The Jackson Pike Skifflers will reunite for a special concert right here in Easton at Christ Church (59 Church Road) from 7:30 – 9 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 27. To reserve tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the church office at (203) 268-3569 ($10 for adults and $8 for seniors and kids).
Music, along with a strong work ethic, has been a part of the Tressler family for several generations. Back in 1961, the late Will Tressler purchased a three acre farm in Easton, which included a 150-year-old historic farm house and barn that he restored to its original character.
The following year, Will attended the Easton Memorial Day Parade, where he first heard the Easton Banjo Society playing on a float that was pulled by a tractor. When the parade was over, he inquired about becoming a member. They gladly accepted Will, especially since he played a five string banjo, which wasn’t that common.
The Tressler Barn became a well-known Easton venue for music and square dances, where Will’s band, The Jackson Pike Skifflers, played. The six original members of the band, including Will, lived off of what used to be named Jackson Turnpike, the main road that ran through Easton, currently known as Sport Hill Road. When the early cars, (locomobiles), began racing up the hill in that section of town, the name was then changed to Sport Hill Road!
They decided to select “Jackson Pike” for the band’s name to match the style of music they began performing from “Bygone Eras.”
What is a Skiffler? In early times “Skiffle Bands” were itinerant groups of musicians who played and sang ragtime, country tunes, music hall and jazz melodies with any instruments available, from washtubs, washboards, jugs and harmonicas, to banjos, fiddles, and guitars. Many instruments were make-shift around the time of the early 1900’s when musicians would gather on street corners to play for nickels and dimes.
Will loved to research traditional American music with band members to compile and to perform, “A virtually limitless array of Ballads, Ditties, Dance Tunes & Novelty Songs, of Bygone Eras with consummate Taste and Versatility.”
Will met his wife, Katie McCann, at one of his Barn concerts. She played guitar and had a singing voice that “touched his soul.” Katie joined the Jackson Pike Skifflers playing stand up bass. Will and Katie were married in 1973. Katie was born into a musical family. Her father was the choir director at St. James Catholic Church in Stratford, where Katie was also a member of the choir. Katie’s brother, the late Peter McCann, was a songwriter in Nashville and received two Gold Records. Katie’s brother David McCann joined the Skifflers as the fiddler in 1972.
Will and Katie have two children, Sally and Dan, who joined the Skifflers at a young age. Sally played flute, while Dan played fiddle. Will’s love for family, community, historic preservation and music has been passed down intact and embraced by his children and grandchildren.
Both Sally and Dan became successful musicians as a result and have played with many bands and area musicians. Sally, became interested in traditional Irish music as an undergraduate student at Brown University. She met her husband Damien while living in Ireland in 1999 on an independent research grant, and they later married in 2003. Damien, who is also a member of the Skifflers, is an All-Ireland button accordionist and fiddler, with many original compositions, two albums, and has published an accordion tutor book.
The many musical venues that Will played include the White House, Lincoln Center, the Great Hudson River Revival concerts with Pete Seeger, the Bridgeport Rescue Mission as part of a gospel music ministry, Christ Church of Easton for the annual Christmas concert/fundraiser, and the Tressler Barn in Easton, home to many concerts and hootenannies. Katie and Will were married for 38 years at the time of Will’s passing in 2012 (RIP).
The Jackson Pike Skifflers have performed collectively and individually at festivals, fairs and concert halls, including Lincoln Center, Fox Hollow, and the Philadelphia Folk Festival, as well as at weddings, rallies, radio and television stations, cafes, square dances, schools, town greens and church suppers.
Performers and friends who will comprise the Skifflers at the October 27 reunion concert, will include Katie and Dan Tressler, David McCann, Dan Carlucci, Damien, Sally, Tiernan, Clara & Tristan Connolly, (with some traditional Irish tunes), Jeff Smith, Vicki MarkAnthony and Aidan Pryor from Christ Church parish. Colman Connolly will not be playing at the reunion with The Skifflers, since he is away at college.
Come and join this special Jackson Pike Skiffler reunion concert for old time’s sake – and to learn about and enjoy an important part of Easton’s musical history and legacy.