SD Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Geoff’s thoughts on April 21, 2017, the weekend Wakefield was inducted to the SD Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

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I’m feeling very humble this weekend. As my band Wakefield is being inducted into the SD Rock and Roll Hall of Fame I feel compelled to acknowledge some of the people and circumstances in my life that brought me here. I realize that not everyone who contributed to music in this state gets this honor and I don’t feel I deserve this any more than anyone else., but here I am. For me it all started with my family. My first heroes were my older brothers (I’m the youngest of 9 kids). Specifically Bob, Kevin, and Gordy who were playing in bands when I was in the single digits and instilled in me an insatiable love of Rock and Roll. They were my first influence, doing heavy rock from Led Zeppelin and Grand Funk with their band Iron Hill and others. When I was 14 I had the amazing good fortune to receive a phonecall from Evan Jones who wanted to start a band. Evan has always been an incredible talent and probably the hardest working and best human being I’ll ever have the honor of knowing. We started a band called Shadowfax (Gandalf’s horse from the Lord of the Rings) with my brother Bob on lead vocals, Mike Riley on bass guitar, and Ron Bartakowski on drums. Evan and I were the kids in the band (14 and 15) and we learned a lot from our older bandmates. Mike opened my eyes to the genius of the Beatles… who I thought were just a pop band at the time (not heavy enough for me). As I started getting out and playing a bit I saw so many other local bands with incredible talent that inspired me. I saw Deadwood at a downtown street dance with Jon Sympson on guitar and Duane Paul on drums. They we’re musicians that knew how to jam and I was awestruck watching Jon sing The Ballad of Dwight Frye by Alice Cooper and Duane solo on Soul Sacrifice by Santana. I remember seeing Starchild doing “glam-rock” tunes from David Bowie and Mott the Hoople with Al Hanson on lead vocals, Chuck Salisbury on bass guitar, Mark Olson on drums, and guitarists Bob Wratz and Don Lerdal and later Clint Kennedy. Starchild had great sound and lights and put on a real show along with their music. Other great bands in the area that inspired me were Felix, Brotherhood, Destroyer (Bob, Kevin and Gordy played in this), Clown, the all original band ZeBrick with Jeff Thomson and his brother Bob.

Around 1975 (I was 15) Evan and I decided to start our own band. I had always wanted to play with this amazing bass player I knew from Jr. High named Danny Paul (Duane’s younger brother). I first saw Danny play in 6th grade! We also got some drummer we heard was pretty good by the name of Jeff Koller. Jeff turned out to be one of the best rock drummers and all around musical talents to ever come out of this state, and probably the entire region. Through the years Danny eventually left the band and we had the good fortune of getting Starchild’s bass player Chuck Salisbury, who we had idolized in Starchild and was one of the very best bass players in the area and also a great all around musician and vocalist. Another bass player for a brief stint was Pat O’Dea, the late brother of Tom O’Dea, who worked with Starchild. While Chuck was in the band we tried having a lead vocalist a couple of times, the first was Al Hanson, another Starchild member and an awesome vocalist that we were excited to have in the band, but he decided to take a break from the band scene and start a family. Later we had another vocalist named Roy Hedges from Aberdeen who had a great stage presence but didn’t work out long term. When Chuck left the band we searched for the perfect bass player who we would work with for the remainder of our days and found him in Dave Horan from Rapid City, when of the nicest guys I’ve ever met and a great friend. Wakefield was blessed in so many ways, and a huge one was having the best crews imaginable… Mark Smith, Mike Wheeler, Dave Braun, Paul Wyatt, and many others were an integral part of the show. I’ll never forgot how these guys were willing to dress up in orange jumpsuits without a complaint… and make them look cool! Seriously, they were the hardest working, smartest, coolest guys ever and they chose be in my band and I am humbled. All of the Wakefield guys were a huge inspiration and I feel extremely blessed to call them friends.

While in Wakefield we were inspired by countless other local bands that traveled the same circuits as us, such as the mighty Aaron Baron band with Brian Detmers, Dick Bartling, Scott Miller, Joe Ravenscroft, Jeff Marso which later morphed into Pressure Point. Other bands were Southwind, Rox Band (with my late brother Gordy, Dave Vanderlinde, Rex Scott and the late Dale Diamond), Flatcat, and others. All of these bands and bandmembers deserve recognition and I know I’m missing tons of people that had a big impact on me.

Truly deserving of recognition is my wife Erin Gunderson who put up with being a “bandwife” and being home raising two young daughters while I was out playing rockstar in some little town in the 10 state region during the 80s. Also my daughters Jessica and Marissa as I was gone alot while they were growing up. I’m inspired by all the spouses and families who are able to let their significant other chase their dreams at the expense of quality family time. They are the ones who are really doing the sacrificing!

Last but not least is my huge gratitude for the folks that have come out and seen us over the years. I am so extremely humbled anytime someone would take their time and money and choose to spend it with something I am involved with. That is my biggest inspiration and definitely what makes it all worthwhile! I am floored by the support we’ve received over the years and it is appreciated more than you could ever know. There should be a special award given to live music fans!

If you’ve read this please call me out on all the folks I’ve overlooked and know it wasn’t intentional. Please tag those I’ve missed or comment. We are extremely fortunate in SD to have so much talent in this state and more specifically in Sioux Falls. I want to get something out there to show my appreciation and I know there are many more. I need to take a nap before tonight’s festivities (reception and jam session). Check out Keloland news at 6:00 tonight for a great story by Kevin Kjergaard who filmed some of our rehearsal last night and also some vintage footage from a KELO story from 30 years ago!.I hope to see everyone tomorrow!