BMHOF Class of 2017
The Jumpers are one of those bands that helped define an era in Buffalo.
That era was roughly 1977-1981 in Buffalo, when the Jumpers crushed the audiences with a combination of power pop hooks and just plain rock ‘n roll power. They were concurrent with the punk rock movement, but were never narrowly defined by it.
“R&B is a tag and new wave was a tag and power pop was a tag,” said singer Terry Sullivan. “If you want to categorize the music that we’re doing, I’ll stick with rock ‘n’ roll as our tag. You don’t have to dig to figure out what we’re doing. It’s pretty straight ahead.”
The band has plenty of great originals, but has also always included covers of songs by artists ranging from the Flamin’ Groovies to Chuck Berry to Larry Williams.
The band’s roots actually went back to the early ‘70s at Frontier High School, where the first Jumpers played.
That band went the way of high school bands – dissolving. Guitarists Scott Miklasz (Michaels on their records) and Bob Kozak ended up in Los Angeles early in 1977, just as that blast of teenage energy that would become punk rock was taking form. Meeting up with Buffalo music journalist/scenester Gary Sperrazza there, they took it all in.
When they returned to Buffalo, the band restarted. It included Sullivan, Miklasz and Kozak from the high school band. They were joined by fellow Frontier grads Roger Nicol, and bassist Craig Meylan.
Their shared history was part of what made them so tight. In fact, Kozak said that in the early days he and Miklasz became so comfortable playing with each other they would have a hard time playing with other musicians.
“As we got better over the years, we stopped having that problem,” Kozak said. “But back at the time we would really kind of lock in with what each other was doing and were able to play together really well. When we would play with other guitarists, it just wasn’t the same, we were so used to playing with each other.”
“We were the Jumpers, and it was the chemistry more than anything,” said Sullivan. “A chemistry between the writers in the band. It’s one of those things I’ve always thought was vital about this band. If I sing Bob’s songs or if I collaborate on a song with Scott, it’s there. It’s a rock ‘n’ roll vitality. It just seems to be there.”
And the band was simply electric on stage. The Jumpers are mentioned by some as contenders for the best live band in Buffalo – ever.
That contention might be the subject of countless bar arguments, but legendary DJ Gary Storm could buy it. In “Bflo Pnk 1.0,” he described seeing the Jumpers as a “unforgettable, absolutely miraculous gig; Terry Sullivan, when he smashed the maracas at the end of the show, is one of the great moments in rock ‘n’ roll … ever.”
The band’s first foray record in 1978 was the “You’ll Know Better When I’m Gone”/”I Wanna Know (What’s Going On)” single, both classic Kozak.
Their second single in 1979 included Meylan’s“Sick Girls” and the song that would become their anthem, Kozak’s “This Is It.” Bob James used the latter as the title for his series of punk-era reissues and live CDs 20 years later.
The band’s final official recording was “Hello Girl,” a Meylan/Sullivan song that was included on 1980’s “Waves, Vol. 2” compilation on the legendary BOMP Records from Los Angeles.
The band had four writers (Kozak, Meylan, Sullivan, Miklasz) and its live sets were filled with great originals such as “Blown Out on the Thruway,” “South of the City” and “100 MPH,” but many never got recorded and released.
The band just predated the “get in a van and sleep on sofas” movement of the 1980s, so when a move to New York City didn’t result in a major label contract, the group dissolved again.
Sullivan went on to sing for numerous bands over the next 30-plus years, including the Restless (which recorded on Mercury). Kozak, Miklasz and Nicol kept playing together for a few years in the Nite Crawlers and with other bands, as well, before life took Kozak and Miklasz to other cities
There were a few reunions over the years, but in 2016 the band reassembled (with Eric Van Rysdam filling in for Meylan, who had moved to the Dallas area) to play a Sperrazza memorial show. The band has made several appearances since, showing they’ve still got the power.
“I think everyone’s performing as well, if not better, than we ever have” said Kozak. “And we’re having fun. I think there’s less of the angst you have when you’re younger.”
For more information, visit The Jumpers on Facebook