Jens Kruger, born and raised in Switzerland, is a lifelong musician. At the age of four, he started playing the harmonica. Then, he learned to play was his mother’s accordion, accompanying his brother, Uwe, who played his father’s guitar. He loved listening to his father’s albums and wanted so badly to play the banjo. When he was ten years old, he received a tenor banjo and he began to play Dixieland jazz, hoping that that one day “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” would somehow flow from the instrument. A year later, Jens and Uwe made their first public appearance, and two years later Uwe bought Jens his first five-string banjo.
At age 16, Jens and Uwe left home and traveled throughout Europe calling themselves the Rocky Road Band, attempting a living as street musicians. Their adventure paid off in the form of a record contract with CBS. In 1982, at the age of 19, Jens crossed the Atlantic with an opportunity to play with Bill Monroe. Monroe introduced Jens to the Grand Ole Opry, as the first known European banjo player. After living with Monroe for the summer, Jens returned to Switzerland with Bill Monroe’s encouragement to develop his own musical style and repertoire. For four years, Jens spent days and nights learning tunes from all the records he could find.
In 1986, Jens and Uwe reunited to form the Appalachian Barn Orchestra, the forerunner of today's Kruger Brothers. In 1997, the Kruger Brothers were invited to perform at Merlefest. From 1997 to 2003, Jens (together with his brother Uwe Kruger and third band member Joel Landsberg) traveled from Switzerland to the United States countless times to perform. While in the United States, they stayed with friends, Robert and Brenda Shepherd, who became as close as family. It was in the basement of the Shepherd home where Jens and his brother practiced countless hours, composed many pieces, and learned more about the culture of North Carolina. In 2003, Jens permanently relocated with his family to North Carolina. He built a home on a beautiful Wilkes County mountain for his wife Christa, and daughters, Mirjam and Anja.
While in the United States, Jens has performed with Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, John McEwen, Willie Nelson, Ron Block, and Ricky Skaggs, to name only a few. He is a champion of music and enjoys all aspects of the industry – composing, performing, and producing. Jens has composed a variety of musical artworks. During 2006 and early 2007, Jens Kruger worked to orchestrate his original compositions as well as music from the Kruger Brothers. The amazing composition that resulted was Music from the Spring: A Romantic Serenade for Banjo, Guitar, Bass & Orchestra. Jens was recognized for his work on the Music from the Spring project by the National Endowment for the Arts with an award for Artistic Excellence and The Kruger Brothers have performed the piece with symphony orchestras across the United States. The project also inspired a very special outreach program, developed for performances and presentations in schools and community settings, called "Strings Attached." In 2010, Jens, together with The Kruger Brothers, composed a piece for a string quartet entitled Appalachian Concerto. When asked to describe this composition, Jens explained, “It is about my personal journey – coming to the United States with my family. It’s my romantic idea of how Appalachia was settled. I am not a historian, but I like to imagine and tell the musical story of how immigrants found this beautiful land and how things came to be.”
As part owner of Double Time Music, Jens is incredibly involved in the production side of music. Double Time Music is a world class recording and production studio. The focus is set on musician friendly tracking and a commitment to providing excellence in sound and the logical consequence was to team up with top sound equipment. Double Time Music is the first company in the USA to introduce the sound systems of Germany's Manufacturer KLING & FREITAG and has become the ambassador and a distributor for the German company. Jens Kruger produced the 2010 International Folk Chart’s Song of the Year, Peace will Rise by Si Kahn. He also produced Si Kahn’s album Courage which was recognized as the 2010 Album of the Year by Folk DJs.
Banjo Virtuoso Jens Kruger realized the need for a new tone ring that would enhance the extreme low frequencies that support and complement banjo tone. This required a fresh approach to tone ring manufacturing. Together with the Swiss Ruetschi Bell Foundry, Double Time Music produces the Jens Kruger FT-36 banjo tone ring. Jens Kruger also holds the world-wide patent for the invention of the Eagle Tone Ring.
With his natural talent for instrument development and enhancement, Jens began a professional relationship with friends Greg and Janet Deering, owners of the Deering, The Great American Banjo Company in California. Jens designed the Jens Kruger Banjo and has become a spokesman and Research and Development Director for Deering Banjo, the world’s greatest banjo company.
Jens plays many stringed instruments with amazing skill, and like the Kruger Brothers, Jens' style and virtuosity cannot be characterized with a word or phrase. But those who have heard Jens play the banjo know that he is truly a master of his art. As a composer, Jens' comprehension of music in all of its forms is becoming well known among his peers, colleagues, and the Kruger Brothers' growing audience.
It is somewhat difficult, or maybe impossible to categorize the style of music that Jens performs with his banjo. Petra Jones, of the Banjo Newsletter, wrote in the publication’s July 2006 edition, “Every once in a while, a banjo player comes along who challenges the boundaries of what you believe the instrument is capable of. Swiss-born Jens Kruger is just such a player. His music is neither bluegrass nor old-time, but dips into both, along with classical, country and his roots in European folk." Jens himself noted, “I believe that I have found in America a true place of endless opportunities. I am thankful that my contribution to the culture is appreciated.”