It’s been quite a ride for The Flatland Band.
A western Kansas staple for four decades, the band has performed from the state line at Colorado and up into Nebraska to Wilson Lake. They played in Wellington and at one time had been in just about every bar in the Hays and Ellis area. Some of the places the band has performed are still around such as The Brass Rail and The Wild Rose. Others, like the The Peanut House and Judge McGreevy’s are just memories.
The group has been through a few name changes and band members. On Saturday, though, The Flatland Band will take to the stage as a group one final time. They will perform at 8 p.m. at the Ellis Fairgrounds in Ellis.
As the years have gone by places for performances like The Flatband Band have dwindled. So, for Lyndell Rorabaugh, one of the founding members, this seemed like the time that would be good to finally stop.
“There were all these wonderful places to play and there were bands everywhere,” Rorabaugh said when they would perform in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. “You could pick and choose where you wanted to go.”
The times have changed, though, with the progression of DJ services and karaoke among other things that Rorabaugh said in a way have led to some of the demise of similar bands. She, of course, understands those things go with the change of time, but still, it’s hard to not be able to have people getting out on the dance floor and enjoying live bands like people once did.
“I don’t know if it’s just that generational gap, too,” she said. “I don’t think the kids know what two-step is. Not around here. Texas and places like that, it’s probably different, because they’re brought up with it, unless the music has just changed that much.”
Part of a family that grew up with two musically inclined parents, Albert and Lela Heroneme, Rorabaugh and her sister Bonnie and brother Alan, started playing different instruments and singing at a young age. In their teens, the sisters and brother teamed with their father and Mark Boos the band, The Heronemes+1. Bonnie stopped performing, and in 1984; Albert died at 67 years old.
From music by Johnny Cash to Pink Floyd, the Flatland Band has played just about anything they hope would get people out and dance. While Lyndell and Alan, who have been the two mainstays of the band, have sang vocals and played the bass and rhythm guitar, they’ve always been welcome to other instruments like the harmonica, fiddle and mandolin. Keith Burdett and Todd Toman will be performing on each of those Saturday for the band. Kurt Downing will be on the drums.
“We’ve always called our music, if you can’t dance to our music, then you can’t dance,” Rorabaugh said. “That’s what we were, we kind of builded ourselves as a dance band.”
Rorabaugh has fond memories of the places they’ve performed through the years. In the years they played the most they would travel two to three nights a week in a school bus. Some of the band members Rorabaugh and her family members found came from word of mouth. It was a friend who told Rorabaugh she needed to go hear Burdett play the harmonica at a performance.
It will be the end for The Flatland Band after Saturday, but Rorabaugh said she might just get up and sing at a place that has a stage, if they will let her. As far as the emotion of playing Saturday, Rorabaugh said she’s not sure how it will be.
“I don’t know how it will be for me,” she said.