Published: Sep 13th, 2016
The word iconic gets thrown around these days with the ridiculous frequency of a texting teenager. That being said, it’s fair to use it to define The Rude Band. Maybe you think it’s a bit overdone, because, after all they’re just a cover band from South Dakota. So what?
Twenty five years is a LONG time to do anything, let alone be successful at it. Want an example? Here’s just a short list of what is widely considered as iconic, but yet can’t boast a track record of 25 years of doing it: The Beatles, Seinfeld, Cal Ripken’s consecutive games streak and all of Ric Flair’s title reigns combined. Twenty five years as a cover band from South Dakota…that’s saying something.
As The Rude Band approaches its 25th anniversary, it does so with Grace Hansen as the sole remaining original member. Ironically, Grace was actually the last person to join what was then known as Maxx Boogie and the Rude Awakening, South Dakota’s version of Captain Geech and Shrimp Shack Shooters.
The band was formed in 1991 by Kevin Flynn and Warren Fiihr —roommates who also worked together at Sioux Falls radio station KPAT. The pair tapped into resources Kevin had gained through his work with nationally syndicated DJ Randy Miller, and used Jonathon Brandmeier, a Chicago radio personality, as a model. Brandmeier was a DJ who also had a successful band on the weekends, Johnny and the Leisure Suits. Flynn and Fiihr named their band after Flynn’s morning show on 97.3 KPAT, “Maxx Boogie and the Rude Awakening,” with Flynn playing the part of Maxx Boogie both on the air and on stage. The pair brought in Kevin Johnson on drums and Mike Jensen on keyboards. It was Jensen who drew Hansen into the band on vocals and guitar, as they had previously worked together in a band called Tarot. With the line-up complete and the successful Brandmeier model as a guide, the band was on its way to one day reach the heights of “Best Cover Band in Sioux Falls” (Eyes on You Magazine, 1995) and “10 People Who Should Get Out of Town” (Tempest,1996). It’s the latter of the two awards, if you will, that Hansen seems to wear with the most pride. She has been known to refer to her band as “the most disrespected band in South Dakota.” She was once told by a concertgoer, the band sounded “just like a K-Tel record.”(Some of you may need to Google or Wiki that reference.) However, you can’t have a run of 25 years without some level of success, which Grace attributes to a very simple philosophy: The Rude Band “plays songs that chicks dig.” While it might be a cute little phrase on a website or T-shirt to some, it truly is the mantra upon which the band is built. As Hansen explains, when you form a band, you can either choose to “play to chairs or crowds.” Its “Art vs. Money”—which also happens to be a band that included Hansen and former Rude members, Ben Dee and Greg Kleinsasser. Hansen says there’s no reason to vary from the formula because “the formula works.” The Rude Band did massage the approach a few years ago when it went to one solitary set break, thus increasing party time. Besides, no one ever says “I love that band, I just wish they’d take more breaks!” So, they don’t. The proof is in the numbers: The Rude Band is currently playing to more people per year than it ever has.
The band works nearly 100 dates a year, traveling as far east as Illinois, as far west as Colorado, north to the Canadian border and as far south as Kansas, playing street dances, colleges, fairs, festivals, private parties and night clubs. Over the course of their quarter century run, the band has shared the stage with a wide variety of nationally known acts including Night Ranger, Pam Tillis, Little River Band, Blue Oyster Cult, Georgia Satellites, Lou Gramm, Joe Diffie, Boy Howdy, Rick Springfield, Foreigner and Martina McBride.
It’s tough to make something successful for 25 years, and even tougher to do it with the same people contributing consistently: The Rude Band is no exception. Hansen claims Greg Kleinsasser said it best; “The way to keep the band together and playing is simple. Don’t change the name, no matter how many members come and go.” The bands name has always retained similarity to the original “Maxx Boogie & The Rude Awakening” incarnation, the name was shortened to “The Rude Awakening” after the departure of Kevin Flynn and then simply “The Rude Band.” The membership has undergone more changes over the years. Their website lists 15 band alumni, all fondly remembered and treasured for their contributions, in addition to the four current members of the band.
At the end of the first year, founding member, Flynn had moved on to the Twin Cities to further his radio career and Kleinsasser had taken over keyboard duties from Jensen. These were the first of several personnel changes over the last quarter century, but Hansen says nearly all of the departures were on good terms. Young adults grow up, get new jobs, get married and have kids. So do band members. Sometimes, The Rude Band just can’t fit into their lives, so we give them a big hug and a kiss and start looking for the next musician to corrupt. Raine Jerke’s two and a half years in the band on vocals and bass rank as one of the bands most formative periods. Jerke replaced founding member Warren Fiihr. “Raine brought something different to the band. Prior to Raine, we were what one would expect in a great variety band (hats, jokes, parody songs, etc.). What Raine brought with him and helped integrate into our show was the straight forward, in-your-face, rock concert presentation that The Rude Band is now known for,” says Hansen.
While drummer, Chuck Case’s time as a full blown member lasted just short of two years, his impact on the band still shows today, as his former drum student, Tyson Conn, currently mans the drum kit to provide The Rude Band with its backbeat. Conn’s contributions to the current The Rude Band lineup doesn’t end with just his drumming. Tyson’s rap (that’s right, rap) skills enable the band to perform material other cover bands struggle with, such as Li’l Wayne, Flo-Rida, Pitbull and Young MC. Hansen says Conn is “the most consistent member of the band, and a hard-working team player.” Trace Mahoney, who currently holds down bass and vocals, actually turned down the job in 2000, much to his own disappointment. He is formerly of The Go Figure Band. The entertaining and engaging band can be found performing in five different states regularly, with five additional states thrown in for good measure every year.