We all have events in our lives that seemed to shape our generation. It usually happens when we are young, often when we are on the cusp of adulthood.
For my in-laws, it was the Great Depression. For my parents, it was World War II. For me it was the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the Vietnam War. For those younger, it could perhaps have been the Challenger exploding on take-off, or the terrorist attacks of 9/11. For the current generation just ready to fly the nest, it will most likely be the Recession.
Disasters, tragedies — those are the things that set us back on our heels and say, “Wake up, boyo, this is real life. You had better get used to it!”
My in-laws and parents, though, had Glenn Miller and the Big Band Era, the prosperity of the 1950s, the big families and safe neighborhoods. My children had the advent of personal computers, gaming systems, and MTV, and the great jobs accompanying prosperity. We’ve yet to see what will come along in my grandchildren’s generation.
In my generation, it was rock ‘n’ roll — the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the New World Congregation, the Fabulous Ferraris, The Rest.
What? You never heard of the The Rest? It was a short-lived band in which John Edstrom played organ with a bunch of other local guys. As far as I could see, their “following” consisted of me and a bunch of groupies pining for the lead singer, Al.
The Fabulous Ferraris was a local rock ‘n’ roll group that morphed into the North Country Band in the 1980s, when they found some national exposure. Jim Grant, about whom there is a front page story today, was a member of the original group.
The New World Congregation was also a local group, consisting of Roy Berger, Dave Heyer, Jay Epstein, Don Bauer, and Bob Rydman. They did snag a recording contract, and I found their record at amazon.com. Roy is now the financial manager of Mississippi Market in St. Paul. Drummer Jay was here last summer at the Great River Shakespeare Festival with his jazz trio, which plays many popular spots in the Twin Cities. Dave is a well-known music teacher. Don now lives in Grand Marais.
Bob Rydman, the fifth member of the group, died on November 18, after a short illness with cancer. Bob, son of a longtime teacher at Lewiston High School, was a retired chemist. He was the bass player for the 1960s New World Congregation.
According to Roy, Bob was also the designated mechanic of the group, as “none of us knew anything about engines. Bob would pull out his hammer and tap the solenoid a few times” when the old Chevy the band used to haul their trailer full of gear wouldn’t start.
Roy said that he and Dave spent some time with Bob a few weeks before his death, and reminisced. “We remembered hauling the Hammond B3 organ — it’s huge and heavy [425 pounds!] — up three flights of stairs when we played at UW La Crosse.”
“My fondest memory, however,” says Roy, “is jamming. I think Bob and I were so fortunate to have had the opportunity to play with Dave and Jay — a couple of great players. Because Dave’s dad was a music professor at WSU, we were able to set up and rehearse in the basement of Somsen Hall, in the Jazz Band’s space. We sometimes jammed for hours. One of us — it didn’t matter who — would start riffing, and we’d all join in. We could jam on a single chord for thirty, forty minutes, in any rhythmic variation or syncopation — thanks Jay! — and anything from 12 or 16 bar blues to jazz. This is where and when we learned to play together, and this is when I think we had the most fun, and this is by far my fondest memory. There was no one there except the four of us.”
He continued, “Bob was a really cool guy, and though I hadn’t met up with Bob for quite a few years, I have always thought of Bob as a great life-long friend. I will miss him. We’ll all miss him.”
This Saturday, November 30, all of you who recall the days of the New World Congregation and remember Bob Rydman fondly can boogie to the CLASSIC ROCKERS at the Blackhorse. Bob sat in with that group, which had planned to honor Bob at the “Turkey Jam” on Saturday, but, as Steve “Cooker” Koch says, “Bob didn’t make it, however we’re gathering friends and certainly the public for a fun event of skilled musicians and singers who wish to join us on stage. Bob’s bass guitar and mic will be set up on his side of the stage.”