A ‘Memory’ for the Iowa Hall of Fame
CUTLINE: The Memory Brothers including co-founders Doug Koempel and Larry Crandall, both of West Union, will be inducted into the Iowa Rock & Roll Music Association (IRRMA) Hall of Fame on Labor Day weekend. As earlier published in The Union, the Memory Brothers have also been selected to perform during the evening’s festivities. (Courtesy photo)
A ‘Memory’ for the Iowa Hall of Fame
By Mike Van Sickle
The Memory Brothers will be among the performing bands inducted into the Iowa Rock & Roll Music Association (IRRMA) Hall of Fame on Labor Day weekend. The IRRMA Hall of Fame Induction Spectacular is a two-day event on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 31, and Sept. 1, at Arnold’s Park.
Co-founders Doug Koempel and Larry Crandall, both of West Union, credit the band’s faithful fan base for the distinguished honor.
“I was very pleased and excited to hear the news (of the induction), more for Doug than myself. He has been in this (the music industry) full-time for the entire time. If there is anyone deserving of such recognition, it is him,” stressed Crandall.
“I was delighted to hear of our selection. It’s kind of a feather in our cap to receive the notoriety, which is a tribute to our fans,” said Koempel. “We had a lot of nominations from our fans, which I find to be very humbling.
“We are so appreciative to each of them and their support throughout the years,” added Koempel, while noting that he and Crandall were earlier inducted in the IRRMA Hall of Fame in 2010 as members of The Rubber Band.
“We received the IRRMA Award for the biggest fan following those induction ceremonies. I was just blown away by the response of our fans,” he continued. “A trademark of our (his and Crandall’s) bands over the years has been the fan support.”
“We have definitely had a lot of loyal fan support over the years. They are what really kept me going,” said Crandall. “It’s so tough these days for a band to have a following of people that will drive long distances to see them perform. When we have 70 to 100 people just come to see us play and dance to our music, I feel it is quite a tribute.
“We owe it to each of them. I can’t thank them enough. We have had fans invite us into their homes after bad weather or to stop by for breakfast. It’s almost like one big family,” he added.
At the same time, Crandall had a special message to aspiring artists.
“I encourage young people who read this article that the idea of being inducted into the (IRRMA) Hall of Fame is also a possibility for them,” said Crandall. “The biggest advice I can give to young musicians is to cater to your crowd. Pay attention to them after a gig. If a fan gives you a song idea, listen to them, and possibly play the song the next time you see those fans in the audience. The key is always to please the crowd.
“Also, try your hardest to keep band members together. There will be lots of obstacles along the way and unfortunately I have seen a lot of good bands that have been unable to stay together,” said Crandall.
Koempel and Crandall formed the Memory Brothers duo in the late 1960s. As original members of the IRRMA Hall of Fame group The Rubber Band, Doug and Larry broke away from that five-piece band in 1969 to go on the road, playing the nightclub circuit as the Memory Brothers. Their trademark was an upright piano, acoustic guitar, and vocals in close harmony, similar in style to the Everly Brothers.
In 1977 Crandall retired from the road to spend more time with his young family, and Koempel continued touring with new partner, Kevin Conner, also from West Union. Conner had just graduated from Luther College and had already established himself on the college coffeehouse circuit as a songwriter/performer playing solo gigs.
Koempel and Conner worked together for the next 13 years, touring extensively and releasing several albums of original material. During this time, Koempel was also signed to Chart Records in Nashville, where he released two singles and an album.
Now in his 47th year of making music, Koempel has recently assembled a new variation of the group, which he calls the Memory Brothers LARGE Band. This version of the Memory Brothers features various combinations of all previous members and has become a hit with the band’s large and loyal following.
In addition to the local band and its founders, the 2013 IRRMA inductees consist of musicians, promoters, ballrooms, a disc jockey and more.
As earlier published in The Union, the Memory Brothers will join inductees B.J. Thomas, The Doctors, Salt River, Dogs On Skis, Legs Diamond, and Jonesin’ in performing during the evening’s award ceremony.
Additional inductees include Wanda Jackson, Women Who Rock award recipient; Mrs. Roy (Mom) Uffleman, Matousek Family Lifetime Achievement Award recipient; and Kirk Kaufman and Phil Jones, IRRMA Lifetime Achievement Award winners.
Meanwhile, McElroy Auditorium of Waterloo and The Runway Night Club of Sioux City will be inducted in the ballroom category.
“The neat thing about the entire weekend event is that you get to meet so many other musicians and other people with different connections to the music industry,” said Koempel, noting that during the 2010 ceremonies he met the emcee of the now-famous 1959 Winter Dance Party at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.
“There is so much history and so many people who have played a part in the success of rock-and-roll over the years,” he added. “There are so many of these people who play a part behind-the-scenes that you never meet. Fortunately, there are events such as this that provide those type of opportunities.”
The IRRMA Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held at Okoboji High School at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 1, with the 2013 Hall of Fame Concert to be held at 7 p.m. in the Roof Garden in Arnolds Park. 2013 Hall of Fame inductee BJ Thomas will also perform at 4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 2.
Local fans who are unable to attend the induction ceremony and/or IRRMA concert can catch the Memory Brothers in concert at Nob Hill Ballroom near Decorah on Tuesday, Aug. 27. The Nob Hill concert, which will feature the band’s IRRMA Hall of Fame set, will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
For a complete schedule of the 2013 IRRMA festivities, go to www.iowarocknroll.com.