Ely’s Jack Daniels Band returns after 40 years

PERFORMING for a crowd of over 100 people in Jerry Fink’s yard last Sunday were Jack Daniels Band members Justin Champa, Jef Cierniak, Jerry Fink, Dave Waggoner and Earl Bulinski during a band practice session. Photo by Nick Wognum.

A legendary Ely band will be playing again 40 years after their last performance.
Yup, the guys are getting the Jack Daniels Band back together.
“I think back 40 years almost exactly, the Jack Daniels Band played their last job at the Isabella Summer Fest August 4th, 1977,” said drummer Jerry Fink.
“We had a wonderful run with the Jack Daniels Band from 1974 to 1977. A tremendous following everywhere we played. So fun! Had a lot of hair, beards and probably weighed 30 pounds less,” said Fink.
Four of the original band members will participate, Steve Phifer, Earl Bulinski, Fink and leader singer Dave Waggoner. The other two original members were Len Hamlin and Bill Bulinski.
“That was a good band. We missed the boat when we didn’t record with that one,” said Fink.
On Sunday Fink’s home just east of Ely served as a make-shift concert area as the band held an afternoon practice.
Over 100 people showed up with lawn chairs and coolers to listen to songs by a variety of artists including Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings.
The vocals by Waggoner were stunning. His powerful voice filled the air and had the crowd foot tapping along.
“I remember the first practice when I sat behind him and I knew he was a powerhouse,” said Fink.
Also known as J.W. Hawkins, Waggoner is the lead singer of the band Crow, who opened for the likes of Molly Hatchet years ago.
Now the band will work around Waggoner’s schedule and get three performances in before he goes back to Florida for the winter.
The Jack Daniels Band will be at the Grand Ely Lodge on Sept. 16, Novi’s Taconite Haven on Sept. 29 and then the finale at Dee’s Bar in Ely on Sept. 30.
Three dates may be enough for this 60s and 70s band, that’s the age of the original band members not the music.
“I haven’t played in a band like that in a long time,” said Fink. “I was worried about my arthritis.”
The band will have more practices before next weekend’s perfoemance.
Joining Fink will be Earl Bulinski, Phifer, Justin Champa, Jef Ciernak and Waggoner.
“I heard there’s a bus coming up from Aurora,” said Fink. “We had a food following. We got kicked out of the Aurora Legion one night because too many people came. Evidently that was a problem back then.”
As for next year, Fink said there has been some discussion on keeping the band going and scheduling additional performances.
“One year we played every weekend except Christmas. I don’t think we’ll ever get back to that, back then we had youth and stupidity,” said Fink.