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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Cherokee musician will enter Hall of Fame this summer

Monday, May 15, 2006

Some of you Baby Boomers may remember a popular 1950's TV Western called "Have Gun Will Travel", which starred Richard Boone as Paladin, a gun for hire. You may not know that Cherokee has its own version of the "gun for hire".

Don't worry, though - the tools of this man's trade are not firearms , but drumsticks.

"Has Drums - Will Travel" is what it says on Paul Sleezer's business card , and it's an appropriate slogan, because Sleezer, a 1965 Cherokee High School graduate, has provided the backbeat for several bands over the past 40+ years, and not just in the Cherokee area, but in Sioux City and Kansas City as well. His business card also indicates that Sleezer does not limit his drumming services to just "classic rock" bands, but welcomes blues, R & B , jazz, and country gigs also.

Sleezer thinks he first started drumming when he was about 13 years old, and says he was drumming for a band by the time he was in high school. His first band was an outfit headed by Howard "Tiny" Witcombe of Aurelia. Sleezer believes the group was called "Big Daddy's Combo". The band played country music and pop standards and had a weekly gig at the Indian Village in Sac City. Witcombe had to sign papers to act as Sleezer's legal guardian on weekends when the group was playing on the road. A couple of the other groups with which he played back then, for varying lengths of time, were The Inmates and a band whose name escapes him, but which apparently included my cousin, Bob Whitney, as one of the guitar players.

There are two of his bands on which we would like to focus for purposes of this article. The first of these is the Cherokee Jam Band, which has been a regular gig for Sleezer for the last few years. He had just returned to Cherokee four years ago, after having lived in Kansas City for 8 years, and was asked if he could get a band together for the first Cherokee Jazz Fest. He did, and this evolved into the current Cherokee Jam Band, whose other members include Sleezer's nephew Warren Sleezer on bass, Jimmie Davis and Mike Hoover on guitar, and Craig Jansen on keyboards. The Cherokee Jam Band has played several times in this neck of the woods over the last few years , and will be the "opening act" for headliners "Something Underground" at the Cherokee Sesquicentennial street dance this coming July 1.

The other band we want to mention is a rock and roll band called The Dodge Boys. Sleezer lived in Sioux City for 14 years, and played with this four-piece band from 1980-1985 . The other members of the Dodge Boys were George Larvick on bass and guitar, Randy Martin on guitar and vocals, and Mark Renfro on keyboards. The group actually formed in the 1970s, and took their name from the then-popular "Dodge Boys" commercial slogan of the car company. A couple of the early members actually worked at a Dodge dealership in Sioux City.

They were all in Cherokee the other evening to play together at the Gathering Place on Main Street. It was actually a rehearsal, because the group played at Stormin' Norman's RockNRoll Auditorium in Waterbury, Nebraska on May 6, as part of the Iowa Rock and Roll Music Association's "Rock The Roof Roadshow".

Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2004 Inductees The Fortes (pronounced for-tays) were also on the bill , as were 2005 inductees (Northwest Iowa's own) The Senders. The Dodge Boys were included on the bill because the group will be joining the other two groups as members of the Hall of Fame this coming Labor Day weekend. Sleezer says the band sounded pretty good in rehearsals, because Martin (an original member of another Hall of Fame group, the Board of Directors) and Renfro, like Sleezer, have continued to play in bands. Larvick, who worked at Flood Music Company in Sioux City when the Dodge Boys were an active group, continues to be active in the music business, too. He now owns a business, Larvick's Speakers, in Sioux City, and making master recordings is one of the services offered by the business. One of the things Sleezer likes about the Dodge Boys group is that all four members, in addition to playing their instruments, also do vocals. Much of the music they perform requires four-part harmony, so this is a real plus.

When asked his favorite genre of music to play, Sleezer said "blues and good old rock and roll " are his personal favorites, but added that he lived in Kansas City for 8 years, and when living there heard and played with some great jazz musicians. In addition, he's gotten involved with the Jazz Fest here in Cherokee the last few years, so he's "picked up a little bit of jazz." Sleezer has also played with several groups from the Sioux City area, most of which play Country music. Suffice it to say, Sleezer, who never played drums in the Cherokee school band, has a wealth of experience playing all types of popular music.

Congratulations, Paul, on the well-deserved Hall of Fame selection. Everyone' s invited to join the celebration at Arnold's Park on September 2, and hear the Dodge Boys (and most of the other new inductees) play. By the way, another of the 2006 Inductees will be the band The Scavengers, a group from Sutherland , with whom Paul Sleezer played in 1965-66.

Prior to that occasion, however, don't forget that Sleezer and his current band, the Cherokee Jam Band, will be the Opening Act at the Sesquicentennial Street Dance right here in Cherokee on July 1.

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