When I hear the ancient proverb “A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss”, I think of JW Couey, lead guitarist for the Skagit County Band Gin Gypsy. If I could pick one adjective to describe JW, it would be “driven”. From when he just started out playing music until current times, he has always strived to be the best. When he reaches his goal, he starts climbing another mountain.
In JW’s early years, most of the music played in his household were the golden oldies. His parents weren’t musical themselves, but believed in music as a core subject in school, partly due to the hand eye coordination and mathematical aspects that are gained from playing instruments. JW and his siblings all started playing musical instruments in sixth grade band.
The first instrument JW mastered was the saxophone in 6th grade. In fact, he was first chair in middle school from 6th through 8th grade. When he arrived in high school, he immediately dethroned the upper class man and became 1st chair in 9th grade as well.
Resuming with the “driven” theme, JW continued to study and master other instruments whilst playing saxophone in school band. He mastered the bass guitar in 7th grade, lead guitar in 8th grade and drums in 9th grade.
Besides playing in school band class in 7th grade, JW started his own band, “Alborn”. This wasn’t just a ‘play in the garage with your friends’ type band. It was a three piece band which actually had paying gigs at local churches and chamber of commerces etc.
Once JW had dethroned the upper class man in 9th grade, he knew he wouldn’t excel any further as he had already reached the top level. Also, the school wouldn’t allow him to play in state band as they considered him a professional musician due to being paid for his performances with Alborn. So in 10th grade, he gave up band and took up choir.
At home, his parents started only allowing Christian music to be played in the house. So JW’s musical influences at that time leaned towards semi-Christian bands such as MXPX, Grammatrain and Soul Food 76. His biggest influence from music he heard outside of home was Jimi Hendrix as well as some other older rock/blues influenced bands such as Led Zepplin and Queen.
When JW was 19, he started a band called “Flint”. This was also a 3 piece band, but the venues were upgraded to local bars. Flint was in tact for about 3-4 years. From there, JW joined a top 40’s cover band called “Red Rocket” – which is still around with some of the same members, but now under the name Betty Rocker.
After about 5 years with Red Rocket, JW took a couple of years off to conquer another goal .. produce his own LP. He brought in Terry Sherman (Josey Wales) to play the drums and JW played all the other instruments on the album. JW also wrote all the songs, as well as did all the singing, recording, producing and engineering. The name of the finished product is “21 And Over” and can be found on most music streaming services. Another check mark off his list of goals to complete.
About six years ago, local singer Michelle Montoya contacted him to see if he’d be interested in starting a band that would be playing in the genre of swing/rockabilly. This was another challenge to JW as he was not very familiar with that genre of music. Challenge accepted and Gin Gypsy was formed.
For the first several years, Gin Gypsy was just a cover band. However in the last few years, they have been writing original songs that stay true to the swing/rockabilly style, though still modernizing and making it their own. Gin Gypsy has just remastered their first LP that initially dropped in February 2019 (Just Like Candy) and are in the process of choosing songs for their next LP.
JW’s stage presence exudes confidence, experience, energy, lots of fun with a bit of humor thrown in. I cannot wait to see what JW Couey decides to master next! You can see him play with his band Gin Gypsy, along with Jack Mattingly and Whiskey Fever, on New Years Eve at the Best Western Plus Skagit County Inn Convention Center. See link below for details.