The Vietnam war “was confusing everybody, by then. There was a strong anti-war sentiment. We didn’t know if we would be drafted, enlist, or object,” said Dan Rowles, the 1970 class president at Patrick Henry High School.
Against that backdrop, the 10-piece outgrowth of “a jug band we had in high school,” that played “school events” morphed into the Explodo Boys who began playing every Northside party imaginable. As happens with most bands that go pro, personnel switched out over the years, and the players branched out to also lead or play with other bands, many more famous than the original.
When Rowles, Rich Lewis, and musicians they currently gig with come to the Lowry Avenue Harvest Festival Sept. 17, 3-5 p.m. as “The Explodo Boys” they’ll bring their love of “the stunning poetic lyrics” and “high degree of musicianship and integrity” found in Americana tunes, a genre that Rowles describes as great music, sort of country but without the Nashville glitz. They’re best remembered for rhythm and blues, rock and roll, and some New Orleans stuff.. “Having a Party” by Sam Cooke, and
“I’m Your Puppet,” will definitely make the list, Rowles said.
While other musicians may sit in for a couple tunes, the core group is Rowles on piano and vocals, Lewis on guitar and vocals, Max Ray on sax, Greg Fleming-Wolfe on guitar, Karl Smelker on bass, Kory Badertscher on drums, with potential guest appearances by John Peterson, Mickey Powell and Tim Rummelhoff.
Lewis, who owns a tobacco shop, was pipe maker of the year in 2011. Rowles worked with Garrison Keillor for over a decade. Ray played with the Wallets and Menage-A-Twang, and is brother of Dave Ray. Fleming-Wolfe played with North Country and WEDG, Smelker with the Barking Ducks (and also hosts Louisiana Rhythm on KFAI Radio). Badertscher has played with numerous bands and drummed on Three Bedroom Ramblers’ record.
“We’re hopeful for the revitalization of the North Side, and recovery from the tornado,” he said. He grew up near 36th and Emerson, and took a trip back to see the now tree-less neighborhood, “the houses with tarps on, looking like a war zone, so sad. We’re looking forward to the Harvest Festival,” said Rowles, “hoping for good weather, and to see new and familiar faces.”
The Explodo Boys will play 3-5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17, on the showmobile stage at Penn and Lowry Avenues North.