The Jayhawks were formed in Minneapolis
. Mark Olson
, a bassist in a rockabilly
band wanted to work on his own country/folk songs, so he recruited Marc Perlman
from another rockabilly band to be his bassist and enlisted Norm Rogers
who was also in the local music scene to play drums
Their first gig was very small, supposedly for only about a dozen people. However, in those few was Gary Louris, who bought Olson some drinks and later that night was made a member of the group. Louris it should be noted was also well established in the Minneapolis scene for his pedal steel guitar. It was this pairing of Olson and Louris that came to define the sound of the band.
The Jayhawks played live gigs for the first year, and became local favorites. In 1986 they issued their first record independently, however still remained unsigned. They continued to play live, and Olson and Louris began writing songs together.
During this period, however, Louris was almost killed in a car accident, and the band took a break. During this break the band changed drummers twice finally settling with Ken Callahan. Also during the break, local label Twin/Tone released the songs the band had been recording themselves during the past several years. As soon as the record came out, a recuperated Louris came back and the band did their first national tour.
Once outside of Minneapolis, the band garnered some attention but still no major record company offers. So it was only through happenstance that the band signed with American Records.
An American producer -George Drakoulias- heard the band playing in the background during a call to Twin/Tone's office, and soon thereafter signed the band.
Drakoulias produced their first major record, 1991's Hollywood Town Hall. A critic's darling, the record produced several hits.
Drummer Callahan left the band in the period after Hollywood Town Hall's release, and was replaced with Don Heffington. Also during this period the band added a permanent pianist, Karen Grotberg.
With this lineup and Drakoulias in the producer's chair, the Jayhawks recorded in 1995, their seminal record Tomorrow the Green Grass. This record saw the pairing of Lauris and Olson really come together. It didn't produce as many alternative radio hits as Hollywood Town Hall, but the record in many ways was much more of a complete whole. It also included the song "Blue" which has become the band's most recognizable.
In 1997, Olson decided to leave the band for several reasons. Louris wanted to experiment with pop music, while Olson wanted to continue with roots/folk/Americana music. He had also married folk singer Victoria Williams, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
When Olson left the band, he setup his own recording studio and under the name The Original Harmony Ridge Creek Dippers he released an album of the same name in 1997.
After, Olson left the band the sound changed significantly, taking on a much more pop feel. The Lauris led band (with some personnel changes) produced two more records, Sound of Lies and Smile and have a new album due out in 2003.
Sources: allmusic.com and "Hollywood Town Hall" (http://mikke.kvalito.no/~ameneon/jayhawks/)