Musician Spotlight: Tjarko Jeen

Mar 28, 2024

Tjarko Jeen is a guitar player born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. While just a teenager his rockabilly band The Tin Stars started playing all over Europe often backing U.S. rockabilly legends such as Billy Lee Riley and Sonny Burgess. Tjarko started playing with legendary Dallas rock & roll singer Ronnie Dawson at 16 who brought him to the U.S. when he turned 21. This broadened his horizons and led him to start playing different styles of music, live and on recordings. Now based in Austin, Texas he plays with The Modern Don Juans and The Hunt Sales Memorial and with such Austin staples as Ramsay Midwood, Mike Stinson, Eve Monsees & Mike Buck, Henri Herbert, and records with many others.

What inspired you to start playing music?

There was always music in our house. My dad was a church organist before I was born. He left the church but never stopped playing. Music was this seemingly magical thing that put him in another place and I think he passed that love of music on to me. At the same time it was a part of everyday life and just as much a necessity as water, food and oxygen. My earliest memory of hearing music is Harry Nilsson’s Everybody’s Talking and those sweet, dreamy and wistful sounds have never stopped filling the air around me. I hear music all the time.

Who are some of your musical inspirations

I love musicians that seem to be able to get out of their heads and go straight from their heart to their hands and are not held back by their thinking or the rules. Roy Buchanan comes to mind. Aretha Franklin. John Lee Hooker. Charlie Parker. I strive to find a little piece of that within myself and maybe one day I will succeed.

What was the injury that brought you to MTF and how did the injury affect your music?

I was diagnosed with Cubital Tunnel Syndrome in both arms. I slowly started losing dexterity and stamina but not necessarily for things that are the hardest to play and probably mostly only noticeable to me. I really feared that I would not be able to live up to my own standards for much longer and that I might have to give up playing altogether. I have been a working musician since I was 13 and have never done anything else in my life so even just the thought of that is unimaginable and unbearable to me.

What was your experience with receiving care through MTF and your recovery afterward?

MTF and Dr. Alton Barron are the absolute best and have been total lifesavers. I can’t even put into words how grateful I am for all the help and care from that first call with Irene Chang-Cimino to all the care from Dr. Barron and for everything and everyone else that has been there along the way, including people at HAAM who helped me with my health insurance because it wasn’t enough to cover all the costs. The personal interest from everyone at MTF is very special and exceptional.

What’s coming up for you?

I’m freelance, so it’s always changing. At the moment I’m playing 5-8 times a week mostly in Austin. I’ve put a lot of things on hold dealing with getting my hands and arms back 100% but am looking forward to getting some of those things started again after my next and hopefully last surgery. Some recording, some touring, some old and new projects.

Where can people find out more about you and your music?

I’m at Sam’s Town Point in Austin with Ramsay Midwood almost every Saturday at 11PM. I don’t do social media but I play all over town every week with a variety of artists and bands playing all kinds of different music.


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