Hidden Valley Senior Center’s Geriatric Jammers

By Jimmie Batchelor
Times Correspondent

There are many Melomaniacs running around Hidden Valley Senior Center, five of which make up the band, “Geriatric Jammers.” Don’t get upset over the term, “Melomaniac.” It is a new word I came across meaning “One who is passionate about music.” These five definitely fit that description.

Standing (l. to r.) Lenny Polinsky, Jack Yarbrough and Tom Feeney. Seated (l. to r.) Mike Shaw and Jack Lindsey. Henry County’s Geriatric Jammers have been a fixture at local senior centers for the past eight years. Special photo

Through the years, music has been an important part of Hidden Valley. Several bands have performed, some as invited guests and a few that came to be members of the senior center, their music becoming a permanent fixture for all to enjoy. Geriatric Jammers’ band has been a fixture for the past 8 years, playing Country, Blue Grass and Gospel on the fourth Friday of each month. For the past two years, all proceeds from performances have been donated to the Meals-on-Wheels Program.

Lenny Polinsky, having never played professionally, decided now was the time to do so. His first love in music was Bebop and Jazz, due to his high school influence. He reached out to other senior musicians and, in no time, a new band was born! There have been a few players come and go through the years, leaving these five to play on. Lenny’s son deemed the band should definitely be named “Geriatric Jammers” after attending one of their jam sessions near Lenny’s home, set up on a dock under a donated funeral tent. Lenny’s garage also became a jam stage.

Lenny says he has learned to play his best with the help of the other players. He looks forward to the music and performance days and the camaraderie they share. Keyboard is Len’s specialty.

Thomas (Smilin’ Sam) Feeney, guitar player, is the newest member. In his past, he played the washtub bass, just like on “Hee Haw.” He was discovered in 1997 and asked to play with a band. One of his most memorable achievements was being inducted into Atlanta’s Country Music Hall of Fame.

Jack Lindsey plays lead and rhythm guitar for the group. He started his musical career at age 40 in Columbus, GA. On his birthday, his wife took him to a music store where he bought his first guitar. He enrolled in a local college continuing education program for beginning guitar. The music teacher left to tour with a band and Jack took over the class and taught for 5 years until moving here. He has taught music theory 20 years at Clayton College and private lessons in his Stockbridge home. He has also played in several local bands, as well as the instructors’ band in Columbus. Jack has used his talents to record the band, individuals, and some of the music he has written that the band has played. Jack said he treasures the friendships and being able to share his love of music with others. “Everyone contributes to the whole.”

Jack Yarbrough plays guitar, when he sings, and the Dobro. Jack married into a musical family, mostly Blue Grass. He was from Louisville, KY, moved to Stockbridge in 2011 and joined the band as soon as he started attending Hidden Valley. Jack’s wife, Sue, now deceased, had a rich singing voice and would sing with the Jammers every so often.

Mike Shaw, age 65, is the youngest member, the other gentlemen range in ages 75 – 84! Mike’s father played a Double Bass, Mandolin, Tenor Guitar, and Banjo. At the young age of five, when his father would rest his instrument on the floor, Mike would sit on the bass and play. During high school, he was a member of an informal band. After his military service, he traveled out of Charleston all over the southeast, playing all types of music. He was influenced by his father playing Blue Grass, Swing and contemporary Gospel. Mike stated, “Musicians would rather play than eat when they’re hungry.”

Each one of these musicians declared their love for music and it shows in their performances. Visit Hidden Valley Senior Center on a fourth Friday and enjoy the heartfelt music of people that love what they do. They have come a long way these past eight years and have each other to thank! Lenny extends a welcome to any musician who would like to join them for informal practice on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. When Lenny first started the band, someone commented, “Beginners, if you play with better people, you will become better.” Sound advice that they took and they got better and better. I say, “The little band that could.” And, they did!