The Ozone Ramblers
Shortly after the disbanding of The Ozone Ramblers in 1979 Ned Francis went to work performing 6 nights a week at The Cove in Ft. Madison Iowa as part of the "House band". I continued to perform as a solo and was actually billed for a short time as "The Ozone Rambler" in a tounge in cheek sort of way. I played in all the small farm towns in Southeast Iowa as much as I could and spent most of my time trying to figure out how to put The Ozone Ramblers back together and get back on the "Road". About a month into Ned's new gig at The Cove he invited me to come out and jam. The club owner himself actually hired me to join this house band and Ned and I were on stage together again. This is also when we met and started peforming with Roger Richardson who was the drummer for this house band. Much more about Roger later.
It was at this point and time that I received a call from Paul Reynolds the leader of Poker Flatts, one of the most successful original groups to ever come out of the Midwest. I had been introduced to Paul and the band by my dear friends Mike and Nancy Welsh who were hardcore Poker Flatts fans. We had went to several of their shows and Paul had called me on stage to play Harmonica and we had a great time jamming. Poker Flatts had an Album out, their own publishing company and their own record label already in place and were a very good and well known band in our region of the country. When Paul called he told me they had recently went through member changes and he invited Ned and I to come to Illinois and to jam, and consider throwing in with their remaining members. We jumped at the offer, gave our notice at The Cove, and then spent several months of a cold Midwestern Winter jamming with them and living most of the time in Pauls farmhouse outside of Macomb, Illinois rehearsing and writing. We still needed a drummer and into the picture came Fred Scherer from Peoria, Illinois, who had been the drummer for the New Watermelon Rythym Band, an Illinois band that was famous in those parts. If my memory serves me correctly, Fred had just returned from Military service where he had served as an officer in the Marine Corps and he was perfect and ready to play.
This group was now complete and consisted of:
Paul Reynolds on Guitars and Lead - Harmony vocals
Bill Studenski on Guitars and Lead - Harmony vocals
Tom Durso on Bass Guitar
Fred Scherer on Drums and Percussion
Ned Francis on Guitars, 5 string Banjo and Lead - Harmony vocals
Bronson Herrmuth on Electric Fiddle, Mandolin, Harmonicas and Lead - Harmony Vocals
This was the group Poker Flatts in mid to late 1979 and we toured regionally throughout Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Missouri and then Paul Reynolds decided to leave the music business for good unexpectedly and he left the band. Right behind that Tom Durso decided to leave so we immediately called Dennis Baxter from The Ozone Ramblers who agreed to join the band as our new bass player and we decided to continue performing as a 5 peice group. This is the Poker Flatts shown in the photo above performing at The Urban Cowboy nightclub in Moline, Illinois. Standing left to right:
Ned Francis - Bronson Herrmuth - Fred Scherer - Bill Studenski - Dennis Baxter
This band opened shows for Asleep at The Wheel, The Ozark Mountain Daredevils, The Country Gazzette among others and played the Chicago Fest in 1979 when it was still going on which was an unbelievable 2 week music festival held on Navy Pier.
Everything was fine except this left only Bill Studenski from the original band members of Poker Flatts and that became a serious problem and did not work. Bill left the band by his own choice right before August 1979 and the rest of us decided it was time to regroup and go back to being a six piece band and also to resume using our original name, The Ozone Ramblers, which we did officially on January 1st, 1980.
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