This Saturday, Jim Winters and The Back Road Aristocrats will be playing at the Heritage Center. Dinner will be at 6:30 p.m. and the music starts at 7:30 p.m. Jim’s band plays honky tonk and old school country/western music with some newer country thrown in (but not too new). The heart of the band rests in the golden age of honky tonk with influences coming from classic artists like Ray Price, Lefty Frizzell, George Jones and Hank Williams. And when they say Hank Williams, they mean Hank Williams Sr., the original, not the son or the grandson. This band is about the roots of honky tonk and country music. The five-member band consists of local blues legend Bill Dye on lead guitar, Leo Eilts on bass, Fred Uzzell on steel guitar, Steve Straub on drums and Winters on rhythm guitar and vocals. 

Jim is a second generation honky tonk singer. His father, George Winters, played this style of music all over Missouri and Kansas back in the 1950s. Jim started singing at a young age with the choir at his local church. He landed his first paying gig at the age of 14 when he was spotted by Genie Holloway at a local talent show. She put him in Genie’s Midwest Jamboree where he played every Saturday night at the Hollywood Theater on 5th and Delaware. His mother, Shirley, drove him to all of his shows until he got old enough to get a driver’s license. After that he played at a lot of different country shows around the region including the Riverbend Opry in Atchison, Northtown Opry in North Kansas City, and KC Opry in Independence, among others. In the early 1980s Jim played on the 61 Country Jamboree live radio broadcast every other Saturday.

The roots of Jim Winters and The Back Road Aristocrats started as a house band at Glenn’s Opry in 1994. Many iterations of the band came over the years. The current lineup formed in 2013. They’ve been playing at the Heritage Center for about eight years now. They also do shows at the Big Creek Country and Variety Show in Pleasant Hills, Missouri, and the Grand “O” Opry in Ottawa. Occasionally they’ll lease a hall and put on a show on their own. Three members of the band also play in an award winning country act called 3 Trails West.

Jim has been blessed to be surrounded by such great musicians and the band just loves to play, make music and have fun with the crowd. So next Saturday,  come out to the Heritage Center to experience some great classic country and honky tonk music and possibly meet Jim’s mother, Shirley. At age 84, she rarely misses one of Jim’s shows, although now Jim is driving her to all of his gigs.

Mike Nickels writes about music in the Leavenworth area. To contact him, send an email to mnickells@leavenworthtimes.com