To trace back the roots of JammSammich – you might as well start at Crusen’s on War Memorial Drive.
That’s pretty much where it all began for us.
While it wasn’t the very first we place played out of the gates, it was one of the first “regular gigs” we nailed down in the earliest days – and it was certainly the room where we realized that we were onto something. Granted, times were MUCH different back then. Sammich rarely strayed from our 70’s Funk, Disco and R&B format. And early on, a different set of players would be found onstage, including original members, Matt Tomlianovich on bass and Christopher Summers on keys. Most notably, in our earliest shows, we hadn’t added horn-player Bill Truelove. As a five-piece – and later with the addition of Bill on trumpet, we offered a fresh show the likes of which couldn’t be found in Central Illinois when we started, complete with costumes (Mike’s multi-colored and interchangeable wigs were a staple), platform shoes and serious forays into popular and obscure funk music. And our theme parties, Like PaJammaSammich started at Crusen’s.
Crusen’s was a natural fit. BIG sprawling room with plenty of square footage for dancing. And, back in the early days, it was not uncommon for lines to get in to be stretched through the parking lot, and around the side of the building. Back then, the room was open and relatively unfinished. No elevated table seating or a stage. Just a vast concrete space – which, when filled with people, felt like Wembley or Madison Square Gardens from behind the lights. Parties there ROCKED. They were events – happenings. And the energy and excitement – a combination of the strong support local music had at that time and the fact that Sammich was doing something new to the area – made Crusen’s the place to be on JammSammich nights.
We struck up an immediate kinship with the Crusen family, a true partnership based on above-board dealings and a common goal – a good time. No, a GREAT time. There are more Duck Crusen stories than can be told in this short piece – but, you can take our word that he was one of a kind. His untimely passing had a lasting effect on us all – and it’s still easy to feel his presence every time you step into the big building on War Drive. He’s there, sitting at the end of the bar.
Some of our biggest shows have taken place at CWD – countless Christmas parties (each with its one Dangerous, Drunken Santa), St. Patrick’s Day appearances where the whole place was transformed into a living breathing sea of green, the “United We Jam” fundraiser we helped coordinate with other local bands to raise money for the American Red Cross in the wake of 9/11, a massive Crusen’s 25th Anniversary Party – and our own wildly successful 10th Anniversary Fan Appreciation night – that saw every member of the band (past and present) onstage at the same time performing for a sold-out house.
Over time, changes have occurred: new management, a re-design of the space that included the construction of one of the area’s nicest stages providing an unobstructed view of performers from anywhere in the building, the inclusion of top-notch sound and lighting. And all the while, the bar’s kid brother, Crusen’s on Farmington Road steadily grew in popularity, becoming a regular stop for some of the Region’s and Country’s biggest acts – and, at times, over-shadowing the original Crusen’s.
But War Drive will always be home to JammSammich. Weird smells and all. Great pizza, too!
We hope you’ll join us for a homecoming of sorts when we rock the Crusen’s stage again Saturday, January 17th. The band is pumping on all-cylinders and the setlist is full of surprises – and you know it will sound great at Crusen’s!