MARQUETTE - Every Sunday afternoon in the warm weather months, Tom Lakenen finds himself amazed.
He's in awe of the sounds coming from a bandshell he built at Lakenenland, the metal sculpture park along Michigan Highway 28 east of Marquette.
"I built the bandshell because I had the materials to build it," Lakenen said. "I myself don't know how to play anything but I have a half-dozen or so different friends who were great musicians who started to use it. Now there are two dozen or so different people who come out regularly on any given Sunday to play. They're a dedicated bunch.
Junk-yard Art plays at Barr’s Bar in Negaunee. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
Musicians playing as part of Junk-yard Art at the gig were, back row from the left: Dr. Frank Jefferies, Muddy Waters and John Robertson. In the front, Caelee Croschere, Annie Bishop and Paul Bishop. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
Caelee is Caelee Croschere, a lifelong musician who has a passion for singing and playing. Croschere is one of the regulars who has taken what started at Lakenenland and spun it into a band called Junk-yard Art, offering music that, according to the band's business card, "sometimes makes u tap, hum, and put u in the mood to dance."
Junk-yard Art has a core group, but adds members as they are available for a gig.
Lakenen is quite impressed with the band.
"They're good," he said. "They're fun to listen to. When they come out on Sundays, they all blend in. They'll start off on another song and everyone will follow along. It's amazing without formal practicing how great they sound."
On a recent Saturday afternoon, Junk-yard Art performed for several hours at Barr's Bar in Negaunee, much to the delight of the assembled patrons.
"This started as a tribute to Lakenenland," Croschere said as the band set up. "That's where it got started and we've spun off from there."
In addition to Croschere, regular members of Junk-yard Art include Dr. Frank Jeffries, Annie and Paul Bishop, John Roberson and Muddy Waters.
"Then we have some people that are part-timers, too, like Dr. Randy Smith, Dr. Helen Kahn, Benny Mercier, Jack Vantassel, Dan Lakenen and Cody Lakenen," Croschere said. "The list could go on and on."
Caelee - who's given name is Colleen - Croschere, an energetic, enthusiastic musician, grew up in a musical household.
"My entire family could sing and play instruments," she said. "All five of us sisters had impeccable harmony. We also sang on the radio and appeared on television in Detroit."
Her first band was Colleen and the Cadillac Cowboys.
"That was in the early 80s," she said. "I will proudly say that I had the best teacher, Leo Hebert, one of the best lead guitarists I've ever heard. He taught me not only how to play guitar, sing and control a microphone but to run sound equipment as well."
The Cowboys included Dave Dighera, Warren Murray and Jerome Bilkey.
The next band, 100 Proof, included Croschere, Hebert, Dighera, Bilkey and Robert "Grizz" Davidson.
"100 Proof had opportunities to go to Nashville, however, family and children kept us from doing that," Croschere said.
As the local music scene evolved, Croschere heard a female vocalist perform one night at the Negaunee Eagles Club and soon after began a collaboration with that singer, Bonnie Symons.
"That was something different to introduce to audiences, two females that could harmonize well and do opposite genres," Croschere said. "I sang the country and she did the rock. It ended after a year and wouldn't you know it wasn't long after that The Judds became recognized and famous."
Croschere left Marquette for a time but eventually returned. After more than a decade of not performing, she got back into the local music scene.
"Muddy Waters, a friend, musician and family member, called me to come out to Lakenenland to sing on the stage Tom Lakenen had just got done building," she said. "I did just that. After performing that Sunday afternoon, we autographed the door on the back side of the stage. Five years later, we continue to do just that.
"The autographs on the doors will always be a constant reminder of how blessed and enriched we are with the talent of Tom Lakenen and and fellow musicians."
Croschere asked Lakenen if he would mind the core group using Junk-yard Art as its name.
"He said he was honored," Croschere said. "So many things have evolved because of Lakenenland and at this point, we're just riding the wave. We are looking forward to cutting a CD at the end of the month."
Junk-yard Art has performed mainly at private engagements so far, but will look to bring its eclectic mix of originals and covers of country, jazz, folk, bluegrass and contemporary songs to other venues.
And of course, when spring arrives, they'll be back at Lakenenland at 2 p.m. on Sundays, much to Lakenen's delight.
"There is some amazing musical talent in this area," he said. "It's so great to hear them get up on stage and play."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.