Sunday, July 18, 2010
Tom Tourville and Rebecca Peters have released an excellent book about one of the region's most popular ballrooms -- Remembering Okoboji's Roof Garden Ballroom: The Rock 'n Roll Years.
The book is a remarkable compilation of the history of the ballroom and the bands who played there. The book was made possible because of the authors high quality scholarship and attention to detail. It is an easy read and will be of interest to anyone who wants to learn more about rock 'n roll culture from 1955 to 1987.
I am fascinated by the month-by-month, year-by-year listings of the bands and events at the Roof Garden. You can see the times and music change before your eyes. You will be amazed by who played the Roof, particularly in the pre-corporate era: the Yardbirds, the Beach Boys, Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks, Mason Profitt -- and on and on.
One of the features I like the most are contracts for appearances by Johnny Cash, Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps Sam the Sham, etc. The book left me totally satisfied but wanting more.
Remembering Okoboji's Roof Garden Ballroom: The Rock 'n Roll Years is available from the authors for $18.50 (includes shipping). Here is the address:
Spirit Lake, IA 51360
Monday, July 12, 2010
Way back in early days I listened to my mom's radio and was connected to the world. Listen to the true story of how Gogi Grant (photo at left) came into my life. I was never the same again.
Click this link:
The Wayward Wind Gets To Me
and press ">play"
Monday, June 14, 2010
I had lost track of Al Kooper. I loved his work way been when -- Super Session, The Blues Project and early Blood, Sweat and Tears. I played them all on my radio shows.
When I was recently reading Girls Like Us by Sheila Weller (another good read) I learned that Kooper had crossed paths with both Joni Mitchell and Carole King in their early years.
in her book, Weller cites Al Kooper's 1977 autobiography Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards. I searched for Backstage... online and saw the 1977 edition was out-of-print and existing copies were selling for several hundred dollars each.
Then, I saw that Kooper in 2007 had released a revised version that incorporates much of the celebrated earlier book. So, I bought a copy.
Kooper's book tells his story in a totally raw and uncompromising manner. I found myself frequently thinking "what a jerk" as Kooper describes situations and people who screwed him again and again. And the people (particularly women) he screwed. The Kooper I met is full of anger issues, paranoia and grudges.
Also, Kooper writes of amazing encounters and experiences with musicians at key times in their lives. Kooper played organ on Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone and most of tracks on Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde On Blond and New Morning. He recounts vivid times backing Dylan when Bob first went "electric" at the Newport Folk Festival and the Hollywood Bowl.
The great names and events roll through out the book: Gene Pitney, This Diamond Ring (Kooper wrote it), Monterey Pop, the Rolling Stones, Clive Davis, Smokey Robinson, Lynyrd Skynyrd (Kooper produced their first three albums), Michael Mann (Kooper did the music for the remarkable TV series Crime Story) and on and on.
Kooper's road is littered with burned bridges, rip offs and hard feelings. His career descends lower and lower, much of it caused by his own words and deeds.
In the end, Kooper finds himself, starts teaching at the Berklee School of Music, gets his musical voice and reflects on the full measure of his life.
This a courageous book because Al Kooper tells the truth and gives us "a piece of his heart." His stories mean a lot to him and to me too.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
To hear a brief scoped aircheck, click on this link and push the "play" button:
Ken Holding Together on KLOH October 1970
To hear a brief scoped aircheck, click on this link and push the "play" button:
Ken on KLOH August 1971
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Two weeks following Steve's death, Tom Rambler from KISD radio assembled the three remaining members of the Starfires -- Barry Hansen, Mike Mulligan, and Dean Senthner -- for an interview to remember Steve. The interview was made into a half-hour radio program that also featured the band's music.
The program aired on KISD in late September 1967. I recorded it off-the-air on my Wollensak reel-to-reel tape deck. You can hear the program, plus how KISD sounded back then, at:
Lost & Found Sound: KISD Tribute to Steve Ellis (click this link and press "play")
Portions of Tom Rambler's interview were later included on the IGL release "Steve Ellis and the Starfires Songbook."
This is perhaps the last known photograph of Steve Ellis and the Starfires performing in June 1967. The location is unknown.
Band members left-to-right are Mike Mulligan (bass), Dean Senthner (drums), Steve Ellis and Barry Hansen.
In 1966, Steve Ellis and the Starfires released "Walking Around." The song, which is included in the KISD radio program, made the Billboard chart and received considerable radio airplay.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Dale Gregory and the Shouters were inducted into the SD Rock Hall of Fame.
Everyone from both eras of the band were there except Pat O'Brien who was preparing for the debut of his new Fox Sports Radio show.
Dale Gregory Yost gets the award for "farthest away attendee" for his trip from Singapore, now his home.
The Fabulous Trippers, another Ken Enterprises band, was also inducted. Mark Griffin and Gordy Haugan were there.
Mark Griffin gave a donation to the SD Rock Hall in honor of Terry Park, the drummer for The Trippers, who died in 2002. Terry's daughter Heather, son Jason, parents and sisters were in attendance.
Heather brought custom t-shirts (right) flashing an image of Terry to promote the band.
does the Harlem Shuffle.
I described Danny to someone as a combination
of Joe Cocker and Otis Redding.
I had a chance to talk and party with John O. Brown, one of my earliest rock n roll heroes.
John Brown created Mid Continent Entertainment, The Red Dog Inn and the great KOMA bands The Flippers, The Red Dogs, The Blue Things and Spider and the Crabs.
John Brown is still the center of scene.
I had the honor inducting KLOH Radio, Pipestone. Wally Christensen was there.
I said KLOH was cool because it created a community for rockers in the 60s and 70s. KLOH, particularly DJ Doug Wagner, had cred because it never talked down us.
(Right) Mylan Ray in 1974 at KLOH.
to make this transcendent weekend.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
40+ years of time evaporated
and I was 18 again.
It was a wonderful magical night.
For a brief moment in time, I could fly.
(left to right) Greg Blomberg, Mike Titus, Roger Opime, Dale Gregory
Yost, Ken Mills, Gary Tabbert (not pictured Pat O'Brien)
South Dakota Rock Hall of Fame Induction April 24, 2010
KEN MILLS APPEARS ON KSOO AM 1140
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Rick Knobe (left), host of the top hometown radio talk show, Viewpoint University, interviews Ken Mills.
(photo by John O. Brown)
More coverage coming soon...
Thursday, March 25, 2010
“FRIDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL”
© Ken Mills © 2010
In the early ‘80s I was the Program Director of KXRB-AM and KIOV-FM, two country music stations in Sioux Falls.
KIOV-FM had a honker signal --- 100kw at 900 feet HAAT --- that covered a wide section of southeast South Dakota, southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa.
Though the station did well with city listeners its bread-and-butter were listeners and advertisers in the rural communities that dotted the map.
KIOV had broadcast Friday night football games for many years. It was seen as supplemental income from a low listening daypart. Rather than cover the city school games, KIOV concentrated on the bigger towns around the region.
I came up with the idea that we could greatly increase revenue from the games if the coverage became more of an “event” --- something that the town and high school would perceive as a big deal. This tied into the sales plan to get local merchants to sign annual advertising agreements with KIOV. The games were a way to position KIOV -- at least for one or two nights a year -- as the champion of the town and the high school.
Here is how the events happened. I hired a well-known TV sports anchor (Mark O) to do the play by play and a former Pro Bowl linebacker for the NFL Detroit Lions (Wayne R) to do the color commentary. I was the third member of the team.
We copied the ABC-TV Monday Night Football formula.
I was Cosell doing the intros, offbeat observations and delivering the advertising announcements. Mark O and Wayne R called the games.
We had a huge banner behind the broadcast booth that screamed KIOV 104.7 FRIDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL and lots of lighting that made the booth brighter than the football field.
All of this staging made it look like KIOV Friday Night Football was the Biggest Fucking Deal ever to arrive in Smallburg.
And we picked games with the only the best teams playing their arch rivals. Friday night football is more than religion in small towns. If the hometown team was good, you could count on a packed house and a fevered crowd for the games. In other words, the whole scene rocked.
One of our favorite places to broadcast games was Brandon Valley High School.
The Lynx were sorta like little Nebraska Cornhusker’s. They had a very good team ever year and had built a stadium than was better than what most small college teams had. In fact, a couple of local colleges would rent the Brandon Valley stadium for their home games.
The particular Friday night I am thinking of was crisp and cool. Early October with leaves in full fall color. No wind (and that matters in South Dakota). The smell of cotton candy was in the air. Pom poms were hoisted high. Moms and dads sat on “comfort cushions” and looked through binoculars for their kids. Young guys were off under the stands smoking cigs and laughing.
This was no ordinary game. The Lynx were undefeated. They were facing the West Central High Trojans, last year’s conference champs who had knocked off the Lynx in the state playoffs. The Trojans were 6-1 and had a quarterback who was destined to play Division I college ball.
The first quarter was close. Brandon Valley trailed at the end of the period 7-3.
In the second quarter the Lynx exploded. Three quick touchdowns – including two from interceptions of passes from the bigtime Trojan QB. The Lynx led 24-7 at the half. The crowd was wild with celebration.
During the half time, Mark O, Wayne R and I did a (hopefully funny) bullshit routine as we gave the mid-game stats.
That night the Lady Lynx --- the Brandon Valley cheerleaders and pom pom girls --- were on the field doing their half-time show accompanied by Brandon Valley High School band.
There were lots of kicks and jumping and gymnastics that brought to mind the porn flick (which I had recently rented) called “Debbie Does Dallas.”
So, Mark O, Wayne R and I were doing our usual gabfest while the Lady Lynx danced to the delight of the crowd.
I said on the air, “Boy those Lady Lynx are sure pumped tonight.” Mark O and Wayne R enthusiastically agreed. I said, “I know this song they are dancing to.... It’s....um....I’ve almost got the name....it’s........”DIRTY DEEDS DONE DIRT CHEAP” BY AC/DC!”
I don’t think Wayne knew the song because he said “Whaaaa?”
So Mark O and I began singing along with the song. Since lots of people who came to the game brought along radios to listen to the play-by-play, they heard us singing. And they started singing too. Loudly.
So here is a whole stadium of revved up football fans singing DIRTY DEEDS DONE DIRT CHEAP while the Lady Lynx, hearing the crowd, put special emotion into their routine. The kicks became higher. The panties were in full view. Lady Lynx butts were shaking.
The Lynx won by a touchdown. Awesome night.
Friday, February 26, 2010
I first heard of KLOH AM 1050 in the summer of 1963. At that time, KLOH had a Saturday afternoon rock request program.
On KLOH I first heard that the ultra-cool Lacemen and the popular Jadesmen were going to play at the Marshmallow Lounge in downtown Sioux Falls. The Marshmallow Lounge was a “teenage nightclub” modeled after the Peppermint Lounge in New York. You had to be 16 to enter. Since I wasn’t 16 yet, I used my first fake ID in the fall of 1963.
In 1964, KLOH AM 1050 added rock music every weekday after school. Every day KLOH brought me a new record or band -- each cooler than the one before.
Doug Wagner was working on the air at KLOH. I wrote him a letter in April 1964 saying I wanted to be a DJ and asking his advice.
He sent me a kind reply letter urging me to check out Brown Institute in Minneapolis, where he had gotten his training. He also invited me to come to KLOH and see his program. Wow!
In August 1964 I had just gotten my drivers license. My parents let me drive my mom’s Corvair to Pipestone to visit KLOH. It was my first out of town trip on my own.
I drove down the gravel driveway into the parking lot in front of the little house on west highway 30 – the home of KLOH. It was the mid afternoon on a Saturday.
Doug Wagner greeted me at the door. He was a prince of a fellow who made me feel at ease right away. He took me into the studio and explained “the board,” “cartridges,” “the log” and how to cue up a record. He even let me cue a couple up.
It was a turning point in my life. My career goal became to be a radio DJ, not to a dentist as my father had advised.
Meanwhile, in November 1964, a new weeknight rock program debuted in Sioux Falls on KELO-AM 1320 – “Night Rock with Lord Douglas.”
There was an unusual tie between KLOH and KELO. KELO had tried to hire Doug Wagner away from KLOH. In their plans, Doug was going to host a new show KELO called “Night Rock With Big Doug.”
But Doug Wagner backed out of the KELO deal at the last minute and stayed at KLOH.
KELO had already purchased singing jingles promoting “Big Doug.” What to do?
The folks at KELO decided to name the replacement DJ “Lord Douglas” so that jingles wouldn’t be wasted.
“Night Rock with Lord Douglas” was heard from 7:00pm to midnight Monday through Friday. “Lordy” played lots of local music including many of the 45 RPM singles that my bands released.
By 1965 many midwest rock bands were advertising their appearances on KOMA AM 1520. They were traveling the ballroom and armory circuit through Kansas, Nebraska, both Dakotas, Colorado, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Each night on KOMA you’d hear about the Flippers, the Red Dogs, the Blue Things” and “Spider and Crabs.”
[Side note: KOMA continued as the key station for traveling rock bands well into the 1970s with Wire and Baby.]
By 1965 KLOH became the center of the local rock band scene, very similar to KOMA. For me, it was KLOH during the day and KOMA after the sun went down.
KLOH’s 5,000 watt signal blanked southwest Minnesota, northwest Iowa and most of eastern South Dakota. KLOH was the radio station where I promoted my bands.
Doug Wagner at KLOH created custom “KOMA type” commercials for my bands and many other bands. Thirty second spots were $2.50 at KLOH, more expensive than KELO but totally worth it.
KLOH had a perceptual advantage over other stations at the time. KLOH didn’t talk down to the listeners. Others referred to its listeners as “teenagers” like they were an oddity. In short – KLOH was FAB, not pre-fab!
The first time I risked money on a dance promotion it was with KLOH. In May 1965 at the Pipestone National Guard Armory I presented Dale Gregory and the Shouters for a dance and concert.
Doug Wagner from KLOH emceed the gig. We all made money. My only mistake was forgetting to hire a rent-a-cop. This was quickly remedied by a generous contribution to the Pipestone PD “recreation fund.”
For the rest of 1965 and 1966 my bands – Dale Gregory and the Shouters, The Dynamic Hursmen, Those of Us and The Trippers – were heavily advertised on KLOH.
Lot’s of other bands were on too: The Pilgrims (Doug Wagner’s band), Dee Jay and Runaways, the Sting Rays, the Continental Co-ets, Orlin Hunstad’s Gemini Six and, of course, the untouchable Steve Ellis and the Starfires.
Steve Ellis was a huge area favorite. In 1966, his song “Walking Around” was a regional hit and had lots of airplay on KLOH and KOMA.
KLOH had ads for the most happening places like the Hollyhock Ballroom, Hatfield; the Showboat Ballroom, Lake Benton; the Dells Ballroom, Dell Rapids; Teen Town, DeSmet; Ruskin Park, Forestberg; the Rainbow Ballroom in Lane; the Roller Drome in Mitchell; the Island Park Ballroom in Milltown; the Groveland Park Ballroom in Tyndall and many, many more venues.
Back in Sioux Falls, on September 16, 1966 a new company, Starr Broadcasting, took over KISD and changed it to 24/7 Top 40 rock.
Almost overnight KISD became the number one station in Sioux Falls and pushed KELO out of part time rock music. I immediately moved my Sioux Falls band and promotion advertising from KELO to KISD.
The new KISD had little effect on KLOH. KLOH reached a much larger geographic area than KISD so I kept buying lots of time.
I became a “KISD Good Guy” – a part time weekend DJ – on KISD October 1, 1967. The first song I played was “Get Off My Cloud” by the Stones.
Soon I was full time at KISD doing the 7:00pm to Midnight shift. I was a full time student at Augustana College and a full time “KISD Good Guy” for the rest of 1967, all of 1968 and well into 1969.
At KISD I met Gregory J. Christ. Greg came to KISD from KLOH to do the overnight shift. Since I was on just before him, Greg and I crossed paths almost every night. We frequently talked about KLOH.
In August 1969, I dropped out, so to speak. I quit my job at KISD and joined VISTA – Volunteers In Service to America, a domestic Peace Corps part of LBJ’s “great society.”
VISTA took me to Texas and Oklahoma to help start new noncommercial radio stations that many years later became part of NPR. But, my VISTA project was cut by the Nixon administration after only a few months.
By summer 1970 I was “on the beach” in Sioux Falls, wondering what to do next.
I heard that my old friend Greg Christ had gone back to KLOH, so I called him and asked for a job. Greg said “when can you start.” And I said “tomorrow” – which is what I did.
[Doug Wagner had left KLOH a year or so earlier and Greg was running KLOH with part timers during the long summer AM broadcast hours.]
I immediately fell into my groove at KLOH. There was no “clock” per see and the jocks picked their own tunes. I created a rack of the top 30 songs and mixed in lots of oldies. It was rocking freeform hit radio, exciting freedom and opportunity.
At the time, KLOH was owned by the Ingstad family from North Dakota. KLOH was managed by Glenn Olson – “G O” as he was known.
Wally West [Christensen] did sign on to 10:00am playing “chicken rock” and country. “G O On the Go” went from 10:00am to 11:00am. From 11:00am to Noon KLOH switched to its satellite studio in Luverne where Jerry Hennen hosted a program.
The noon hour was a combination of news, farm info, features such as Earl Nightengale, “A Point of Law” and sports commentary by Howard Cosell.
Dave Lindemeyer started rocking at 1:00pm and I worked from 4:00pm to signoff – after 9:00pm in the summer.
Plus, there was a colorful crew of KLOH part timers: Dan Gregg, Bill Stout, Lee Sundemeyer and a 14 year old kid with an amazing voice – Greg Ausham.
In September 1970 I went back to being a full time student at Augustana. I made an arrangement with G O to work part time at KLOH on Saturday and Sunday.
Around this time that KLOH signed on FM 98.7. The FM aired sleepy elevator music. I was certain that FM rock was the next big thing and I convinced G O to let me host a Sunday album rock program simulcast on KLOH AM and FM.
The program, called “Holding Together” was an instant hit. Though the hippie music probably scared the shit out of G O and others at KLOH, the show brought in new advertisers, particularly from Sioux Falls, a nice business move for Sunday when advertising was traditionally light.
“Holding Together” was similar to other “underground rock” programs across the region and nation. Other shows included “Beaker Street” from KAAY, “Transition” from KELO-FM and blues player Tony Glover on KDWB.
These were great days for me at KLOH. In addition to being on the air, I spoke at high school assemblies, did remote broadcasts and became friends with a bunch of Pipestone kids.
I graduated from Augustana in May 1971. Instead of attending the graduation ceremony, I went to work as usual at KLOH. I worked full time at KLOH until the end of October 1971.
I always treasure my association with KLOH. The station paid me well and gave me the space to grow. They tolerated my excesses and always made me feel at home. I am proud to be an alum of KLOH.
Friday, February 5, 2010
Monday, February 1, 2010
KEN ENTERPRISES 1965 - 1969
FROM "LOST & FOUND, VOLUME #4"
(c) 1995, Berg Borthers Publishing
"Behind the Scenes with the Multi-Faceted Ken Mills"
By Jim Olsberg (used with permission of the author)
In January of 1965 Ken Mills formed Ken Musical Enterprises. His business covered two different areas: one was booking and management, the other, dance promotions. The booking part lasted from January '65, until February of '68, while his dance promotions went into 1969. Mills managed Sioux Falls, South Dakota's best rock bands during the mid-'60s and constantly encouraged them to look beyond the city limits. He took several of them to Minneapolis, Minnesota to cut records, hoping that one would break the national charts. None of them did, although it wasn't for lack of effort on Mills end.
"I was 16-years old when I started the venture in an upstairs bedroom of my parent's house," said Ken Mills. "I didn't play music, but wanted to be involved somehow. Brian Epstein was definitely my biggest influence. I liked the whole idea of taking the music, packaging it, and getting it out to the public. I guess the business side came naturally to me because my dad had been a band leader and had also booked his own group back in the 1930s and 1940s. I had heard stories about my father's experiences."
"My parents were terrified about what I was undertaking, and loved it at the same time. They had a vicarious thrill from the whole thing and on the other hand, were scared to death that we'd drive off the road somewhere in the middle of the night, or get in too far over our heads in some business deal. They were probably all valid fears, but somehow we all came through it safe."
"The reason that I went from Ken Musical Enterprises to just Ken Enterprises was because I got a letter once from a school that was looking for a band for a prom and they addressed the letter to Ken Musical. Opening the letter I saw the greeting was 'Dear Mr. Musical.' I took so much abuse from that I just decided to shorten the business title. "
"The first time I ever saw Dale Gregory & the Shouters was during Christmas vacation, late 1964, at a Battle of the Bands. I was friends with Greg Blomberg and Gary Tabbert - this was when they were just starting out as a fourpiece group. I asked Greg if I could book some gigs for them. He said 'Yeah,' they were really having a difficult time on their own. The first show I booked was at the YWCA Gym in January, '65. Pat O'Brien joined the first week of February.
Dale Gregory and the Shouters
Sioux Falls YWCA Gym, January, 1965
(left to right: Greg Blomberg, Ted Christy, Dale Gregory Yost, Gary Tabbert)
"The first out-of-town job for them was at the Richmond Lake Ballroom in Aberdeen, SD. I still remember that day because I sat in my booking office, in a chair by the phone, just staring at it, afraid to dial. I was scared of being turned down. Finally I got up the nerve to pick up the phone, dial it, and asked for the manager of the ballroom. He actually said yes! I booked the job. The YWCA gig had been a friends-type thing. The Richmond Lake Ballroom was my first official booking - I was thrilled. It was for $125, or 60% of the door, and I'm really glad we got the guarantee because only about 75 people showed up that night. From here on I worked on a standard 15% cut for the bands I booked."
"In late 1965 Dale Gregory & the Shouters had a lot of success and momentum going for them. I booked a Job for them with Steve Ellis & the Starfires (from Pipestone, MN Ruskin Park, located near the town of Forestburg, SD. Ruskin Park had no rules. If you were old enough to see over counter, you were old enough to buy 3.2 beer. A mother's nightmare, Ruskin Park was kid heaven. I think the Shouters did as well as the Starfires that night. They also gained a tremendous amount of self-confidence because Steve Ellis was the premier entertainer in our area at the time.""At the start of 1965, to the fall, I had the Shouters only as clients. At that point I started managing the Dynamic Hursmen. Shortly after the Hursmen I picked up the Trippers and, in the fall of '66, Those Of Us.
There were probably a half-dozen other bands that I booked, but on a more sporatic basis. There were times, like at prom time, where there'd be a tremendous demand for musicians. At my peak I had 15 bands working on a particular Saturday. At 15% each, I wasn't doing too bad for a kid!"
"One of the groups that I remember liking was the Continental Co-ets out of Fulda, MN. I always wanted an a girl group, or at least a female lead, but never found one to become involved with. If I would have found the Joan Jett, Melissa Etheridge, or Chrissie Hynde back in those days.
I think I'd still be involved in the rock & roll business. Marlys Roe & the Talismen were roaming through our area at the time but I thought she was a little too square. You have to remember there was 'before the Beatles' and 'after.' You definitely wanted to be 'after' in 1966."
"I had my groups playing throughout North and South Dakota, Iowa, southern Minnesota and even down to Lawrence. Kansas. But probably the toughest place to play, in my opinion, was the Rainbow Ballroom in Lane, SD. The ballroom was run by the two Deneke brothers who were at least 6' 9" tall each. They were huge! It was always a tough gig because it was five-hours; 9 pm to 2 am. And it was one of those set-up clubs where there was a bar next door to the premises. There was always a tremendous amount of alcohol involved at those dances."
"I showed up at almost every show I ever booked. If two or more bands were playing at the same time, I'd alternate who I would travel with. I didn't promote a lot of national acts through the area, however. Probably the biggest was when I promoted the Turtles in 1967. We paid $5,000 for the group and made a fortune off the show.
"In the roughly four years I was putting on gigs I only lost money once. At the time I didn't really think about it - I just took it for granted. It's amazing the success we had. The only one I ever lost on was when I booked the Fabulous Flippers into Yankton, SD, at the same time the University Of South Dakota was having their graduation ceremonies. We thought we'd be able to get a lot of people into Yankton to see the Flippers. Everybody showed up at the graduation, nobody at ours. We definitely lost money that night."
"One of my most interesting memories is when I had Dale Gregory & the Shouters open for the Hollies. Graham Nash and company were literally fresh off the boat, so to speak. I think this was their third stop in the United States. All our American customs, music, etc.. were new and exciting to them. I recall playing the record 'California Dreamin', by the Mamas & the Papas, repeatedly for Nash and he loved it.
Tony Hicks of The Hollies and Ken Mills
After concert pool party, February 1966
Right off the start Ken Mills had the bands he booked go into the recording studio in the attempt to create that elusive "hit." "The decisions on recording choices were really made on the merit of what we thought would get radio airplay," stated Mills. "It was not unheard of for a band to become a one-hit wonder. Bands like the Swinging Medallions, ? & the Mysterians and the Count Five were just like us, but they happened upon the right song in the right set of circumstances."
"There was really one primary reason for choosing Dove Recording Studio; the Minneapolis scene. I really felt that Sioux Falls was a disjointed suburb of Minneapolis. There was a lot of going back and forth between the two cities. We were very aware of what was going on in the Twin Cities and I'm sure we heard about the recording facility through other bands or musicians."
"The first band that I went into the studio with was Dale Gregory & the Shouters, followed in succession by the Dynamic Hursmen, and the Trippers.
The Dynamic Hursmen, Sioux Falls Coliseum, April 1966
(left to right in back: Leo Flynn, Pete Early, Jim Peters, Dale Westendorf; front: Jeff Kahler, Bob Magnuson; Dan Jensen and Mike Rothenbuler, not pictured, were in a second version of the Hursmen)
The Fabulous Trippers, Roof Garden Ballroom, Arnold's Park, Iowa, July 1967
(left to right: Mark Henjum, Mark Griffin, Mike Ward, Gordy Haugan, Terry Park, Chris Harper)
I acted somewhat as a producer at those sessions, picking the songs and generally giving input as to what the arrangements would be, how the mixes would eventually sound. But in terms of really being a producer, that was left up to Rod Eaton, Dove's recording engineer."
"After a few false starts, the Shouters hit upon 'Did Ya Need To Know,' which hit #1 (and the B-side. 'I Remember,' #2) back home in Sioux Falls even before we got the records back from Dove. It was big locally, but never did what it was supposed to outside the area."
"The one part of the industry that we didn't really know anything about was distribution. We knew enough about getting our songs played on the radio, locally, but didn't know how to get them into large distribution chains. Most of our sales came either out of the back of our cars, or by directly going into smaller stores and consigning a couple copies. No recording band that I was ever involved with sold over 1,000 copies."
"In December of '67 the Trippers and I were at Dove, recording 'Conquistador' and 'Kaleidoscope.' Peter Steinberg, co-owner of the studio, teamed us up with the writing team of Gary Paulak and Barry Goldberg, who had written the popish 'Have You Ever.' The Trippers sang the song, but only their guitarist and drummer actually played on it. The other musicians were made up of Dove personnel. We wanted to have a hit so much that we just ate that kind of stuff up. Steinberg and I formed Milltown Records for the release, which didn't sell well, but received the most airplay. 'Have You Ever' got played on about a dozen stations in the upper midwest. It had a good commercial sound but never went beyond mid-chart."
"I'm surprised that the bands I worked with didn't release more records because we recorded enough times. Dale Gregory and Those Of Us took naturally to the studio and were extremely creative while there. Part of the problem was that recording was fairly expensive for us because we paid by the hour. I think If we would have had the opportunity to have an open recording-type arrangement (like the T.C. Atlantic or Underbeats did), we would have taken full advantage of it."
"A lot of it too was the Beatles' influence. By the mid-'60s, George Martin and the Fab Four were doing very creative studio things - playing with the audio, different things with the mix, etc. When you booked studio time by the hour you didn't have that luxury afforded you."
"Those Of Us was the first 'designer' band that I actually assembled. John Everist, Mike Connor and Gary Johnson were all talented musicians. singers and songwriters from the X-Men. Pat O'Brien and Ted Christy. from Dale Gregory & the Shouters, were equally so. During the summer of '66 there was a lot of changes going on, music-wise, in Sioux Falls. In July I put on a show in Pipestone, Minneosta, that I called the 'Battle of the Sioux Falls Bands.' We had the Hursmen, X-Men and the Shouters perform. I got to thinking that night what a powerful group it would be if I got the right musicians together. It went from an idea, to a concept. to a band in about two-to-three weeks. Their first gig was September 1, 1966. but even before that I had them record 'Without You' at IGL Recording Studio in Milford, Iowa. Looking back, I wish I would have had Those Of Us record more - they had some great original songs!"
Those of Us, September 1966
(left to right: Pat O'Brien, John Everist, Gary Johnson, Ted Christy, Mike Connor)
"In 1967 1 started booking a very good soul act, the Handy Brothers Chessmen Show. They weren't together very long, but were quite popular.
Ken Mills, on the air at KISD, Sioux Falls, Summer 1969
(Booking agent Chris Buren looks on)
"My booking agency went until February, 1968. 1 found that going to college full-time, working at KISD radio full-time, booking bands and dance promotions were more than I could handle. So I dropped the booking agency to concentrate on promotions. In partnership with Ray Ford, we promoted dances and shows in a 100-mile radius of Sioux Falls. The Stillroven, Underbeats. Rumbles, Red Dogs and the Mob all attracted huge audiences. The last shows I promoted were with Crow in August, 1969.
"I've kept in touch with many of those who were in the bands. In 1974, Greg Blomberg and I went into the advertising business together. Together, with a couple of radio friends, we opened Media One Advertising and Marketing, which is still going strong today. I left Media One in 1979 to get into radio management. I started a rock station, K-SKY out in the Black Hills. After that I managed radio stations in Fort Collins, Colorado, and Los Angeles, California."
"Now I'm still in the booking business. I'm in charge of "booking" radio programs on stations across the country as the Director of the Ken Mills Agency (KMA) in Minneapolis. I'm basically still a booking agent, using the phone constantly. I often think about that first call 30 years ago that I almost didn't make."
"As I look back on the whole experience with a little sharper perspective I see a lot of things that could have been done differently, more efficiently. etc. Today it seems so easy and obvious, but back then we didn't know any better. Everything was cutting edge. Overall, my memories are pleasant ones that I wouldn't trade for the world!"