The Day The Music Lived – Again

One bleak winter night years ago a small plane went down in a Northwest Iowa corn field and the music of those inside died for awhile. Thankfully, the remnants of their songs hung around and they came blasting back last Saturday at the Rosemary Clausen Center in Holstein.

What a show Richie Lee and The Fabulous 50’s put on. Things started out tame enough with renditions of Bobby Darin, The Everly Brothers, and Ricky Nelson hits. If they had stopped with these, the night would still have been a great walk down Memory Lane – hand in hand back in time to high-school dances in the lunch room after Friday night football games or slow dancing at the Cobblestone in Storm Lake on warm summer evenings. (Who doesn’t love “16 Candles”?) However, these guys weren’t content with just evoking an era; they actually brought it back to life.

Oh, the stage banter could use some polish but their mastery of the genre was way above reproach. Which is amazing considering they’ve only been playing together for about four weeks. Lee’s regular back-ups lived through the golden age of rock and roll and simply weren’t up to an extended tour. Hence, the assembly of a younger group – Jason McGlone on drums, Andrew Foreman on bass, and Zachary Schmidt at the keyboard. All with the exception of Lee, are primarily jazz men but they had a field day with the rockem sockem hits of the 50’s.

Things really took off in the second set. “Peggy Sue”, “Maybe Baby”, “Oh, Boy” pushed the crowd back in their seats. People were smiling, clapping, and a few staid Germans were even seen singing along! Then came Ritchie Valens’ stuff – “La Bamba” and “Donna”. There were whistles and shouts from the audience whose kids are probably older than the performers. It was so far out, it was almost in again. Then the boys whanged into “Boney Maronie” and nearly blew the roof off.

Just when a person thought it couldn’t get any wilder or any more fun, they thundered into “Great Balls of Fire”. Lee’s guitar was smoking; Foreman’s bass danced; McGlone’s drums were all over the place; and Schmidt tossed his stool and started banging heck out of the keyboard. It was not for the faint of heart, folks. Wowser – what a night! If you were there, you know what I’m talking about; if you weren’t, you sure should have been.