KWPC and KMCS Radio present the reunion of
Crusin’ and the XL’s in concert July 29 at GRD
For GRD organizers Kerry Keller and JJ Koehler, the idea of a proposed reunion concert of two of the greatest bands ever to hail from the Muscatine area was simple enough….but making it happen took almost a year to accomplish.
With special thanks to KWPC and KMCS radio of Muscatine, and to local author and musician Max Alan Collins, the Great River Days 2010 Concert Series will kick off with Iowa Rock and Roll Hall-of-Fame bands “Crusin’ and the “XL’s” sharing the main stage at Riverfront Park July 29 at 7:00 PM.
Crusin’ was among the first – if the not the first ‘60s revival bands in the Midwest. 2010 will mark the 35th anniversary of Crusin’, founded by keyboard player/lead singer Max Allan Collins, leader of the Daybreakers, the celebrated Muscatine, Iowa, combo (1966 - 1972) whose cult single, “Psychedelic Siren,” is one of the most anthologized garage-band recordings of the 1960s. Led by bestselling mystery writer Collins (Road to Perdition), Crusin’ continues to present its engaging mix of classic rock and their own ‘60s-style originals. The
current line-up includes original Daybreakers Collins and Bunn, as well as longtime Crusin’ drummer Steve Kundel and guitarist Jim Van Winkle.
In the mid- to late ‘70s, Crusin’ was perhaps eastern Iowa’s most popular band of any kind, playing to packed houses at all notable clubs of the era. They frequently played live on Muscatine FM station KFMH for popular, controversial DJ Steve Bridges.
Over the years, the band released three vinyl LPs, a goldvinyl EP, and three CDs. Crusin’s recording efforts have been widely praised by music-magazine reviewers: Goldmine called the band "eminently danceable and always listenable"; and Option (reviewing their 1991 CD, "Bullets!") raved of "a breezy pop-rock sound that recalls the best of the late'6Os." Their track (“Little Bit Me, Little Bit You”) for the nationally released 1992 Monkees tribute album, HERE NO EVIL, and won critical acclaim. In recent years, Crusin' has contributed around a dozen original songs to Collins’ independent feature films "Mommy" (seen on Lifetime TV with Crusin’ performing on camera), "Mommy's Day," and “Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market,” all available on DVD from Troma.
Crusin' has appeared in concert with such nationally prominent acts as the Turtles, the Young Rascals, Buckinghams, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, the Strawberry Alarm Clock, the Grass Roots, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Mary Wilson and the Supremes, Bobby Vee, Peter Noone, Chubby Checker, Freddy Cannon, Tommy Roe, the Kingsmen, Johnny Tillotson, Rare Earth, the Crystals, the Mamas and Papas, Bo Diddley and the Romantics.
The XL’s actually pre-dated so-called garage bands, and started in 1963 as a brass band called The Swinging Shepherds. Like many Midwestern rockers, the XL’s started in junior high and high school bands on various brass and wind instruments.
The original line-up key man was Joe McClean, bass player and one of the two dominant singers. The other lead singer, organist Bob Guy,was a smooth vocalist. Diminutive but powerful drummer, Les Thede was idolized by his peers, and guitarist Mike Heinrich had a frantic but fluid style. Gary Martin was the business manager primarily, but he got on stage to play sax and tambourine as well as add back-up vocals. That same year they converted to electric instruments, but always continued to carry brass – McClean on trumpet, Guy on trombone – with the aid of fill-in guitarists Jim Grothusen and Craig Ziegenhorn.
In eastern Iowa in the mid- to late sixties, there was no more influential or popular band than the XL’s. Showmen par excellence, the XL’s played constantly in Iowa and Illinois. They opened for numerous name bands, from the Buckinghams to the Yardbirds. Their single on the CBC label out of Omaha, “I Need A Ride,” got airplay on Davenport’s KSTT and other stations in 1967 and ‘68. The single was generating lots of excitement when the record label went belly up.
The XL’s played KSTT radio’s “Good Guy A-G-Go” at the Col Ballroom (also a Hall of Fame inductee) several summers running. Their popularity in eastern Iowa was, to invoke their name, unexcelled. At the urging of KSTT DJ Bob Henry, who felt the XL’s could make it big, the band came up with a song about teenagers on the beach, “Summer Love in the Sand.”
That recording was submitted to the national Vox Battle of the Bands in 1967. Competing against bands from all across the nation, the XL’s won. They were flown to Hollywood and performed the song in the MGM motion-picture production, “A Time To Sing” (starring Hank Williams, Jr. and Shelly Fabre). Few Iowa bands can claim a more nationally prominent feat and the film still plays on TCM from time to time.
When Guy and Heinrich were drafted, the XL’s changed their name to Fire and Ice, not missing a beat of popularity. Filling in on organ was the talented Andy Bailey and on guitar Larry Barrett, who had been the driving force behind the Iowa City band Uncle and the Anteaters, and who later joined the Daybreakers in their Rox incarnation. Fire and Ice with these members ended in 1969, although manager Gary Martin kept the group going with various members for a while.
Although the band members have since relocated around the country, they did reunite in 2008 for a one-off performance at Wilton’s Founders’ day. The fan response was overwhelming, and subsequently the XL’s were inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009.
Given that the XL’s are flying in for this very special performance at GRD, a “rain date” has been added, should weather prohibit the scheduled Thursday July 29 show.