When someone shows up on Tim and Debby Wolfson’s doorstep, the first thing their grandchildren ask the visitor is, “What’s the name of your band?” The kids know it must be Music Night on Jupiter.
“We host a lot of musicians,” Tim says with a laugh.
The Hampton Township couple provides free room and board to traveling acts, who often end up jamming in their living room or backyard.
The impromptu concerts started in 2004 at their home on Jupiter Drive. Nine months ago, the family moved just a mile away to Rosanna Drive and took up residence in a large barn built in the 1850s. The Music Night On Jupiter brand traveled with them.
There’s a guest room in the old hayloft and one in the basement, where the walls are made of thick stone and rough-hewn wooden beams. There are instruments, albums and concert posters everywhere. A turntable is in constant rotation.
Regulars include Jim Avett, patriarch of The Avett Brothers, as well as Nashville folk singers Humming House and Tank and the Bangas from New Orleans.
John “Papa” Gros, another musician who hails from the Big Easy, stayed last month. A show he’d been scheduled to play at a local venue was abruptly cancelled, leaving him in a logistical and financial bind.
Tim, who met the acclaimed singer-songwriter and keyboardist during the French Quarter Festival, not only offered Gros and his band a hot meal and a place to sleep — he set up a new gig for them at Moondog’s in Blawnox. More than 60 people packed the place, saving the day and the tour.
“The best part is, I have a friend for life in Tim and Deb,” Gros says. “They are truly special people.”
The Wolfsons aren’t musicians themselves — Tim says he occasionally picks up a ukulele and plays it badly — but they are lifelong fans. They’ve traveled the world to experience new sounds. Tim, once an attorney for a large concert promoter, formed many connections in the industry.
When Music Night On Jupiter events outgrow their living quarters, the Wolfsons book houseguests at area bars and clubs, including Pittsburgh Winery and Thunderbird Cafe & Music Hall. Tim also helps organize the lineup for MuSic for MS at Hartwood Acres and works with organizers of Millvale Music Festival, where he met local artist Jenny Sines in 2016.
Sines joined him for an informal, post-festival jam session. Impressed by her singing and guitar playing, Tim encouraged her to pursue music professionally. A few years later, she was opening for Nora Jane Struthers on Jupiter Drive.
“It was truly a magical evening and the opportunity really transformed into a very important stepping stone in finding my voice today,” says Sines, who now fronts the bands Jenny and the Jags and Creeping Jenny. “I hope the whole city looks to Tim and Deb as role models and heroes in the arts community!”
In recent years, Liveburgh Studio has also opened in Hampton to give traveling musicians a free place to crash, record music and play their songs. But the Wolfsons’ spacious 3.5-acre Rosanna Drive property is a unique haven for traveling artists and has become a destination for nationally-known musicians.
New Orleans singer Esther Rose, who headlined the 2019 Three Rivers Arts Festival, recorded a video in a ramshackle corn crib on the property. Knoxville-based group The Black Lillies first listened to a rough cut of their new album on the Wolfsons’ stereo. And Greg Joseph of The Clarks wrote a song on their couch.
“There’s a ritual and sense of community here,” Tim says. “Music wasn’t always in bars and clubs; it was on people’s porches and in their backyards. We’re reverting back to those days.”
Check out the lineup of upcoming Music Night on Jupiter concerts here.