CRUSIN’ – The Story of the Midwest’s First ‘60s Band
Crusin' was among the first — if the not the first — '60s-revival bands anywhere. 2014 will mark the 40th anniversary of Crusin', founded by keyboard player/lead singer Max Allan Collins, leader of the Daybreakers, the celebrated Muscatine, Iowa, combo (1966 - 1972) whose cult single, "Psychedelic Siren," is one of the most anthologized garage-band recordings of the 1960s.
Led by bestselling mystery writer Collins (Road to Perdition), Crusin' continues to present its engaging mix of classic rock and their own '60s-style originals. The current line-up includes Collins and longtime Crusin' members drummer Steve Kundel, guitarist Jim Van Winkle, and bass player Brian Van Winkle.
2009 concert at the "Underground" in Pearl Plaza.
Crusin' began in 1974. The Daybreakers had broken up in 1972, but several members continued recording together and occasionally performing in coffee houses. Getting together socially, Collins and Paul Thomas (bass player in the final Daybreakers line-up) bemoaned the disco and other unappealing music then on the radio. Both expressed an interest in starting another rock band up, but neither could tolerate the current fare.
"Why don't we get the old list out," Collins half-joked, "and call it nostalgia." The success of the film American Graffiti and of such 1950s acts as Sha Na Na seemed to indicate the Sixties might work just as well. The pair brought in drummer Ric Steed, veteran of a number of area bands, and guitarist Lenny Sloat, who had been in two well-respected Muscatine mid-'60s combos, the Coachmen and Depot Rains. Their first performance at Muscatine's popular disco, Warehouse 4, was a smash, with the band immediately booked back on a regular basis.
The quick, surprising success of Crusin' at local clubs inspired the band to go fulltime, and Sloat — only in the band a few months — opted out. Bruce Peters — the Daybreakers guitarist thought by many to have been one of the Midwest's greatest rock showmen — was appearing as a solo act at the Improv and other clubs in LA when he wasn't filling in with Van Halen and other top West Coast bands. Collins and Thomas convinced Peters to come back and join them, and the result was explosive — audiences who had enjoyed the band's oldies were knocked out by the showmanship and charisma of the revised line-up.
TL: Bruce Peters, TR: Ric Steed
BL: Paul Thomas, BR: Max Allan Collins
In the mid-to-late '70s, Crusin' was perhaps Eastern Iowa's most popular band of any kind, playing to packed houses at such notable clubs of the era as Muscatine's Warehouse 4, Grandview's Talk of the Town, Burlington's Ramp, Davenport's Al's Lounge, Conesville's Thirsty Camel, and especially Dodgeville's Pub, where for several years Crusin' played every other weekend to capacity crowds on both Friday and Saturday nights in the Pub's cavernous "Old Town" setting. They frequently played live on Muscatine FM station KFMH for popular, controversial DJ Steve Bridges, where “Pussy Whipped” (an outrageous track from Seduction of the Innocent, the all-star California band Collins performs with at comics conventions) became a regional hit.
In the early '80s, the band's name briefly changed to the Ones, with Iowa City guitarist Rob Gal coming in for an ailing Peters (now deceased). Collins left for a time to better pursue his blossoming writing career and the band went on as a three-piece. This version of the group was enormously successful on the Midwestern college circuit, playing New Wave-style rock and releasing an LP that won heavy college-station airplay, the group several times voted Iowa City's most popular band in radio station competitions. In the late '80s, Collins returned and the band appeared under both the Crusin' and Ones names — depending on the venue. “I Feel Better,” a Gal-penned tune from this period, became a regional hit thanks to Iowa City exposure.
L to R: Paul Thomas, Rob Gal, Max Allan Collins, Ric Steed
Shortly thereafter, Gal moved to the Atlanta area and became a successful record producer, but Collins and Paul Thomas kept going as Crusin'. With various members — including original Daybreakers bassist Chuck Bunn (who passed away in 2011), but always with Collins and, until his death in 2006, Thomas — Crusin' continues on to this day. The band has performed not only in Eastern Iowa but in Omaha, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Oakland, and Chicago, opened for national acts at Davenport's Col Ballroom, and twice appeared at the famous Williamburg, Iowa, World's Biggest Beach Party.
Over the years, the band released three vinyl LPs, a gold-vinyl EP, and three CDs. Crusin's recording efforts have been widely praised by music-magazine reviewers: Goldmine called the band "eminently danceable and always listenable"; and Option (reviewing their 1991 CD, "Bullets!") raved of "a breezy pop-rock sound that recalls the best of the late '6Os." Their track ("Little Bit Me, Little Bit You") for the nationally released 1992 Monkees tribute album, Here No Evil, won critical acclaim. In recent years, Crusin' has contributed around a dozen original songs to Collins' independent feature films Mommy (seen on Lifetime TV with Crusin' performing on camera), Mommy's Day, and Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market, all available on DVD from Troma.
The World's Biggest Beach Party, opening for Peter Noone, Mamas and the Papas, and The Grass Roots.
Crusin' has appeared in concert with such nationally prominent acts as the Turtles, the Young Rascals, the Buckinghams, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, the Strawberry Alarm Clock, the Grass Roots, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Mary Wilson and the Supremes, Bobby Vee, Peter Noone, Chubby Checker, Freddy Cannon, Tommy Roe, the Kingsmen, Johnny Tillotson, Rare Earth, the Crystals, the Mamas and Papas, Bo Diddley, Iggy Pop and the Romantics.
Opening for the Turtles and Peter Noone at June Jamboree Moline Illinois.
Their current show is a fun, unusual mix of classic rock, delving deeper into the ‘70s and ‘80s than before, with a sprinkling of originals spanning the group's many years and many recordings.
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