Rollin’ with the oldies: Show biz paves way for great senior moments

October 2012 Posted in Arts, Culture & History, Other

By Kathy Cook Hunter

Be on the lookout for them at the Silverton Sidewalk Shindig, they’ll be dressed in flowery shirts, playing their hearts out and making you laugh. Undoubtedly you’ll find yourself humming along, too, to music you may have grown up with…

The Jim & Alan Show is led by Jim Christiansen and Alan Mickelson. They’ve seen it all since leaving their small-town high school backgrounds and heading for the “big time” in Los Angeles. The home-grown Oregon boys entertained at Portland nightclubs, hit the road in their own tour bus and gave a few years of their young lives to show biz.

As if it was meant to be, 30 years later they came full circle when they found each other in Silverton, each living with wife and family and making a life. They realized they still liked singing and playing music together, and for 17 years have been back in the business.

To start from the beginning: In 1962, Alan graduated from Clatskanie High School, Jim from Molalla High. Alan soon moved to Portland, while Jim headed south to Sacramento College. Both were musically active in high school, even learning musical instruments on their own.

Jim & Alan Show
Silverton Shindig
Saturday, Oct. 6, 4:30 and 7 p.m.
Silver Creek Coffee House
111 N. Water St., Silverton
jimnalan.com, 503-931-1460 or
g.fi@frontier.com

Jim returned north to attend art school in Portland.  While working together, the young men found they shared a love of music, and soon became roommates. They formed the Gold Coast Singers, a four-piece group. After meeting actor Brian Bressler in a coffee house the three teamed up as The Shaggy Gorillas, combining folk music and jokes. Their routines were a hit at the Broadway Inn in Portland, where they played time after time.

“We formed a group that performed on the West Coast, once as far east as Denver,” Alan said. “The Shaggy Gorillas was a very successful comedy act,” chimed in Jim, “a top act.”

Comedy was new to Alan and Jim, but they soon picked it up from Bressler, who, as The Great Cognito later highlighted his career on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In in 1973.

“Brian taught us a lot,” Alan said. “He taught us how to do a show and how to do comedy.”

They had a good sound. They sang, as their brochure states, “in the 50s and 60s tradition of the Kingston Trio; the Limeliters; Peter, Paul and Mary, the Smothers Brothers and Pat Paulsen.”

“We were head-liners,” the two say. “At one time Pat Paulsen was our supporting act.” (The droll Paulsen later became famous for his mock presidential campaign in 1968.)

Dalton Records, part of Liberty Records in LA, gave them a contract. Although that didn’t work out, the three performed together off and on until mid-1964.

“Our last gig was at a nice club, the Marco Polo in Vancouver, B.C.,” Alan said. “We played out the contracts we had.”

Alan, who had met his wife-to-be, Pat, while they were playing at a Portland club, decided to get out of the business. “I said ‘this is not going to work for me,’ and I went into boat sales for 30 years.”

Jim, who kept his foot in music parttime, started a jug band with his brother Lee. It evolved into a dance band in clubs and taverns “where we played whatever was popular,” he said. “I was only playing weekends – guitar, mainly. We called it the Good Times Music Jug Band, but later we changed it to Dukes of Juke, playing music from the 70s to the 90s.” They still play at the Woodburn Drags’ “Oldies But Goodies” dance party.

Alan and Pat lived in Tigard many years, and he spent a little time as the town’s mayor. They also lived in Eastern Oregon and Washington. They wanted to relocate and on a business trip Alan discovered Silverton. In 1990, they moved here.

Jim has been in Silverton since 1973. (Coincidentally, both men have daughters named Alison.)

They took up where they left off, started practicing and played their first gig at Markum Inn. Their duo work was simpler, acoustic and local.

Nowadays things have changed. Jim’s health prevents him from playing guitar, so he sticks to the harmonica, and Danny Thompson plays guitar. Alan’s daughter-in-law, Marla Mickelson, provides mandolin, and Bill Geibel, the banjo. All of them sing.

Playing music ranging from Western swing to folk, calypso and pop, interspersed with perfectly timed jokes and puns, they perform at fairs, lodges and retirement centers all over the state. “The retirement centers are very appreciative of what we do,” Alan said, “and with Danny and Marla, we’re about the best we’ve ever been. They’re like a breath of fresh air. Without Danny we wouldn’t be doing this.”

Asked why they’re still working, Jim said part of it is ego, part the audience feedback. “It’s like a personal need to perform,” he said.

“I often say,” Alan said, “this is kind of like a marriage. You get to know your partner, just like a marriage.”

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