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  • Members of the American Legion gather every Wednesday for a jam session.
    Photo by Zach Sparks
    Members of the American Legion gather every Wednesday for a jam session.
  • Members of the American Legion gather every Wednesday for a jam session.
    Photo by Zach Sparks
    Members of the American Legion gather every Wednesday for a jam session.

Weekly Jam Session At American Legion Showcases Seasoned Musicians

Zach Sparks
View Bio
February 8, 2017

Twelve years ago, Mark Sheid and two of his pals — Denny Bartosz and Ray Fielder — decided to turn their weekly trip to Severna Park American Legion Post 175 into more than a social visit.

“When I retired, we would come once a week and they said, ‘Get your guitar,’” Sheid recalled. “We started playing and we said, ‘Why don’t we just do this once a week?’ Because it’s a jam session, you get a diverse group of skill levels.”

The musicians performed mostly bluegrass tunes in their early days, but they have since branched out, playing everything from Hank Williams to jazz.

Guitarist Ted Seiler said his wife most enjoys Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” and Sheid pegged a fan favorite, “Amie” by Pure Prairie League, as one of his preferred songs. “We can tell if we’re doing good or not by the way they clap,” Seiler joked.

The jam session is held every Wednesday at American Legion from 4:00pm to 6:00pm in the lounge. Although one member once described them as “the post-mortem blues band” because of their ages, the group has no official name. There are four core members, and they have performed with as many as nine.

Legion member Russ Twilley has seen musicians play the steel guitar, bass fiddle, a banjo, and once, a fiddle, but the core group is Sheid and Seiler on guitar, John Hynes on keyboard and Lew Miller on dobro, which is a an acoustic guitar with a metal resonator built into its body. Sometimes, members will sing.

“We take turns choosing the song, and whoever chooses it gets to sing it,” Sheid said.

At 90 years old, Seiler is far removed from his days as a professional musician, but he enjoys playing at American Legion Post 175. Decades ago, he played guitar in Cousin Roy and the Silvercreek Jamboree, a western-style outfit.

“We’d be in Washington today, playing for Eddy Arnold. Tomorrow, we would be in South Carolina and playing for all the stars,” Seiler said. “We were the house band basically.”

His favorite memory, he said, was playing on a boat when one of his bandmates approached Chet Atkins, who then jammed with Cousin Roy and the Silvercreek Jamboree for six or seven hours.

Sheid traced his roots to high school garage bands in the ‘60s. The Desert Ice, a name that now makes him chuckle, played Top 40 hits and toured the teen club circuit in Silver Spring. Sheid took a hiatus and picked up guitar again in the mid 1980s. During the Wednesday jam sessions, he plays his Martin acoustic.

While only American Legion members and their guests are permitted to enter the building, the musicians encourage people fitting those requirements to join them onstage.

The men never know in advance what songs they will play, but that’s part of the fun. “You can generally hear what they’re doing or follow it,” Sheid said of his fellow musicians, “but the cardinal rule is to not stop playing. If you make a mistake, just keep going.”

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