teen Time Dances." The show took him all around the tri-state area, including venues in Fillmore County.
Juve recalled the environment of those dances, which cost only 50 cents to get into. "It was a social thing for kids," he said, adding he would get almost 300 young adults out on the dance floor in one night.
He recalled having big shows at the Harmony Rec Center, Preston Town Hall and community centers in Wykoff, Fountain, Chatfield, and others. Each venue had its own culture, but what continued to be similar throughout were the white bucks, poodle skirts and mostly bashful boys.
Juve also enjoyed going to concerts and dances for his own entertainment. One of the most memorable concerts he attended was in Clear Lake, Iowa, on Feb. 2, 1959. There he saw Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper in what was to be their last performance before a plane crash killed all three on "The Day the Music Died."
Juve was riding back home with several friends through the snowstorm when the news broke. "We couldn't believe what we were hearing," he recalled. But, as Juve understood well, the show had to go on.
After DJ-ing for five years, Juve served in the Army in Europe until his honorable discharge in 1964. Upon coming back home, he worked for several start-up radio stations: KFIL in Preston, KQYB in Spring Grove and KNEI in Waukon. He also got into the bar business, managing the People's Club in Decorah in 1965. Throughout the years, he has either owned or rented bars continually as a nighttime job. During the day, he worked as an event promoter.
As part of his career responsibilities, Juve contacted the musicians or their agents and scheduled performances.
"The musicians were simple back then; they didn't have all the sound systems they have now," he said.
It was also a lot cheaper to bring in a popular group. "Five-hundred dollars would get you a pretty good show. Things weren't expensive," Juve added.
He explained that as larger venues started getting built in the mid-'60s, musicians increased their price and went to those places which could sell more tickets. They also increased their demands for what the venue would provide them.
"Back then, in the '50s, they set up their own equipment," Juve said.
He explained that today's musicians want their travel expenses paid, water and other amenities provided, and all their sound and lighting equipment set up prior to their arrival.
"They want you to provide all the small things now," Juve said.
These and other factors meant decreased accessibility to the popular musicians, even for the promoters. It also meant that experiences like helping Johnny Cash get his frozen car fixed in Decorah in 1961 didn't happen anymore.
"The artists were more approachable when they did a show," Juve said of his time working with the early rock 'n roll musicians.
Juve enjoyed any opportunity he had to meet an artist he brought in. "I'm one of the bigger collectors of memorabilia in Iowa," he said, pointing at a wall in the bar at the Country View Golf Club, where he continues to hold dances throughout the year.
The wall includes posters from events he helped promote, some of which were local bands.
As a DJ, Juve mostly spun vinyl records, starting with two turntables and 100-watt amplifier, but he would occasionally get a live band. He remembered the Nite Lites, a Harmony big band made up of Curt and Orson Guttormson, Denny and Maurice Applen and Tom Steinmetz.
As music crazes came and went, Juve changed with them, but still holds that '50s country-rock is the best. "I still have people that want to have an old-time '50s party," he said.
It's that '50s music culture that he hopes will have a place in the future of music, but he has his worries.
"The idea of music today is 'here today, gone tomorrow,'" said Juve, also pointing out that younger people don't dance anymore.
If it wasn't for dancing, Juve may have never met his wife, Barb, who, he continues to brag, was "a wonderful dancer!"
Juve has worked most of his life trying to keep the music culture alive in the region and he has had a wonderful time doing it.
In 1985, he took an old barn northeast of Decorah and made it into a clubhouse for a golf course he also built himself. During the summer, Juve holds dances every Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights at the Country View.
This past Feb. 2, Juve put on a Winter Dance Party Record Hop, which memorialized the concert he had attended in Clear Lake 55 years ago.
"I enjoyed it to the fullest. I love seeing all the people smile and enjoy the shows," he said. "I've seen a lot of people come to my dances that are now married. Their kids and grandkids come to my shows."
His contributions as a DJ, promoter and bar owner will be honored on Aug. 31, when Juve is inducted into the IRRMA Hall of Fame. Interestingly enough, Paul McCartney will also be inducted that same day.
One of Juve's friends and fellow inductee, James Ronan, had nominated him and Juve was selected out of 200 names from the region. "There are a lot of people, but one of the reasons I was picked is because I'm still doing it."
"I never expected it." Juve said, thanking the numerous people who opened doors of opportunity to him throughout his career, "It's quite an honor. There are many people who made this happen."
If you are interested in experiencing the 1950s again, or for the first time, Juve invites everyone to come out to the Country View on March 9 to dance to Johnny Rogers, a Buddy Holly, Elvis and Ray Price tribute artist. The show starts at 2 p.m. and costs $12 per advance ticket or $15 at the door.