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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

'Phoenix' to reunite again for benefit concert in Cherokee

Friday, October 7, 2011

Phoenix, circa 1984 - The rock group Phoenix is shown in this photo, taken on July 6, 1984 at the Cherokee VFW. Left to right, Wayne Morris, Larry Heschke, Marvin Wipperling, Lars Hersom and Darwin Eaton. Photo contributed.
Beginning at 8 p.m. and lasting until midnight on Saturday, the popular Phoenix band will be performing a benefit concert for the Cherokee VFW. Cost will be $5.

The VFW is currently raising funds to complete a renovation project to make the VFW Hall more accessible to handicapped persons.

The chronology of rock and roll bands can be fascinating stuff. Taking a look at the various bands the members of Crosby, Stills and Nash have played in, for example, leads one to The Byrds, Hollies and Buffalo Springfield among others. Though the bands may not be as notable (pardon the pun) as these, a look at many other group's histories can also lead to a web of short-lived and long-lived other group affiliations.

Take the band Phoenix, for example. People may have come to find out that there have been a number of bands throughout the world with this moniker, by the way, but the group to which I'm referring is one which was formed right here in Northwest Iowa by a group of young men in 1981 and was one of the more popular bands in the 1980s and 1990s.

The group began in 1981 when three former members of The New Senders (who, in turn, were themselves a spinoff from the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees The Senders), Darwin Eaton, Marvin Wipperling and Wayne Morris, all of Pocahontas, recruited Fonda residents Lars Hersom and Larry Heschke to form a new band. They began by playing two nights a week at The Princess in Pocahontas, and decided to take the name "Phoenix" for their new group. Heschke and a friend, Chuck Schmitt, designed the logo (see photo), and the band was ready to play their first official job, at the Lytton Legion Hall, on New Year's Eve.

Phoenix spent the next three years playing every weekend at places like Indian Village in Sac City, The Princess in Pocahontas, The Winchester and the VFW here in Cherokee (see photo) and The Elks' Club in Storm Lake, as well as for weddings and other special events in area towns, including Larrabee, Spencer and Marcus, among many others.

As happens with all groups, though (except for Aerosmith), two members of the group (Lars Hersom and Darwin Eaton) decided, for different reasons, to leave the band in 1984. The three remaining members then formed a new band, Sneak Attack, adding new members John Peters and Ted Hoffman to the mix.

In August of 1985, Sneak Attack temporarily disbanded, but Darwin Eaton stepped back into the picture, and Phoenix "rose from the ashes," like the mythical bird for whom they were named, and resumed playing under that name for a few months. In January 1986, Sneak Attack resumed playing, and later that year original Phoenix members Morris, Wipperling, Eaton and Heschke decided to put Phoenix back together and added Lance Demers of Storm Lake as their new drummer.

Three years later, in 1989, Demers moved away and Jim Menke was brought in as the new drummer. The band played in this configuration until the end of 1992, when Morris, Wipperling and Heschke again formed a new group, which they called Steppin' Out. Steppin' Out featured Annie Debacker and Wipperling's teenage son Jesse on the drums. After a couple of years, the decision was made to bring Phoenix back as a 4-piece group with Morris, Wipperling, Heschke and Jesse Wipperling. So once again, Phoenix rose from the ashes, and they resumed played as a group until 1997, when Wayne Morris decided to retire from playing to start his own sound company.

Yes, the Wayne Morris to whom we have been referring in this article is indeed the same Wayne Morris who now resides here in Cherokee with his wife Mary, and provides excellent sound reproduction for the Cherokee Community Theatre and just about anyone performing at the Cherokee County Fair, Western Iowa Tech, The Gathering Place, and various other venues around the area. Wayne was named Cherokee's Citizen of the Year in

2007 for all his contributions to the community.

Though Wayne has not actively performed music since his "retirement" twelve years ago, several of the other members of Phoenix have continued to play music. Darwin Eaton returned to The Senders, and has been a member of that group for several years now. Marvin Wipperling also returned to the Senders (didn't Elvis do that song, "Return to Sender?") for a time , and also played with a group in Kansas City. Former drummer Jim Menke plays in a band in Missouri called Plan B; Lance Demers plays drums at his church; Jesse Wipperling is a music teacher and was part of a band called Tantrum 2 Blind for many years, and currently plays in a duo with Josh Nielsen. Larry Heschke played in the group Hundred Proof and also helped found the bands Slow Jam, Charisma and Third Warning. He also recently started a DJ/Karaoke business called "Partytown Sound." Sound.

In late 2009 the band got back together for a benefit for the Fonda Arts Center that was a huge success. Please join them on Saturday as the take on another special cause for the Cherokee VFW.

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