Q & A with organizer Steve Cooker
Q: Everybody sure has fun at these Baby Boomer Shindigs at the Black Horse, don’t they?
Cooker: Yes. People come in from coast to coast. Some plan their vacations around it.
Q: When did you, personally, start playing guitar?
Cooker: Bill Kozlowski’s older brother left an old folk guitar laying around; when we were kids I figured out how to play the theme song to a TV show called “Peter Gunn” on one string on that guitar. Then in ‘66 my step dad, Bob Jacobson, having played in the Air Force band, saw my desire then bought me a Sears Silvertone guitar for my 13th birthday out of the catalog. The single most important event in my life, bar none.
Q: When did you first play professionally?
Cooker: Ninth grade school dances at the old Winona High. Our band got $25 — $5 bucks apiece. I had “arrived.”
In ‘68 they held dances at the school almost every Friday night. Boys and girls danced, (if the boys were bold enough to ask a girl). It wasn’t easy at 14 or 15.... Her response could be devastating. She might say “no.” That age is essential for dating skills.
Linden Johnson was president, the Beatles were huge. A new “hippy store” opened next to turner dry cleaner on Fourth Street. The Hurry Back pool hall taught us physics; Rocco’s Pizza was downtown, Sammy’s Pizza was on Main Street, the Cotter Rec had dances every Friday night with boys like Jay Epstein, Bob Rydman, Dave Heyer, Dick Horst, Don McNally, Rich McClure, the Edstroms, Sam Nottelman, Rick Ryan, Rick Foreman, Alphonso Pegarillo, Emil McAndrew and dozens of others I’ll get scolded for omitting.
I was asked to join “New Research” a neat already-formed band, because I could play bar chords. Members were Scott Hafeman, who’s now a theology professor out East, Steve Lynn, an Evangelistic minister in Los Angeles who owned a successful music store out there for decades, Dave Nyseth (wish I knew what happened to Dave), Jim Reed, (last I heard he was playing and touring with Hermans’ Hermits’ reunion tour, and I. Scott fired Dave for skipping band practice on a Saturday afternoon to go squirrel hunting. Gary Drazkowski had just moved here from San Diego and replaced Dave. As frontman for Gary and the Moonmen, we couldn’t pass him up, especially after their “premier” at the Woolworths Store.
Our “New Research” first gig was at a Y dance. The place was packed. I vividly recall my flowered, flaired bell bottom jeans.
Q: We all miss Ernie. Every Shindig, you help out someone in need. Who is this year’s recipient?
Cooker: Gary Ski “Grubby,” Of Gary and the Moonmen. He’s battling cancer and could use a little help from his friends. The Baby Boomer Shindig is never a benefit; instead, people throw a buck or two in. I am quite impressed with everybody’s generosity. Every year people give from their hearts. That’s what this is about — a bunch of boomers getting together, dancing, singing, playing to the music we all like, seeing long lost friends.
Q: When is the BB Shindig?
Cooker: Saturday, August 9, at 6 p.m. at the Black Horse, Winonaville, USA.