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Thank you, ma’am; Taylor Hicks joins the Jam

“Seriously? Are you KIDDING me?!”

Annabel sounded incredulous.  Clearly that first question had an answer that should have been obvious.  Sadly, it wasn’t to me.  So I swallowed hard, asked again, and then very patiently, Annabel explained.

By the time we finished talking, I understood.  Jam Cruise is an event of mythical proportion and significant reputation among those who have attended.  Responses from passengers on last year’s Jam Cruise 8 were eerily similar in both content and unrestrained enthusiasm to the Cruise director’s. 

Why should I book a cabin on Jam Cruise?

Annabel: Jam Cruise is the most exciting and luxurious music festival ANYWHERE.  It’s an opportunity to spend five days with like-minded people of all ages, immersed in music.  There are five venues; three different shows run concurrently.  At any one time, you could be listening to electronic bluegrass, funk, rock, blues or soul.  There is non-stop music from 11:30 a.m. to 6 a.m. the next day, every day of the Cruise.  The Jam Room opens at midnight, and some incredible music is made.  You never know who will appear on any given night, but amazing musicians combine to create a sound that is new and surprising.

On Jam Cruise, every passenger has a backstage pass.  There is unprecedented access to artists with autograph sessions and artist based activities.  Artists mix easily and comfortably with the passengers, and after watching your favorite musician onstage, you could find yourself seated next to him/her at dinner that evening.

JC8 passenger “Joker”: Jam Cruise is basically some of the coolest venues I have ever seen all in one place. The longest walk between any of these was 5 minutes. No line to get in; no buzzkill security at the door. I soon discovered one of the great things about Jam Cruise – it is limited by the number of rooms and beds, not by capacity of the venues. Never once on my adventure did I want to see something go down on the boat and not have dance floor space.

You’re up close and personal with the artists.  To add to the fun and weirdness that is Jam Cruise, I set up a sock puppet making class on deck during some downtime.  After a few female passengers began making puppets, keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth walked by the table.  “Hey Kyle, want to make a sock puppet?”  He paused for a second and thought about it, then without a word came over to the table. “Ok, so how do I do this?” Yes, I taught Kyle Hollingsworth how to make a sock puppet for his daughter.  Only on Jam Cruise!

Why do artists return year after year to Jam Cruise?

Annabel: Artists get to perform with other musicians that they never thought they’d have the opportunity to meet.  Friendships are made.  Bands have formed through bonds forged on Jam Cruise.  Artists have gone on tour together after first meeting on the Cruise.  For example, Grace Potter met Sharon Jones onboard; the two soul artists toured together this fall to rave reviews.

Why do passengers return to Jam Cruise?

Annabel: They come back year after year; it’s like a family reunion.  People come from around the United States and from overseas to share the Cruise experience.  Many sign up for next year’s Cruise while still onboard.

Each year the experience is fresh.  We try to book as many new musicians as possible to complement the returning bands.  New faces for 2011 include Anders Osborne, Stockholm Syndrome, Rhythm Devils, and members of the Grateful Dead, among others.

JC8 passengers: The music alone is enough, but it’s more than the music.  It’s a five day party with friends, and the party starts before you’ve even left the dock.  In 2010 Trombone Shorty played the deck and the horns as passengers boarded the ship.  Everyone was excited; there were smiles everywhere.  Jam Cruisers are a friendly bunch; returning passengers are known as “Repeat Offenders” and they go out of their way to welcome newcomers.

Every year there are two themed nights.  Jam Cruisers love costumes. In 2010 the themes were “Superheros and Villains” and ” Funk N Formal”.  Some of the costumes were amazing.

Several special guests are booked to the Cruise each year.  What is their role?

Annabel: Special guests float between music venues, sitting in with various bands and adding their unique perspective.  Guests are free to create and collaborate.  Many of the guests spend time in the Jam Room.

How was Taylor Hicks recruited to Jam Cruise 9?

Annabel: We saw Taylor perform at the Superjam after Widespread Panic at Red Rocks.  It was FABULOUS; he fit right in the mix.  It was meant to be.  Taylor will be a special guest on Jam Cruise.  In addition to playing music, he has agreed to participate in one of our artist based activities.  He’ll be the host of the Gong Show, where passengers have a chance to showcase their talent.  If the gong strikes, they’re gone!

Jam Cruise 9 departs Ft. Lauderdale January 4, 2011.  At last count, only 10 of 1275 cabins on the MSC Poesia remained available.  Here’s the good news: prebooking for 2012’s Jam Cruise 10 has just begun.  You’re right on time!

For more on Jam Cruise:

Excerpt from Joker’s hilarious Jam Cruise 8 recap reprinted with permission; read more here:

Photo credits:

MSC Poesia: Annabel Lukins and Cloud 9 Adventures

Ivan Neville in the Jam Room/Costumed passenger: Paul McLaren; more quality Jam Cruise 8 photos from Mr. McLaren here:

Keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth & sock puppet: The Joker

Musician Taylor Hicks with Karl Denson and Ron Johnson at 7th Annual Rocky Mountain Power Jam:

30 Comments Post a comment
  1. Louise #

    This was so cool to read. I hope Taylor can let his true self come out. I think it will help him perform on his new CD if he can mix blues, soul and modern country.
    Thanks for all the work I know this article took to bring to Taylor’s fans!

    December 19, 2010
  2. hicksfan7 #

    to go on this cruise would be BEYOND a dream come true…..but alas….not happening. S’okay – I love to live vicariously….lol

    December 19, 2010
  3. NolaMar #

    Well, now you’ve done it. I was already lamenting not going on the cruise and now I’m in the depths of grief. I showed my husband the incredible line up earlier in the year and expressed a longing to go – many of our favorite New Orleans artists will be there: Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Galactic, Ivan Neville & Dumpstaphunk, Anders Osborne! Stanton Moore! And so many other wonderful bands & artists we would love to see all within a few days. I even made an effort to help vote another local favorite, the Honey Island Swamp Band, a spot on the boat.

    Then I nearly exploded to hear a few months later that Taylor Hicks was going to be there jamming with all of our favorite musicians! It would be like a dream come true, like Jazz Fest on a boat! Alas, it’s not to be for us (expense) but I’ll dream I’m there and hope Taylor makes his way to NOLA to jam with us all here someday. (SIGH)

    December 19, 2010
    • It would be intense, wouldn’t it? Hope that you’ll be able to make a future Cruise!

      December 19, 2010
  4. Pat P #

    Wow…this cruise sounds like a dream come true for music lovers. Very happy that Taylor Hicks was recruited…I guess Taylor’s networking so to speak with other artists has truly paid off for him. Oh to be a fly on the wall at that “Gong Show”!! Thanks for the tweet THN…appreciate what you do for TH fans!!

    December 19, 2010
  5. hicksfan7 #

    Really looking forward to reading about, seeing pics and/or vids, from ANYONE who is lucky enough to be on this cruise!

    December 19, 2010
  6. I had no idea what this cruise is about. No wonder everyone is excited about it. Thanks for bringing us the inside scoop!

    December 19, 2010
  7. Bella #

    I had no idea what the detail were. This is something I can only dream of. Great article. Taylor will certainly be in his element!

    December 19, 2010
  8. tishtx #

    Taylor was actually on the a Jam Cruise before he was on American Idol. He talked about in his book Heart Full of Soul, but he didn’t say if it was this particular cruse, although I think maybe it was. I would love to be able to go on a Jam Cruise or any music cruise someday but it’s a little out of my reach right now. I notice that the Jam Cruise web site has downloads from previous years. Let’s hope that something Taylor jams on will get posted on their web site in the future. 🙂

    December 19, 2010
  9. Sounds like a “floating dive bar” .

    I personally think Taylor’s participation as a “floater” will be extremely valuable. People will be “floating” in and out listening to the various groups , enabling more people to hear Taylor’s harp/singing . This visibility should keep his name “afloat” on this musical showboat.

    December 19, 2010
    • Good point, cath. As long as he doesn’t overdo the room service, he should be able to float nicely.

      December 19, 2010
      • mouser1 #

        Am thinking that overdoing the room service will make him “float” even more than usual.

        December 19, 2010
  10. Denise Barlow #

    I am so glad to hear Taylor is making the cruise. It’s an awesome opportunity for him and many musicians alike.

    December 19, 2010
  11. CarleneG #

    I wanna go! Stupid darn job…doesn’t pay enough to afford a cruise across the Connecticut River! Have fun Taylor (try not to dress like a narc this time)!

    December 19, 2010
  12. Annie #

    I am so jealous of the people who are going to this- it’s something I would really love to do. I hope we get some video of Taylor hosting The Gong Show. This is such great exposure for him- hope he comes away with tons of new fans!

    December 19, 2010
  13. NolaMar #

    I knew Taylor had been before but I did not know for sure which year or who he played with. A tweet from Big Sam (Williams) to him the other night made me think maybe they have jammed together before. I love Big Sam’s FN! Saw at the Maple Leaf here earlier this year, and on other occasions. (Jazz Fest, etc.) They are a great, fun, funky party band. Taylor is gonna have a blast himself on this cruise I think. He said in his live chat he’s a jam band guy at heart. He’s gonna really be in the zone. I hope he plays with Anders Osborne too! He’s one of our favorites. Always kills his rock/blues shows here. The other musicians even love to see him.Just the thought of Taylor playing with him, just DANG! I wanna go. LOL

    December 19, 2010
    • Thanks, NolaMar. I’m not familiar with Big Sam’s Funky Nation; will check them out!

      December 19, 2010
  14. mouser1 #

    I believe he went on Jam Cruise 2

    January 10-14, 2004 and made stops at Nassau, Bahamas and Key West, Florida.

    December 19, 2010
  15. Cheryl Parrish (IbelieveinTHesong) #

    Very cool! I’ve actually been daydreaming off & on about the jam cruise all day since I first read this article. Of course, in reality, where could I find the money or the time? But it couldn’t cost much to just dream. 🙂 What fun it would be to listen to amazing musicians all day & night in such a unique “microcosm” –a truly magical place!

    December 19, 2010
  16. Kim #

    Will certainly be there in $pirit, cruising the waves under the bright blue skies and yellow sun w/ a drink in one hand in hopes of not spilling while rocking out to good music. ——- Oh wait .. not going .. got lost in daydream. :^)

    December 19, 2010
  17. Lori #

    what a great article-thanks for sharing. Think the Jam Cruise is on many a bucket list going forward…I know I added it to mine….someday!

    December 19, 2010
  18. NolaMar #

    Anders is so good that I (and many others!) stood in crashing thunder, lighting and pouring rain the first day of Jazz Fest this year to watch him perform. He’s super exciting to watch – full of energy. Like Taylor, he is hardly still for a second. Here’s a gallery from a show at the House of Blues back in Feb. You get the idea.

    Another great NOLA band going on the cruise is Galactic!
    (Their drummer Stanton Moore also often plays with Anders Osborne too.) Shamarr Allen, a trumpeter, often plays with them too. I see his picture above on this blog page. Saw them at the same HOB show, and at Jazz Fest before.

    December 19, 2010
    • NolaMar #

      (OOPS, I thought I saw Shamarr Allen here. It must have been on the Jam Cruise page. Sorry.)

      December 19, 2010
  19. Chiana Skidmore aka tygrlillie #

    It looks to be great fun. Waaaay out of my limited budget, but assuredly some day in my future! I can only hope that when I do get to go, Taylor will be performing somewhere on there too!

    December 19, 2010
  20. chill #

    Darn, darn, darn. I want to be on that cruise!

    January 2, 2011
    • Mar #

      I am seriously depressed about it. So happy for Taylor getting to be a part of it though!

      January 2, 2011
    • Me, too! Looks like an incredible experience.

      January 2, 2011
  21. Have to admit that a cruise of this type is not something I would enjoy, but I am sure Taylor will network “to the hilt”. This trip is a very good personal , professional and business decision. Hope it brings him lots positive feedback from those music lovers who are aboard .

    Bon Voyage !!

    January 3, 2011

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