About Mike Ponder

The best way to learn about the music scene in Beaufort, SC is from someone who has been living it for over 45 years. That someone is Mike Ponder.  

 

Mike was born in rural, mountainous Hot Springs/Spring Creek NC. With his home located near the Appalachian Trail, Mike fondly remembers boyhood days of working on the farm, swimming in the river and creeks, fishing, and hunting. More telling though for Mike's future music story, however, is how he began his inspiring education and journey into the world of music, which was introduced to him by his parents and family.

 

Mike's mother, Jan Ponder, and father, Wayne Ponder, were both talented musicians. They started a band called JL and the Country Squires, which become well-known for their hit song, "Living in the Present, Loving in the Past." Mike's parents sang lead vocals and back-up harmonies while touring with vocalist Lavonne English, and band members, Calvin Philbeck and Roger Sigmon. Mike recalls that when he was six, he was, "sitting on the stoop listening to them practice and getting into trouble noisily trying to imitate their playing.” The music switch had been turned on in Mike.

 

Mike first began playing the drums. Soon Calvin and Roger were teaching him his first bass and guitar chords while his parents trained him in the art of musical harmonies. Soon he was touring with the family band on weekends and after school, playing churches, festivals and doing opening shows for the likes of little Jimmie Dickens, The Kendalls, Kitty Wells and Archie Cambell. Mike felt a natural ability with his new comfortable role in the music and, more importantly, with the new connection playing with his family on the road 

Beaufort Water Festival

He began to play the Beaufort Water Festival while still on active duty, opening up for Josh Turner in 2006. He played 5 nights a week from Beaufort to Savannah, Ga. Due to the injuries and many surgeries sustained in the military, Mike retired from the US Navy in 2008 and moved to Liberty, Maine. 

 

In Maine, Mike attended the State Police Academy and went on to serve in the police department for several years. There he revived Steel Rail Express and again began working with local musicians. He continued to tour and garnered a considerable following. In 2010, Mike became the Maine finalist in the National Colgate Country Showdown and was invited to play the finals in St. Louis, Missouri. Although Mike did not win, he now could put his name beside and in the same pool as famous musical performers Garth Brooks and Brad Paisley, who both went on to win the showdown individually. This Colgate Country Showdown honor solidified the reputation of Steel Rail Express where he received a Congressional award for his win from the State house of Maine.

 

In 2011 Mike turned to Beaufort and continued to play music and make a living doing it.   

 

When Mike's marriage ended in 2012, Mike was working as a Youth Development Specialist for the Boys and Girl Club in Beaufort SC, where he made a difference in so many kids life and helped them realize they could do anything if they put their minds to it. While working with the kids, it also taught him about himself and helped with dealing with PTSD from the military and divorce. 

 

Mike currently resides in Lady's Island, SC with his partner Tanya, where he is raising his son Jeremiah and makes time for other interests besides music. Mike is involved in his community with Beaufort Charities, loves putting on concerts for benefits, schools and cancer societies and holds a Black Belt in karate. 

As the Years Progressed...

Mike was still playing with the family band JL and the Country Squires. When Mike turned 18, he joined the military. He has great experience with the Marines, after several years, Mike switched over and became a Navy Fleet Marine Force Corpsman, a DOC. Mike has seen alot of war during this time and has earned numerous awards to include two presidential awards and many Navy Commendation/Marines Corp awards. Mike always kept music in his life and was able to play along side some very talent service members. During his time in the Navy, he played for the Naval Choir in Great Lakes Illinois. 

 

Soon Mike married and had 2 boys, Jeremiah and Jarrod Ponder both born at Beaufort Memorial Hospital. During this particular time in 2001, he remembered his early beginnings fondly in the music" and thought perhaps one of his children might be the next little bit on the stoop." So began the inception and branding of his original band Steel Rail Express.

 

Mike actively pursued this quest while enlisted trying to play and maintain the role of Navy Corpsman and taking care of the recruits at MCRD Parris Island. Mike enlisted help of alot of Beaufort local musicians for support. He explained, "That it was always tugging at my heart to start the musical group Steel Rail Express." Its genre would include old country music, top 40 country, Beach and Funk, and Motown.

As the Years Progressed

Mike continued playing with JL and the Country Squires. When Mike turned 18, he joined the military. He had many great life changing experiences serving in the Marines, and after several years, Mike switched over and became a Navy Fleet Marine Force Corpsman. A DOC. Mike experienced a lot  of war during this time and earned numerous awards to include 2 presidential awards and many Navy Achievement Medals and Marine Corps Commendation awards. Mike always kept music in his life and was able to play alongside some very talented service members. During his time in the Navy he had the pleasure of playing for the Naval Choir in Great Lakes, Illinois. 

 

Soon Mike married and had 2 boys, Jeremiah and Jarrod Ponder while living in Beaufort, SC. During this time in 2001, he remembered his early beginnings fondly in the music "and thought perhaps one of his children might be the next little bit on the stoop." So began the inception and branding of his original band Steel Rail Express.

 

Mike actively pursued this quest while enlisted, trying to play music while still maintaining the role of Navy Corpsman and taking care of the Recruits at MCRD Parris Island. Mike enlisted help of many Beaufort local musicians for support. He explained, "It was always tugging at my heart to start the musical group Steel Rail Express." Its genre would include Classic Country, Top 40 Country, Beach and Funk, Motown, and even a little Allman Brothers. "Everything was always family friendly."

SRE JAMS

Mike is the CEO and owner of www.srejams.com, which is a full-service e-commerce music store. Srejams LLC runs a program for the tri-command Marine Corps and Navy bases in Beaufort that teaches music to all that want to learn for free. Mike provides instruments for them and if they complete 12 lessons in a 6-month period, they get to keep the instrument for free.  Mike also mentors many Navy and Marine Corps active duty and Vets. The name of the program is called SREJAMS Club. 

 

Mike is an Alumni member of Zac Browns Camp Southern Ground, where he completed the CSG Warrior Wellbeing Program and volunteers to help several times a year to veterans that are in need. 

 

Mike's music motto that he follows not only in his music but in his own life is, " Do good, feel good, repeat." These words are beautifully designed and printed on his van. From his talented music to his service in the Marines and Navy, all while giving back to the community and his fellow service members, these are words that Mike truly lives by.

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ABOUT

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SRE JAMS

Mike is the CEO and owner of www.srejams.com, which is a full service e-commerce music store. SRE Jams LLC runs a program for the tri-command Marine Corps and Navy bases in Beaufort that teaches music to all that wants to learn for free. Mike provides instruments for them and if they complete 12 lesson in a 6 month period they get to keep the instrument for free.  Mike also mentors to alot of Navy and Marine Corps active duty and Vets..The name of the program is called SREJAMS Club. 

 

Mike is a Alumni member of Zac Browns Camp Southern Ground where he completed the CSG warrior wellbeing program and volunteers to help several times a year to Vets that are in need. 

 

Mike's music motto, often used in a positive way, "Do good, feel good, repeat." These words are beautifully designed and printed on his van. From his talented music to his service in the Marines and Navy, all while giving back to the community and his fellow service members, these are words that Mike truly lives by.

OPERATION ENCORE MUSIC ARTIST

As a music artist of Operation Encore, Mike ponder belongs to a group that is dedicated to aiding veterans in pursuing a career outside of serving by providing artist development, professional recording, and industry-focused educational services. Make sure to click below to learn more on what Operation Encore is all about!

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