Fergus Falls retiree Steve Johnson, FFHS Class of 1972, played in six different bands between 1966 and 1989, and then ran a mobile disc jockey service called Steve’s Audio Plus for 22 years, until 2012.
He was only 15 when, in 1968, he was in a band called “The Rubber Band” that filled in for “Tommy James and the Shondells” at Otter Tail Lake’s Balmoral Pavilion.
This was due to the Shondells’ bus breaking down and, therefore, they could not make the gig.
“We in ‘The Rubber Band’ got our start playing at the YMCA which, prior to 1972, was located at the old bowling alley in downtown Fergus Falls,” Johnson said.
In 1971 the band changed its name to “Pressure.” Johnson and fellow band members enjoyed jam sessions.
“We knew each other so well, and we could jam on a song for 20 to 30 minutes,” he said.
In 2017 Johnson recalled some of his favorite band memories in the Daily Journal’s winter edition of “Fergus Falls, The Magazine.”
Forty years previously, in 1977, he joined a band headed by Dave Schafer who also became widely known for running Cooper’s Office Supply. They played in locations such as the Elks Club and Eagles Club in Fergus Falls and at other area establishments.
In 1982 some guys from the Dave Schafer Band formed a new band called “E.Z. Duzit.” A year later “Head Over Heels” began to play together.
Johnson’s last band, “Heads Up,” formed in 1986 and played together until 1989. A year later he started a DJ business and hired disc jockey Jon Johnson to assist.
His main job was at Lake Region Healthcare where, in 2016, he retired as director of materials management after 35 years of service.
In 2014 Johnson was asked to provide sound for an outdoor ceremony at LRH marking the groundbreaking for a new clinic. He drew on his many years of experience with his bands and his wealth of experience with sound equipment.
“You could hear every word they said,” noted Johnson, “and you could hear an S or T for three blocks around what later became the new Lake Region Healthcare clinic in December 2015.”
His final six months at LRH were devoted to purchasing and coordinating a long list of equipment for the new clinic. He also coordinated the move to the new facility.
“It was exciting to be part of that,” Johnson said.
He remembers other area bands that were popular over the years, and solo artists with ties to this area such as Fargo native Bobby Vee and Gary Puckett whose grandparents lived in Pelican Rapids.
Other venues, in addition to Balmoral, Elks and Eagles included the armory in Fergus Falls, Detroit Lakes Armory, Detroit Lakes Pavilion, Leaf Lake Ballroom near Henning, the Barrett Lakeside Pavilion, Vagt’s Barn near Breckenridge, Clarissa Ballroom, area high schools and many others.
The Unbelievable Uglies were a popular band from Detroit Lakes and baby boomers also remember the Fabulous Flippers, The Red Dogs and other bands.
In all, Johnson believes he has participated in close to 3,000 performances over the years.
His brother, Dan, two years younger, also was in “The Rubber Band.” Prior to that Dan had a band called “The Gremlins.”
The Gremlins, preteens, played in downtown Fergus Falls during the summer in front of Roy Olson Music a time or two.
In 1966 the Gremlins made a recording at KOTE Radio. Dan was only 10 years old at the time and was the leader of the band.
Their songs were a number of copy tunes, not original songs. A 33 LP record was cut from the master tape. Later, older brother Steve made a copy of the master tape remastered to cassette.
Steve then remastered the cassette to CD and each of the four band members received a copy.
Tom Hintgen is a longtime Daily Journal columnist. His column appears Saturdays.