20 Years with The Rude Band! - Tuesday, September 13th
Written by Ryan Merriam
The word iconic gets thrown around these days with the ridiculous frequency of a texting teenager. That being said, it’s fair to use it to define the Rude Band. Maybe you think it’s a bit overdone, because, after all they’re just a cover band from South Dakota.
20 years is a LONG time to do anything, let alone be successful at it. Want an example? Here’s just a short list of what is widely considered as iconic, but yet can’t boast a track record of 20 years of doing it: the Beatles, Seinfeld, Cal Ripken’s consecutive games streak and all of Ric Flair’s title reigns combined.
Twenty years as a cover band from South Dakota…that’s saying something.
As the Rude Band embarks upon its 20th anniversary, it does so with Garret Hansen as the sole remaining original member. Ironically, Garret was actually the last to join what was then known as Maxx Boogie and the Rude Awakening, South Dakota’s version of Captain Geech and Shrimp Shack Shooters. The band was formed in 1991 by Kevin Flynn and Warren Fiihr - roommates who also worked together in Sioux Falls radio.
The pair tapped into resources Kevin had gained through his work with nationally syndicated DJ Randy Miller, and used Jonathon Brandmeier, a Chicago radio personality, as a model: Brandmeier was a DJ who also had a successful band on the weekends, Johnny and the Leisure Suits. Flynn and Fiihr named their band after Flynn’s morning show on KPAT 97.3 FM, Maxx Boogie and the Rude Awakening, with Flynn playing the part of Maxx Boogie. The pair brought in Kevin Johnson on drums and Mike Jensen on keys. It was Jensen who drew Hansen into the band on vocals and guitar, as the two had previously worked together in a band called Tarot. With the line-up complete and the successful Brandmeier model as a guide, the band was on its way to one day reach the heights of Best Cover Band in Sioux Falls (Eyes on You, 1995) and 10 People Who Should Get Out of Town (Tempest, 1996).
It’s the last award, if you will, Hansen seems to wear the most proud. He has been known to refer to his band as “the most disrespected band in South Dakota.” He was once told by a concertgoer the band sounded “just like a K-Tel record.” (Some of you may need to Google or Wiki that reference.) However, you can’t have a run of 20 years without some level of success, which Garret attributes to a very simple philosophy: the Rude Band “plays songs that chicks dig.”
While it maybe a cute little phrase on a website or T-shirt to some, it truly is the mantra upon which the band is built. As Hansen explains, when you form a band, you either choose to “play to chairs or crowds.” Its art vs. money - which also happens to be a pre-Rude Band band that included Hansen and current Rude member Greg Kleinsasser, the world’s only certified rock & roll Hutterite. Hansen says there’s no reason to vary from the formula because “the formula works.”
Rude did massage the formula a few years ago when it went to one solitary set break, thus increasing party time and making it more difficult to find a time for listeners to leave. The proof is in the numbers: Rude is currently playing to more people per year than it ever has.
The band works nearly 100 dates a year, playing everywhere from Saloon #10 in Deadwood, South Dakota, to street dances in Iowa and Minnesota to fairs in Nebraska. Over the course of their two decade run, Rude has shared the stage with a wide variety of acts including Night Ranger, Pam Tillis, Little River Band, Blue Oyster Cult, Georgia Satellites, Lou Gramm, Joe Diffie and Martina McBride.
It’s tough to make something successful for 20 years, and even tougher to do it with the same people contributing consistently: The Rude Band is no exception. Hansen claims Kleinsasser says the best way to keep the band together is to simply not change the name. While the moniker has morphed from the initial Maxx Boogie incarnation into simply the Rude Awakening and now the Rude Band, the membership has undergone more drastic changes. Their website lists 13 Rude Band alumni in addition to the four current memebers of the band.
Within the first year, founding member Flynn had moved on to further his radio career and Kleinsasser had taken over keyboard duties from Jensen. These were the first of several personnel changes over the score, but Hansen says nearly all of the departures were on good terms. Raine Jerke’s two and a half years in the band on vocals and bass rank among as one of the high points musically. Jerke replaced founding member Warren Fiihr. “Raine was one of the most talented performers we’ve ever had in the band.” says Hansen, which is high praise indeed. He was also the youngest member to join the band in its 20 years, which brought with it everything you can expect from a young, energetic musician both on and off stage. Jerke is still rocking the area, now as a member of PowerPlay along side his dad Rod.
While drummer Chuck Case’s time as a full blown member lasted just short of two years, his impact on the band still shows today, as his former drum student, Tyson Conn, currently mans the kit to provide Rude with its backbeat. Speaking of Conn, his contributions to the current Rude lineup don’t end with just his sticking. Tyson’s rap (that’s right, rap) skills enable the band to perform material other cover bands struggle with, such as Li’l Wayne and Young MC’s classic “Bust a Move.” Hansen says Conn is “the most consistent member of the band, a hard-working team player.” Rounding out the current lineup is Trace Mahoney on bass, who actually turned down the job ten years ago much to his own disappointment, formerly of The Go Figure Band. The entertaining and engaging quartet can be found performing in four different states by year’s end.
You can stay abreast of America’s Party Band via their website: www.rudeband.ws. The website has a history of Rude Band Alumni, tour dates, promo material and, of course, music. They also have music available for purchase at ReverbNation and Itunes as well as a variety of videos for your viewing pleasure on their own YouTube channel, rudeband.
Garret, Greg, Trace and Tyson will be playing songs chicks dig and helping raise money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
So go boogie to the maxx and see what awakens.