AFTER his time in the Air Force, he moved to Los Angeles, formed a band and did some studio work. Then he drifted to San Francisco where he sang in coffee houses and wine bars and busked in front of Ghiradelli Square. In late '72, he returned to Idaho, playing around Boise with folkie Silkie Miller. They formed a trio with a lady named Sunshine and headed for Portland under the name "Road, Sweet Road". There they did the round of live music clubs, changed lady partners, and toured the great cities of the Northwest Coast through '74. The group drifted apart, JJ settled in Seattle / Portland. Silkie called in early 1975 from Berlin, Germany and invited JJ over to re-form the duo, calling themselves "Silkie & the Idaho Kid".
THEY gigged in Germany, England, Scotland, Holland, and Denmark with various interludes in Spain, France, and Saudi Arabia. (Silkie, in fact, worked on writing a mostly fictional account of their adventures before he passed away a couple years ago. Their biggest success was in Denmark, where they appeared on national TV, several prestigious music festivals and cut an LP, titled "Road, Sweet Road", which was released the same day that Elvis died. (Guess who got the headlines?).
IN Denmark at the Skagen Festival in the north of Jutland in June of '76, JJ and Silkie met Kirsten, one of the festival organizers, a gregarious brunette, and even though she was dead set against allowing Americans to perform at this mostly Scandinavian festival, she and JJ formed the beginnings of a friendship. They ran into each other later that summer and their friendship blossomed into romance. They were married in March of '77. Their daughter Lina was born in October of '80.
DURING that period, JJ did fewer gigs with Silkie, who had settled in Hamburg. He teamed up with Danish singer-songwriter Poul Krebs, who went on to become quite successful, a Danish-American group called "Bluegrass Connection", and a French-German-American trio known as "Detour". He also toured with British sing-songwriter Mike Silver and Dutch songstress Christien Eterman. All of these musical associations produced recordings.
BY the time Lina was born, JJ was feeling burned out by the touring, and so the decision was made to return to the United States and Idaho, where he could study electronics and have a stable life and be close to his parents, who could now enjoy their first grandchild. The family moved to Boise in '81; JJ studied at Boise State University, Kirsten found work in a Scandinavian furniture store. JJ eventually was hired at the Micron Electronics factory, which allowed the family to purchase their first home. In '84, Micron fired 600 workers (JJ included), and JJ was back playing music 5 nights a week with a local country-rock band and teaching guitar. In '88 he returned to BSU to take Music Education courses, leading to a BS degree in music, which he put to good use teaching at two of Boise's Catholic Schools. The studies also enhanced his vocal abilities (he studied with Baritone Prof. Lynn Berg) as well as his compositional skills.
IN '84, JJ recorded his first collection of original songs, "Midnight Choirboy". This was followed by a string of locally produced cassettes, "Hang In There" and "Idaho Zone". In '85, JJ was a national finalist in the Wrangler-Dodge Country Music contest, finishing in the top 15. The finals were held at the Grand Ole Opry house in Nashville where he met country music legend Roy Acuff in his backstage dressing room/shrine.
IN 1990, JJ's song "A Simple Hello", tied for 2nd place (with Peter Cetera) in the Idaho Centennial Song Contest, and in 1991 one of JJ's songs won the Idaho Catholic Centennial Song Contest. In the late '80's, JJ's focus shifted to Christian music, and in '88 he recorded "Glory Report". This was followed by "Sing My Love" and "Share the Spirit" in 1990. A children's collection "Jesus Lives in Me" was produced in '91.
IN 1990, JJ began his career as summer camp counselor with the establishment of Camp Treble, a music camp run by Harriet Dean and Pam Link. It ran every summer in McCall, ID for 2 weeks and recently was expanded to Oregon for a week. As the years went by, the camp grew in size and success, and some of the original campers became counselors helping to run the camp. It was renamed Camp Crescendo, and remained one of the primary focal points of JJ's whole year. He spent many summer weeks as music director for the Catholic Junior and Senior High camps as well as UCC's Pilgrim Cove facility.
IN the mid-'90s, JJ formed JUBILATION JAM with Dana and Rick Strack, whom he met at a telethon at a local Christian cable TV station. They performed at countless events around the Treasure Valley, including the Boise River Festival, Art in the Park, Zoo Daze, and the Teddy Bear Tea. They recorded an album, "Jubilation Jam" at a local studio with help from JJ's daughter Lina, her friend Michelle, and TJ Hedges, one of JJ's Camp Treble alumni.
JJ then divided his time between teaching privately (guitar, bass & keyboard students of all ages), led the choir at Bishop Kelly High School ('01-03), entertaining at retirement centers, pre-schools, libraries, ContraBand (one of Boise's several Celtic bands), and doing church music on the weekends at St. Mark's and Holy Apostles. He worked on producing a CD featuring songs co-written by JJ and Lucy Kobusingye. He also produced a video of his retirement center singalong performances.
In June of 2006, JJ relocated to Post Falls, Idaho (near Coeur d'Alene) where he could be closer to his family, especially his mom, Mary Lou Dion, whom he performs with fairly regularly. He has appeared with a jazz trio, "The Eclectics", (with Ruth Pratt, vocalist, and Ray Clemons, piano), and a four piece dance combo, "Evergreen Junction", that includes his mom also. JJ's main focus has been providing entertainment in senior living facilities in the Coeur d'Alene, Spokane, Seattle and Boise areas.
In 2007, JJ's daughter, Lina, (and her son, Isaiah), relocated from Texas to Seattle to help her mom, (Kirsten, one of the Northwest's go-to retailers for Scandinavian style furniture), establish Seattle's first Haastens Mattress Store. JJ soon built his schedule around a monthly visit to Seattle to visit his daughter and grandson and is providing entertainment all over the Seattle area. To his delight, he has been able to enjoy Lina's blossoming as a Karaoke diva and Isaiah's musical development as well. (In fact, Isaiah is already learning to strum, sing and jam on lyrics with his grandpa at some of his gigs.)
IDAHO native JJ Dion was born in Lewiston on January 13, 1950, and grew up as an Air Force brat, the second of six children. His parents are Joe and Mary Lou Dion, who met at the University of Idaho while playing in music groups in the late '40's. The creative genes are strong in this family; all of JJ's siblings, as well as his mom, are still active in some form of musical activity.
JJ studied piano, baritone horn and trombone, sang in school and church choirs, and acted, sang and danced in plays all through school and his stint in the Air Force ('68-'71). But it was the guitar that made the biggest impact on JJ's career choice. In 1964, inspired by groups like the Beatles, JJ taught himself the guitar. By age 16, he was fronting a band, singing covers of current pop tunes.
As the years went by, JJ's musical interests and influences expanded to include all eras, styles and multiple ethnicities. You'll taste little bits of Rock, Folk, Country, Bluegrass, Jazz, Reggae, Gospel, Classical, Klezmer, Polka, Opera, World, yes- even Punk and Hip-Hop/R & B in his stylistic soup.
Entertainer, Composer, Teacher, Musician, Recording Artist
the sounds of
Post Falls, Idaho
copyright 2013 Dion Music.
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