Jimmy Binkley was an iconic Peoria musician. He came to Peoria via Chicago with his jazz combo, Jimmy Binkley and The Blue Notes. The combo had recorded several records and had been touring the Midwest and Cab Calloway and Etta James were just two legendary musicians that Binkley and his combo played with while touring. The band eventually ended up with a house gig at Collins Corner in downtown Peoria. When the club could no longer afford to pay the band, the combo split for Chicago, but Jimmy stayed here in Peoria.
Jimmy Binkley made his living as a piano man decades before Billy Joel ever thought to make a song out of those two words. He played and entertained at Jumer’s Castle Lodge and other lounges around Peoria through the years and eventually settled in to Sky Harbor which was his main gig till he died on January, 22, 2015.
Shortly after his death last year, there was a musical tribute to Jimmy at Sky Harbor, I missed that one, but when I heard that there was going to be another tribute to Jimmy at Sky Harbor last Sunday, I was determined to be there and honor Jimmy’s memory. If you missed this year’s Jammin’ For Jimmy concert, you can see photos from the show below, but it doesn’t do the concert justice! I’m hoping this becomes a yearly event and if so, do yourself a favor and don’t miss next year’s Jammin’ With Jimmy!
Alright, on with the show!
Here we are at Sky Harbor, let’s go in and start the Jammin’ With Jimmy day! Inside they’re selling raffle tickets and posters of Jimmy and there’s the lobby painting of the man himself at his piano, Jimmy Binkley!
As I walk inside I see some familiar faces, there’s Ellen Klusendorf at the hostess stand looking pretty as always, and behind the bar is yet another pretty woman, bartender Angela! Longtime Peoria musician and MBIP Pal, Bob “The Whale” Miller came up to the bar and it was great to see him and there’s the owner of Sky Harbor and the man responsible for tonight’s tribute to Jimmy Binkley, Daryl Klusendorf!
There’s the corner piano bar where Jimmy entertained crowds for years here at Sky Harbor, today his piano sits alone and the concert is going to take place in the back of the restaurant. As you can see a big crowd has arrived back here and the last two photos are a painting done by famed artist and musician, Preston Jackson. Some lucky raffle winner will be taking that painting home!
Speaking of Preston, here he is leading the first group of musicians to kick off the first set of music today! The musicians who showed up to jam today are the cream of the crop of musicians in and around the Peoria area and some of the musicians who showed up to Jam for Jimmy today include: Dave Parkinson, Mike Nellas, Billy Sutton, Cecil Grubbs, Dan Sutton, Dan Leahy, Charlie Vetter, Judy Page, Paul Weddle, Preston Jackson, Steve Degenford, John Miller, Paul Weddle, Keith Boswell, Tevin Keeton, Dorsey Doss and Ellen Klusendorf. I know I left some names out, so if anyone wants to add them in the comments, feel free to do so! This first set of tunes was amazing and it got the day off to a great start!
I had to wait for a break from the first set to get a shot of drummer, Cecil Grubbs! I met Cecil years ago back when I was publishing POP magazine and it was great to see him again! During this break some raffle winners were announced and people got something to eat at the buffet in the back room that Daryl and his crew had prepared. Then, the crowd was ready for more music!
And they got their wish with this second set that featured vocalist, Judy Page! She really got the crowd going and put on a great show! If you’ve never seen her, you should check her out as she plays local gigs around town and beyond. Check out her facecrack page for updates: Judy Page-Adkisson Stokes.
After the blistering set by Judy and the musicians on stage, a special treat happened, The Heritage Ensemble Gospel Group came on stage and they slayed everyone with their singing. For me the highlight was their rendition of the Billie Holiday song, “God Bless the Child.” They were just amazing and it was a real treat to see them in such an intimate setting!
It’s not easy to follow a set by The Heritage Ensemble, but these guys pulled it off and played yet another mind-blowing set of music!
And as the night wore on to a close after over four hours of music, Sky Harbor owner, Daryl Klusendorf came up to thank everyone for coming out and he gave a nice talk about Jimmy Binkley and the legacy that that great musician has left behind. As the band tore into the final set, Daryl’s mom, Ellen came up and jammed with her washboard and it was the perfect end to a wonderful and entertaing night of music! Saxophonist, Paul Weddle thanked the crowd as the musicians started to pack up their gear.
On the way out I ran into Preston Jackson and my friends Mae and Jonathan Wright, who recently got married! I had to miss the wedding due to work, but we’re going to have a celebratory dinner in about a week, so stay tuned for that! Mae recently started up a new business and you can check that out right here and here!
JB On MBIP!
I feel lucky that I got to document Jimmy Binkley at Sky Harbor through photos and blog posts here on MBIP! Here’s the photos and you can check out the links here and here. Thanks to Daryl, Ellen and all the fantastic musicians who made this year’s Jammin’ With Jimmy so amazing and special! I’m looking forward to next year’s event already!
Related Posts: The MBIP LIst: Live Music In Peoria and Saturday Night Cheeseburger @ Sky Harbor Steak House.