JayhawksHailing from Minneapolis, the band was formed in 1985 and released an eponymous record the following year (known to fans as the Bunkhouse tapes) but it wasn't until it was re-released (and enhanced) as Blue Earth in 1989 that the Jayhawks started to get noticed. Their lineup at the time was Mark Olson (acoustic guitar & vocals), Gary Louris (electric guitar & vocals), Marc Perlman (bass) and Thad Spencer (drums) (though the drummer's position always seemed to be the most unstable). Their music back then was very much rootsy country-rock and all songs were penned by Olson.
Their 1991 release Hollywood Town Hall however took a more rocky turn with Louris co-writing many of the tunes. Though Louris' fuzzy guitar was at the forefront, a clear folksey influence was also emerging in Olson's songwriting. The album was a hit powered forward by the single Waiting for the Sun and brought the Jayhawks a much needed fanbase.
Having added Karen Grotberg on the keyboards, the band toured extensively and went into the studio to produce Tomorrow the Green Grass in 1995 but the record's production had been very expensive and the album failed to sell as expected. The album does however feature some classic Jayhawks tunes such as Blue or Ms. Williams Guitar (a love song for Olson's flame, quirky singer/songwriter Victoria Williams) but sadly failed to find a larger audience for the band.
Mark Olson left the band that year to spend more time with his wife (and would later form with her the Original Harmony Ridgecreek Dippers) - given his songwriting talent, many fans felt it was the end of the Jayhawks. They were only half right as 1997 saw the remaining Jayhawks (now with Tim O'Reagan on the drums) release Sound of Lies which had Louris composing most of the songs and allowing all of his influences an even hand in the proceedings. The result was staggering - mixing straight rock (the ironic Big Star), psychedlic, acoustic (the title track) or even some dub elements, the album was a creative breakthrough which should have had the band taking on the world. Sadly, their record company (American recordings) was bought over by Warner and the album was released with virtually no label support and only sold to their faithful fanbase.
Deflated but still eager to make it big, the band set out to try and attract a different audience with Smile (2000). Produced by Bob Ezrin, the songs seemed to be solely aimed at the charts with singalongs such as I'm Going To Make You Love Me and Smile. The album became their worst selling album after Blue Earth though the songs did sound much better performed live devoid of Ezrin's tentacular production.
Having learnt the hard way that commercial success was going to elude them forever, the band returned to a more stripped down approach and released Rainy Day Music in 2003 - with some more great tunes on the record (Tailspin, Stumbling Through the Dark, You Look So Young) and a brilliant acoustic tour supporting it, the Jayhawks seem destined to remain one of music's best kept secrets...