It started as it does for most musicians. When he was just five years old, he saw Jimi Hendrix playing his guitar on TV. “I remember how he looked. He looked so cool and I thought, ‘Wow, I want to be just like that.' Ironically, however, Jeff Fetterman, known for his incredible blues guitar licks, didn’t want to be a guitarist. He wanted to be a drummer. “I liked the beat of the drums and I felt the groove,” he said. Of course, like most young kids who want a drum set, his parents declined to buy one because the noise would’ve driven them crazy.
So with a stifled drum career, he picked up the guitar, something that can be practiced on with little noise if necessary. At twelve, he made the trade of a lifetime. “I used to go digging up old milk bottles and the kid up the road played in a band and I used to go up to his garage and watch them play for hours on end.” So what’s the connection between the milk bottles and the music? Tony Coronati collected bottles and had guitars. “He had a bunch of different guitars and offered to trade me one of his guitars for my entire bottle collection. It didn’t matter how many bottles I had to trade. I would’ve given him a thousand if I had them. I just wanted that guitar.”
Right away, the guitar felt like a natural extension of himself. “I picked up stuff really fast and all I did all day and night was play. I blew off everything else: my homework, my friends that weren’t into the music, everything. It became my whole life from the time I woke up until I went to bed. It was the only thing that mattered to me.” Within a few months, he was playing his first gig. At only thirteen Jeff was playing a jamboree at the Corydon Hotel with his own band, Cypress. “This was the very first gig I ever played and Sam Scott gave me the break I was looking for.”
Sam took Jeff under his wing and showed him everything about being in a band. “I was kind of their mascot. Sam looked out for me and taught me how to run the board, set up stuff, and basically be a roadie.” Jeff traveled to Sam’s gigs around the area. He’d wait on the corner outside Powell’s Pharmacy looking for their yellow band bus. “I’d watch them play guitar all night at their gig and then go home and play till 5 in the morning, copying what I saw them do. It’s how I started to really pick things up.”
Jeff continued to play in bands and has never really stopped. He played lead guitar in The Gunners, one of the most successful bands to come out of the area in the 1980s. “This band gave me the taste for traveling to play music. We were constantly on the road, four days a week, traveling as far as New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and all over Pennsylvania.” He has countless tales of driving back roads in a van with five other guys, surviving on gig money, staying in seedy hotels because they were cheap, breaking down in the middle of nowhere, and living off the limelight glory that they had found through music. It was in The Gunners that Jeff’s music was first heard by the public. “It was more of a band effort that was all co-written.”
Eventually The Gunners came to an end as everybody went their separate ways. Jeff then turned to writing music on his own. “You can’t achieve the reality of the dream of being a musician if you just copy other people’s material in a cover band. I wanted much more than that. I wanted an opportunity to play my own music and get on the radio. Writing music is the inner most intimacy of myself. I’m exposing myself to everyone through my writing. Putting those words on paper and recording what I feel in my heart and hear in my head for the public is risky. It puts me out there for rejection but I can’t hold the music inside. The music that I write, I can’t keep bottled up. It needs to be released.”
That release came with his first album under the name The Jeff Fetterman Band, Ordinary Man (1999), an album written as he went through the turmoil of a divorce and his then 7-year-old son’s moving 100 miles away. The title track was written to try to explain to his son Jeffrey what was happening to his world. “The only way I could convey what was happening to him was through the music on this album. I didn’t want him to be like me and I needed to release my feelings about that situation and explain to him that I’m not really different from anybody else. I needed to tell him to ‘Do the best that you can not to be like me, just an ordinary man.’ I wanted him to be something above and beyond me and not be ordinary.” The efforts of the CD won Jeff the tri-state (OH, NY, PA) award as the Best Up and Coming Blues Rock Guitar Player through Ohio radio station WREO.
As Jeff continued to write, he went back into the studio in 2001 to record The Long Hard Road. “The premise behind this album is a lot of the tribulations of life: leaving home, getting out of bad situations, dealing with things in life.” “Hellbound Train” became an independent smash hit, receiving radio play in Erie, Ohio, and locally, as well as all over the internet. It was used in the Spanish film Tough Guy. The harmonica intro was used in a Ford car commercial. “These Arms of Mine” has been the most successful song off the album, winning song writing contests, getting internet air play, and being used in television shows such as The Closer and the soap opera Passions. The album’s success got Jeff signed to a 3-song publishing contract with Transition Music Corporation in California. He also formulated his own publishing company called Green Tea Music to help promote the band.
Jeff’s latest steps to promoting JFB include pushing the music on the internet and live shows. His latest promotions led him to Lisa Bower of Dirty Dog Live TV, hosted by Armstrong Cable. The band went to the Conneaut Lake Hotel in April to record the show. After being interviewed by Ms. Bower, the band performed four original hits, some of which are yet to be recorded. The Dirty Dog show has over 500,000 subscribers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, Kentucky, and Virginia. The show with JFB first aired August 26. “It was a nice experience; it was different having a cameraman shooting close up while I was playing. But it will afford me the opportunity to get my music out to a lot more people across several states.”
Shortly after the taping, Jeff got a surprise phone call from the Cattaraugus County Fair asking if he would be interested in opening for.38 Special on August 1. The management for the band found Jeff’s music on the internet and liked what he heard. This won’t be Jeff’s first time opening for a national act as he has opened for the likes of Molly Hatchet and Buck Cherry.
“I am very excited for this opportunity. I feel like all my hard work is paying off. Like the album, this has been a long, hard road because there are more disappointments than there are successes but those few successes make it worth the whole effort. Opening for a band that has such a legacy and history is really an honor. When I was a kid growing up, I listened to Molly Hatchet and .38 Special, trying to learn their guitar licks. I never would have imagined back then that I’d ever get to meet them let alone share a show with them.”
By January 2013 Jeff’s reputation as a great blues/rock player with an audience-involved stage show began to spread through the internet wires and into to ears of promoters. Drusky Entertainment from Pittsburgh got wind of the Jeff Fetterman Band and decided it was the perfect fit to open for world known blues guitarist Ana Popovic at the Hard Rock Café. “This was a great show. We had a lot of our fans there and definitely made some new ones in Pittsburgh. The audience was very receptive to our music and showed their appreciation all night.”
Word continued to spread and the dream continued on. Jeff had the opportunity of his lifetime when he was asked to open for Kenny Wayne Shepherd in Pittsburgh at Carnegie Library Music Hall. Any nerves that he had were soothed when Kenny Wayne graciously spent nearly an hour of pre-show time with Jeff and the band, talking about – what else – guitars, amps, and music. “Kenny was such a great guy. I really enjoyed spending time with him. He made me feel like I was a friend that he knew forever. I hope I get an opportunity to meet up with him and play with him again. It was a great honor. Again, the Pittsburgh audience was incredible. At the end of our set they were on their feet and I just can’t explain the feeling that gave me. It was unimaginable.”
As the journey continues, the Jeff Fetterman Band moves forward to what it hopes is a future in rock and roll, led by a man whose soul is controlled by the music that he plays.
John McGuire – Drums
As an experienced, sought after drummer, John is primarily concerned with the groove and feel of the beat.
Judy Kessler – Percussion/Vocals
Growing up listening to everything from Donna Summer to Heart to the Jackson Five, vocals were very much a part of Judy’s upbringing. Influenced by a variety of today’s artists who range from Sass Jordan to Susan Tedeschi to Miranda Lambert, she adds harmony vocals as well as lead vocals to give the band versatility. As part of JFB from its inception, her percussion fills up the sound and adds depth.
Filling in on Bass is Blues Funkmaster
Ralph Reitinger III.
Ralph is the backbone of the band. Starting his Bass duties at the age of 13 he’s played across the country, in Canada, and the UK, touring with Blind Pig Records blues artist Harper. He also toured with Anthony Gomes and has opened for greats like Gary Moore, Van Morrison, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Buddy Guy, and others. Ralph was chosen as the Rock Erie Music Awards Best Bass Player in Erie in 2010, 2011, and 2013
Ralph Reitinger III -