Country Music

A vast majority of the bands that played in Oelwein at the Coliseum, taverns and bars were country bands. Oelwein boasted many different styles of music: Rock, Country, Big Band, Folk, etc.  Among all those different music styles, probably the most successful band to ever hail from Oelwein was a variety band called “The Andy Doll Band.”

In 1973, there was a Country Music Show and Contest at the Oelwein Drive-In that featured many local bands. Click on the picture below to see article that ran in the local paper. 

Some of the country bands from this era of Oelwein music include:

The Andy Doll Band

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The Andy Doll Band: Left to Right – PeeWee Cherrier, Lefty Schragge, Ike Thurn, Andy Doll, Chet “Daddio” Bradley, Bobby Hankins, Dean Niehaus

Members: Chet “Daddy-o” Bradley, Billy Reints, Gary Hinderberger, Andy Doll, Clarence “PeeWee” Cherrier, Lefty Schragge, Dean Niehaus, Carlos Freymiller, Harvey Frederick, Larry Smith,  Bobby Hankins, Ike Thurn and others.  Added on for the bigger dates were steel guitar player Dale Thomas and Sue Ellen, vocalist.
The Andy Doll Band started in May, 1952, and grew to top success through the years.  Two years after their Fan Club was formed, their hit record “Wild Desire” came out and climbed to the top of many charts.  In the last year the NBOA (National Ballroom Operators Association) held their annual poll, the boys received this national rating on an award Andy kept in his office for years; as follows….Best Western Dance Band in U.S. was No. 1 – Hank Thompson; No. 2 Andy Doll Band.  In The Best Small Variety Band In U.S.; No. 1 – Dukes Of Dixieland; No. 2 – Clyde McCoy; No. 3 – Andy Doll Band.
Check out his page and listen to some of his music that all local country bands in Oelwein and the midwest tried to emulate for years.


Bobby Hankins Show

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Bobby Hankins and the Blue Boys

MEMBERS: Bobby Hankins, Bobby Hicks, Billy Wayne, Hal Rugg, Dixie Hankins, Al Ricchio, Lefty Schrage, Barb Schrage, Keith Thompson, and Buddy Cornwall
Bobby Hankins was originally from Edgewood, but spent a lot of time in Oelwein working at KOEL and performing around town. Did you know at one time Bobby Hankins and Andy Doll were both on the front page of the Fender catalog as endorsers right along with other big names?

Bobby’s daughter, Dixie Hankins, who played drums with her dad’s band when she was about 8 years old, is still continuing her career in Texas.


The Blue Flames

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The original members of the Blue Flames. Left to right: Clarence “PeeWee” Cherrier, Gary Hinderberger, Bill Reints.

Members throughout the years included PeeWee Cherrier, Bill Reints, Gary Hinderberger, Don Stohr, Steve Westpfahl, Norm Peterson, Jimmy & Terry Campbell, Warren Doll, Saki Magonical and Don Verba

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The Blue Flames were inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.

The original members of the The Blue Flames (Pee Wee Cherrier, Bill Reints and Gary Hinderberger) came from the Andy Doll Band,  The band played throughout the northeast Iowa area. Songs ranged from 50’s and 60’s rock, old and new country, with a half dozen or so off the charts at all times.Their songlist included Pretty Woman, Cab Driver, Old Time Rock and Roll, Blue Skirt Waltz, Rock Around the Clock, and Smoking in the Boys Room. Over the years the band worked up over 1000 songs. They always featured three way vocal harmonies from day one until the end.
The Blue Flames played until about 93 or 94 with Bill Reints, Steve Westpfahl and Don Stohr.


Leo Greco Band

The Leo Greco Band

Leo Greco played with the Tom Owens Band until 1948 when he left started his own band, Leo and the Pioneers, which eventually became the Leo Greco Band. The band toured the Midwest for more than 20 years. “Kent Seeds presents the Leo Greco Show” was aired on six television stations in Iowa and Illinois and 23 radio stations.
Host of KOEL AM Polka Party and had a hit song “Little Red Wagon” He also was on the air at KGLO Mason City, and WMT Cedar Rapids.  Greco was honored by the National Association of Broadcasters with the Marconi award for Radio Personality of the Year.


Al Ricchio Band

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Al Ricchio

Formerly a member of the  Bobby Hankins Show, Ricchio established himself as a premier steel guitar player, toured as a solo act and fronted his own band for many years. Members of his band included –  Mike Ricchio, Glen Ostrander, Jerry Howard, Sharon Morris and many others.
Al and his band appeared at many state and county fairs opening for acts like Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Brenda Lee, and Billy Crash Craddock. In addition to performing with national acts, Ricchio wrote many songs that he sold to country music stars who recorded them for their albums.
Ricchio also had a long time friendship with national recording star Marvin Rainwater.
Check out his page to hear some of his live recordings.


Johnny Clendenen and the Impalas

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Johnny Clendenen and the Impalas

MEMBERS: Johnny Clendenen, Sherry Clendenen, Jim Mazziotti, Rick Clendenen, Jim Ponder, and Tom Kammer.
Johnny’s band was the “House Band” at Berger’s Tap in Downtown Oelwein for many years.

Johnny’s band played all over Iowa in addition to Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The band recorded two songs, “Bull Dog”, and “Blues Stay Away From Me”
Johnny Clendenen was “Rockabilly” before the term was invented and he enjoyed how many of his fans thought he looked and acted like Elvis.


Milt Campbell and the Country Buddies

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Milt Campbell and the Country Buddies

MEMBERS: Milt Campbell, Jim Campbell, Judy Campbell, Danny Campbell, Janet Campbell, Ronnie Fitz, Jodeen Fitz, Tom Kammer
In 1966, Milton formed the Country Buddies Band that most of his children played in along with a son-in-law.

Milt also played in several bands throughout Iowa and Missouri, playing country music at community events and jamborees. He also had a recording studio while living in Oelwein.
Milt Campbell was one of the top country bands in Eastern Iowa at the time. They also made money recording and playing on jingles for local merchants that were broadcast on local AM radio station KOEL. Milt was a member of the Oelwein music base that included Bobby Hankins, Leo Greco (hit song “Little Red Wagon”), Pee Wee Cherrier, Andy Doll, Alex Ricchio, and others. A lot of those guys would stop at Milt’s studio frequently. Milt played steel guitar, banjo, fiddle, and mandolin. Milt was a “cool” guy that came from a completely different generation and musical background and yet was friends with many of the young musicians in Oelwein.


Bill Reints

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Billy Reints

Bill Reints was a member of the legendary Oelwein band, The Andy Doll Band and later started The Blue Flames. He was the leader of the Blue Flames for over 25 years.

The Blue Flames (Bill Reints, Donnie Stohr, and Steve Westpfahl) were inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016. Read Bill’s story at his website.


Dixie Hankins

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Dixie Hankins and Marty Stuart

Dixie played with her dad in the original Bobby Hankins Show. She is still making a living playing drums in Texas.


Craig Davidson

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Craig Davidson

Craig Davidson started out playing music in Oelwein with Donnie Stohr and Steve Westpfahl. He also filled in with Milt Campbell and Country Buddies, The Blue Flames, Don Vargason and Butch Gage.
He went from there to playing with The Esteems from Waverly. He did this gig for about a year before going to work with CD Country Sounds out of Manchester.
Just before he turned 16, Davidson joined The Drifters from Janesville. He played for them about 8 years.
From there he worked with several different bands until he started Quickdraw in the early 90’s. They were together about 6 years with various local members until Davidson got tired of band leading and went to work for The Dave Dighton Band from Coggon.
With Quickdraw he worked with David Houston and Hank Thompson. They also opened for Waylon Jennings, Sammy Kershaw, Clinton Gregory, and Highway 101.


Country Patriots

The Country Patriots

MEMBERS:  Mike Vargason, Rob Tatro, John Chapman, Kelly Murphy. Later evolved into Blue Horizon.
These were 14-15 year old kids who were playing all the local bars and taverns around northeast Iowa.

For their first couple of gigs, they would run all the instruments and vocals through one little amplifier and played country songs by Waylon Jennings, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Clark, and Mel Tillus.
A couple of rock songs they learned at this time was  Roll Over Beethoven by Electric Light Orchestra. Also, Joy to the World by Three Dog Night.
They played at Tavern in the Town (The TIT) in Wadena and at Clyde Ohl’s in Maynard. Also played in taverns and bars in Arlington, Fairbank, and Aurora and other northeast Iowa villages and hamlets.
They later decided to change from country to rock music so that they would appeal to their own age group. They changed their name to Blue Horizon are started a new career that far surpassed their meager beginnings.


Keith Thompson Trio

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Keith Thompson Trio

Keith Thompson, Tom Kammer, Janene Thompson


Chick and the Country Queens

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Chick and the Country Queens

MEMBERS: Dorrie Bantz, Bonnie Bantz, and Chick


The Plainsmen

plainsmenSmallMEMBERS: Steve Bachman, Linda Bachman, Ed Kammer, Tom Kammer, Chuck Baker, Larry Donaldson

 


  • Quickdraw:  MEMBERS: Craig Davidson, Fred Davidson from Oelwein, Frank Fitz from Westgate, Rob Tatro, John Arntson from Waterloo, Lis March from Waterloo, John Gotschalk from Waterloo, and Michael Cutsforth from Waterloo.
  • The Sundowners: Ronnie and Janet Fitz, Frank Fitz, Tom Kammer
  • The Country Edition: Don Vargason, Wayne Earl, Butch Gage, Steve Westpfahl, Jodeen Fitz, Frankie Fitz, Don Stohr
  • Blue Countrymen: Craig Davidson, Steve Westpfahl, Don Stohr
  • CD Country – Don Stohr and others
  • Don Lamphier Band
  • Gage Country: Butch Gage, Dave Rehlander, Kelly Murphy
  • Duane Lamphier and the Country Squires
  • Fontana Playboys-Hazelton – Members include Lorranine Chase, Donnie Stohr

Leave a comment below to let us know more details about the above bands and any additional bands we should add. If you have pictures, websites or music to add, let us know.

14 comments on “Country Music
  1. Barb Ricchio says:

    Al Ricchio was my dad. Anyone wanting to hear some of his music can go check out this link. If not allowed please delete. https://soundcloud.com/norb-stenzel/memphis-tn

  2. Sheri Morris says:

    My Dad Alex Ricchio, was the best steel guitar player around Iowa. He also gave guitar lessons to the younger kids that kept him really busy. He backed up country stars like Tommy Cash (Johnny’s bro), Jeannie Sealy, Wanda Jackson, and Marvin Rainwater, who came to our home. Mom made Marvin the best breakfast he ever had. I know there are more stars that Dad played for. I also sang in my Dad’s band. It was fun! Some people said I sounded like Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette which made me feel good…

  3. Jay Sieleman says:

    I may be mistaken but I never thought of Johnny Clendenen as country. Maybe that reflects how time has changed perceptions. I thought of him as early rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly. I thought of him as Oelwein’s Elvis!!

    • indianakelly says:

      Jay – Good call! Johnny was playing Rockabilly in Oelwein before the phrase was even invented. I used to stand outside Berger’s tap and listen through the window and when the door would open I could hear full fidelity.The only reason he is in the country category is because he only played the downtown country bars, did not play any teen dances that I know of. But, if there was ever a “cross-over” artist in Oelwein, his band would be it.

      • indianakelly says:

        Jay – If you want to hear some authentic Oelwein music, be sure the check out the Andy Doll page. It is as country as can be, but it really captures the sound of country music that was playing around town in the 60’s and 70″s. All the country bands were trying to sound like Andy but few, if any, were able.
        Unfortunately, since I was a rocker at heart, I never appreciated his band as I much as I should have at the time he was still playing. But after listening to his recordings, I realized how much he was copied by the country bands that I listened to that played Oelwein. Listening to his songs now, brings back so many memories of the 4 or 5 country bands that were playing EVERY weekend downtown or at the Coliseum.

  4. Mary Ricchio says:

    Tex Ritter was playing at the coliseum. My Dad (Al Ricchio) and Mom were there that night and I was about 14. I did not know that Dad knew Tex Ritter. He came and sat with us. I was so excited because he sat right next to me! What a nice man. He asked Mom how all us kids were and gave Mom $20.00 to take the kids out for ice cream on him! It was so exciting to meet so many great country music icons! p.s. Tex told Dad that he should move to Nashville, but we never did. Also, Tex Ritter had a famous son, the movie and TV star John Ritter who passed a couple years ago.

  5. Von Ketelsen says:

    Would anybody have air checks (radio show recordings) of the Bobby Hankins Band, or Andy Doll Band? I worked at KOEL in Oelwein for a number of years, and we didn’t have any there.

  6. Dixie Hankins says:

    Nice to see my Dad , Bobby Hankins remembered. Hoping to add more to it…

  7. Frank Fitz and Andy Ricchio were not in his band! It was Glen Ostrander, Jerry Howard! Thank you for this awesome page!

  8. Von Ketelsen says:

    My Dad, Johnny Ketelsen, played many gigs at the Coliseum, in Oelwein, both with his band, (Johnny Ketelsen Band), as well as with Tom Owens Cowboys.

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