Band headed to the Hall
By DAWNE LEIKER
For the Tempests, a 1960s Hays band, reconnecting and rehearsing for Saturday's Kansas Music Hall of Fame performance has been nearly as much fun as joining the hall of fame's talented roster of inductees.
The Tempests, along with Hays band The Playmate Blues Band and 11 other bands or individuals, will be inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame on Saturday night at Liberty Hall in Lawrence.
Rehearsing at the Vern Herrman garage Tuesday in Hays, eight original members and one newby blasted out "I Feel Good."
As reverb echoed off the tool boxes, the Tempests put the "band" back in "garage band."
The songs were familiar to the members, who originally performed together from 1962 to 1965, then got back together two years ago to play for a Hays High School reunion. For the last several months, they've been rehearsing remotely as they prepare for a 30-minute set at Saturday night's KMHOF event.
"Sometimes they say you can't ever go back," said drummer and lead vocalist John Herrman of St. Louis. "But we've got a do-over here, so we've got to enjoy it."
Tempest members rehearsing Wednesday night included: Dave Wann, keyboard; Don Wierman, lead guitar and vocals; Skip Schlyer, guitar and vocals; Dennis Higgins, guitar and vocals; John Herrman, drums, lead vocals; Cliff Engel, trombone; Trevor Engel, trumpet; Stan Schmidt, saxophone; Dave Herrman, trumpet; and Charlie Doerfler, trumpet. Drummer Mike Schmidt was set to rehearse with the group Wednesday and today.
All the band members are original to the group, with the exception of Trevor Engel.
One member of the Tempests, Jim Colyer, is deceased. His brother, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, is scheduled to make a proclamation at Saturday's event in Lawrence.
"Time Won't Let Me" by the Outsiders seemed a theme song for the band as they rehearsed Tuesday night.
"I can't wait forever, even though you want me to," the lyrics say. The Tempests haven't waited forever for their moment in the sun. But they have waited more than 40 years.
The song is a favorite of Skip Schlyer, who said it reminds him of the time the Tempests got to work with the Outsiders. The Outsiders were booked to play the junior/senior prom in Russell in the 1960s, but due to a bus breakdown, they were unable to get their equipment to Russell. The Tempests stepped up and offered their equipment to the band.
"It was a good time," Schlyer said. "Looking back, it amazes me.
"We were just young kids, and we had a real booking agent and would go out on the road. I think today, you couldn't do that."
Most of the band members were raised in Hays, and several still live in the area. Others have spent the last few decades in places such as Houston, Albuquerque or St. Louis.
Some have continued playing in bands, but many went to other careers.
Although the Tempests performed only three years, they covered a lot of ground.
Stan Schmidt, who now lives in Houston, said they played approximately 260 dances in five states in the 1960s.
Schmidt said the guys in the band, who ranged in age from 12 to 15, were allowed to pursue their musical lifestyle with encouragement from their parents.
"It's amazing," he said. "It's really amazing that they didn't choke us or something."
Schlyer was only 12 when he joined the band, but he'd been playing guitar since he was 5.
"My dad brought home a box guitar, and he talked to a music instructor," Schlyer said. "The instructor said, 'I don't know, he's pretty small.'
"But I picked it up pretty quick."
Schmidt said he's looking forward to Saturday's induction.
"I wish my parents were here to see it," he said. "Just simply because, at least for me, sports was everything in my family.
"Everybody was a sports hero. ... And I played band. This is probably one of the biggest thrills. ... Getting married and playing and being inducted in the Kansas Music Hall of Fame. It's a pretty big deal."
The band has a chemistry that doesn't seem to have lost any sizzle through the years.
"We walked in and just took up right where we left off," Schmidt said. "I'm pretty happy with what we have here."
Getting the band together two years ago was something Schlyer said he thought never would happen.
"When we did the '71 high school reunion, everything came back and everything clicked," he said.
John Herrman said the reunion performance was "a kick."
"A week before we met for two or three nights and pulled it off," Herrman said. "It was a unique situation to have these guys spread out all over the country and after 43 years actually get back together.
"It was a lot of fun."
For Herrman, though, one of the band's highest praises came when he overheard a class member talking to Schlyer's wife, Nancy, following the high school reunion.
As the class member said how much she had enjoyed seeing the band back together, Herrman said he heard Nancy Schlyer's reply.
"You know what's even better," he said he heard Nancy say, "each and every one of them is such a nice guy.
"And I don't know if there's a better compliment than if somebody says you're a nice guy. Nobody has an agenda. Everybody just got along so well."