The Blue Water Ramblers’ repertoire comes right out of their Michigan life experiences and the history of the Great Lakes region. It includes lake shanties, lumberman ballads, union rallying cries, farmers’ paeans, Michigan humor, ’60s civil rights and protest music, love songs, gospel music and children’s ditties. Everyone agrees that these combine into a versatile repertoire to the delight and entertainment of their audiences.
The Blue Water Ramblers are lead singers who take turns harmonizing with each other to create the Blue Water Rambler tapestry of sound. Banjo-Jim Foerch sings of the sailors, farmers, lumberjacks, politicians and workers. Bear Berends croons the love songs and delivers protest songs old and new.
Banjo-Jim Foerch picked up his first banjo in 1965 and hasn’t put it down since. As a founding member of the regional touring band “Beats Settin’ Home,” Banjo-Jim was busy pickin’ and singin’ all over the Midwest for 20 years between 1982 and 2002. He says singing the songs of Michigan, America and our lives to all the people we meet on tour is the best thing he’s ever done. “Everyone I ever met here in Michigan or around the Midwest is proud of our home state and our country. Our songs express that pride the best way we know how- by getting us all singing together!”
R. H. “Bear” Berends holds down the rhythm with his big, black six and twelve string guitars. As with so many baby boomers he started strumming guitar and singing folk songs in high school in the sixties. He joined Banjo-Jim and “Beats Settin’ Home” at the Wheatland Music Festival in Remus, Michigan in 1993 and “Da Bearster” hasn’t stopped playing and touring since. “I wanted to sing with Banjo-Jim, so I learned all his songs and taught him mine and here we are,” he explains. Whether delivering the lead line of a love song or harmonizing with his solid baritone, Bear sculpts the Blue Water Ramblers’ sound.
Tom DeVries has been entertaining all over the Midwest since his early twenties. Between 1979 and 2001 Tom was the front man for the popular Michigan bluegrass band, The Hill People. When asked why he loves picking with the Ramblers these days, he responded, “There’s nothing I’d rather do than find a good song, work it up with the boys and deliver it to an enthusiastic audience. And that’s what the Ramblers are all about!”