Season 2, Episode 13
This episode of the Life in the Carolinas podcast was recorded on location during the 2019 Kruger Brothers Music Academy in Wilkes County, NC. Carl spoke with Jens about his musical journey and the events that led to his moving from Europe to Wilkesboro more than 15 years ago. Jens and his brother Uwe began playing music at a young age, and by the time Jens was 17 in 1979 the two were performing on the streets of various European cities. They were signed to CBS Records based on their talent, and the rest is history.
In 1982, Jens spent some time in the US where he learned from Bill Monroe and was advised to go back to Europe and continue fine-tuning his musical style until it was something very unique. He and his brother kept writing and playing, and they developed their own style, which was not very well-received by their European audience, so they were surprised when they received an invitation to play MerleFest in 1997. That experience was monumental for them, as they finally felt that their music was appreciated and they received a lot of support from icons in the bluegrass and folk community.
In 2003, Jens decided to move his family to America to take advantage of the creative freedom and acceptance he anticipated, and due to his experience at MerleFest and the rich musical culture of the region, he chose to move to Wilkes County. Jens’ whole family felt welcome in the community and quickly developed friendships that have lasted from those early days. Now that The Kruger Brothers are traveling and touring all over America and the world, Jens has an even greater appreciation for the musical community of the High Country and for being able to call it his home. In fact, he started referring to Wilkes County and the surrounding areas as the “heart of folk” many years ago based on his heartfelt experiences.
In recent years, The Kruger Brothers have helped establish the Carolina In the Fall musical event and they have created The Kruger Brothers Music Academy which draws attendees from all over the world. In addition to the rich relationships he has developed with his brother and other musicians in the community such as Bill Monroe and Doc Watson, Jens has received multiple notable recognitions: playing with Bill Monroe at the Grand Old Opry, having the flag at the US Capitol flown in his honor for his contributions to American culture, receiving his green card, winning Steve Martin’s Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass Music and playing with Steve on the David Letterman Show, being inducted into the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame, and many more.
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