Jimmy Voegeli seems to have lived the classic Wisconsin farm story. “Like most kids, we were in a tractor by 10.” His ancestors came from Switzerland and settled just south of New Glarus. “Our family homesteaded this in 1854 I believe.” Voegeli’s father was a pioneer in bovine genetics and helped bring the World Dairy Expo to Madison. Jimmy studied dairy science at the University of Wisconsin.
But something happened on the way to becoming a 5th generation dairy farmer. “About my junior year I started thinking, I’m not quite feeling this like I should.”
What he was feeling was the blues. “The first gig, knew right away this was a pretty cool deal,” recalls Voegeli. It turns out, Jimmy had the classic musician’s childhood too. “Our whole family has always been musical. Our mom and dad met, my dad was playing in a polka band playing trumpet and they met at a show.”
Like most young struggling musicians, Voegeli was at a crossroads. “Music was always one of the most important things of my life. It always was. But making a living is an important thing too. They made me an offer to come home and help out. I reluctantly did it too.”
But unlike most farmers, Voegeli has some flexibility in his schedule. With his brother running the genetics side of the farm, Jimmy could focus on crops and equipment, “If it ain’t broke it ain’t ours, that’s our motto,” and keep playing music on nights and weekends. “When I take off to go on gigs, the guys go, ‘Oh you’re going to screw around while we’re here working.’ Well playing gigs is no vacation either. Ten years of go play gigs, change, go out to the barn and do chores just like my father did.”
Eventually Voegeli’s day job took a backseat after a certain festival in Wausau. “We’re playing, and I’m playing the solo and I get done with the solo and got a standing ovation. It was really cool and we get done with the show, my dad came up to me and he said ‘I was so proud.’ And then choked up and just walked away. And so that was the day that I became a musician first.”
Voegeli’s band, The Jimmys, has had quite a bit of success since then. “That is pretty cool when it comes together. And it comes together more and more and more the more we play together. So that’s fun.”
But the cows keep him fairly well grounded. “They don’t know any different. You’re late. Feed me!” The farm has a heavy influence on his music. “I’m constantly writing stuff down or hearing a rhythm inside or hearing a groove inside. Yeah, that happens all the time. Most of the songs that I’ve written have for sure been down here at the farm.”
But you won’t hear him sing about the Brown Swiss blues. “It’s almost like sacrilegious in a way. I almost feel like I shouldn’t do it. It’s too obvious in a way.”
Jimmy Plays Tracks For Local Band Zeroed Hero
Besides recording with his own band, Jimmy also gets asked to record with other musicians. Here is video of him laying down some tracks on the Hammond organ for the local band Zeroed Hero.
“Precipice” By Zeroed Hero
Listen to the song containing the Hammond organ tracks played by Jimmy Voegeli.