The Time Jumpers hop into Harrington

The Time Jumpers, featuring “Ranger Doug” Green, left, Kenny Sears, center, and Vince Gill, right, bring their all-star Western swing band to Harrington Raceway and Casino’s Exhibit Hall April 8 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $49. (Submitted photo)

The Time Jumpers, featuring “Ranger Doug” Green, left, Kenny Sears, center, and Vince Gill, right, bring their all-star Western swing band to Harrington Raceway and Casino’s Exhibit Hall April 8 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $49. (Submitted photo)

HARRINGTON — What started as a chance to kick back and forget all the world’s cares for a bunch of revered Nashville musicians has turned into a string of Grammy nominations, a spot at Carnegie Hall and a true country music success story.

The Time Jumpers, featuring Country Music Hall-of-Famer and top-selling artist Vince Gill, “Ranger Doug” Green from the country-comedy group Riders in the Sky, and renowned fiddle player Kenny Sears, will bring a bunch of friends and their brand of Western swing music to Harrington Raceway and Casino’s Exhibit Hall April 8 at 8 p.m.

The Time Jumpers started in 1998 when a group of guys just wanted to get together, drink beer and play some tunes.

“We called it our ‘Monday night therapy session,’ ” said Mr. Sears.

“We never had any expectations. The whole purpose was to play music the way we wanted to play it. Most of us are studio players and when you are a studio player, you are basically a gun for hire. You are playing on someone else’s record and you need to get it the way they want it. You aren’t picking the material and it doesn’t matter if it’s the way you want it or not. You have no say in the matter.”

Born in 1953 and raised near the border of Texas and Oklahoma, Mr. Sears is a regular at the Grand Ole Opry who played for 12 years with Mel Tillis, as well as stints with Faron Young, Ray Price and Dottie West, among others.

While the group would dabble in all forms of country music, Western swing, popularized in the 1930s and 1940s, most notably by Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys, was their music of choice.

“That’s the fun stuff to play. It’s technically more challenging but it’s happy music,” said the affable Mr. Sears Tuesday afternoon from his Nashville home.

“You can’t listen to it with a frown on your face. I like to call it Cowboy Jazz since it came from the era of Duke Ellington and Count Basie. The musicians of that time were taking their style and adding a country flavor to it.”

As Monday evening was traditionally the slowest night of the week in Nashville, the group settled in to play at the

Kenny Sears, fiddler and vocalist for The Time Jumpers, has played with country music legends such as Mel Tillis, Dottie West, Ray Price and Faron Young.

Kenny Sears, fiddler and vocalist for The Time Jumpers, has played with country music legends such as Mel Tillis, Dottie West, Ray Price and Faron Young.

Station Inn bluegrass club and very soon picked up quite a following — of not only fans but other big-name musicians.

Everyone from Reba McEntire and Norah Jones to Elvis Costello and Robert Plant have sat in with The Time Jumpers, which these days have continued their “Monday night therapy sessions” at Nashville’s larger 3rd & Lindsley Bar and Grill, where they still see the likes of Kings of Leon, Sheryl Crow and Rodney Crowell joining in from time to time.

“As a result of us getting popular on Mondays, it’s no longer a dead night in Nashville. Other places now host live music on Mondays. For as long as I could remember, there was just nothing going on on Mondays in this town. But we’ve essentially changed the face of Nashville over the last 18 years,” Mr. Sears said.

Along with vocalists and guitarists Mr. Gill and Mr. Green, The Time Jumpers consist of Brad Albin (upright bass), Larry Franklin (fiddle), Paul Franklin (steel guitar), Andy Reiss (electric guitar), Joey Spivey (fiddle, vocals), Jeff Taylor (accordion, piano) and Billy Thomas (drums, vocals).

Mr. Sears’ wife, Dawn, also was a vocalist with the group until her death in 2014 after a two-year battle with lung cancer.

Mr. Sears says the collection of talent is what sets The Time Jumpers apart and makes it so much fun to be a part of.

“We are not having to carry anyone. Everyone knows what to do and what not to do,” Mr. Sears said.

“They are all just really good guys at the top of their game. We’ve all been caught digging on someone else and then forgetting to come in when it’s our turn to play. Usually someone will joke that they need to tell the lady at the door that they will be right out to pay for their ticket.”

Although there are big names in the group, not one person is the star of the show, he said.

“Most of us in the band, with the exception of Doug and Vince, have always thought of ourselves as side men,” Mr. Sears said.

“Actually Vince always did, too. He has said all he’s really wanted to do is be a guitar player. But with that much talent, he had to be moved out front.”

Mr. Gill is considered one of the newcomers to the band, having joined officially in 2010 after a few years of occasional sit-ins.

“He has such a sweet personality and he’s such a wonderful human. He brings all of his talent to the group. He’s a great writer, a great guitar player and a great singer. I could go on and on — as I could with every member of the band,” Mr. Sears said.

Most members have written songs for their two albums. The latest self-titled project, released in 2013, earned two Grammy nominations, including one for Best Country Album of the Year. Their previous album, “Jumpin’ Time,” a two-disc collection of musical standards recorded live, released in 2007, also received two Grammy nominations.

“When we did (the 2013 album), we didn’t just want to put out an album of the Bob Wills catalog. It’s been done so much. Vince suggested that we all have such good songs, let’s just do a bunch of our new stuff,” Mr. Sears said.

“The songs sound like they were written in the ’40s but that’s OK with us.”

A third album is due out this summer.

Along with their regular Monday night gigs, The Time Jumpers perform 30 to 40 nights a year across the country. They will do 10 in April, including the Harrington show.

Tickets are $49 and can be purchased at www.harringtonraceway.com, by calling (888) 887-5687, ext. 5246, or stopping by the Casino Gift Shop.

“We’re still so floored in amazement by all of this. We’ve all been in Nashville so many years and you struggle and try to become stars. So many times it just doesn’t work out. But here people just found us without a whole lot of effort on our part. It’s pretty obvious that God had a hand on our shoulder,” Mr. Sears said.

“For a lot of us, this is our retirement project. It’s just such a great way to ride off into the sunset.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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