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Hall goes into 'Beast' mode

2/6/2014

By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT

By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT

mkenwright@dailynews.net

Their old venues might not exist, and its music now is considered classic.

But a local band is getting top billing for their first gig in 37 years.

Beast, a rock 'n' roll band based in Hays in the 1970s, will be inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame in Lawrence. Three of the former members will play in the induction ceremony March 1 at Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts.

The six-man band has three Hays connections -- Dean Dietz, lead singer; Don Wierman, lead guitarist; and Mike Schmidt, drummer. Bruce Brown, bass guitarist and singer; the late Michael Kerns, flautist and saxophonist; and Dana Messing, keyboardist, also were in the group.

"This is, by far, the best band I ever played in," Dietz said. "It had the best musicians. We all got along. It's hard to do when you travel on the road, but we didn't have any ego problems."

Dietz played his last show with Beast in Goodland in 1972 after he graduated college, started his career in agricultural banking, married and had children.

"I cut my hair, put on a suit and went to work," he said.

Beast, which blended cover songs with original music, played hits from such acts as Jethro Tull, Three Dog Night, the Allman Brothers Band, Chicago, Grand Funk Railroad and James Gang. It often played at the former Dark Horse Inn.

Schmidt said his favorite experience with Beast was recording with Norman Petty. The record producer worked with Buddy Holly and Paul McCartney.

The band partnered with the U.S. Department of Defense and played on military bases and reservations. Beast also toured throughout the Midwest.

Beast, after changing its name to Magic in 1975, broke up in 1977 as music began to change.

"We played a lot of clubs, a lot of dances and made hundreds of people happy," Schmidt said. "That was our goal was just to play what they wanted to hear and get out of town."