The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

October 5, 2013

DVD details rock history

Project to make public debut Oct. 13

BY MARY WICOFF mwicoff@dancomnews.com
The Commercial-News

---- — DANVILLE — Writing about the history of rock and roll in this area wasn’t enough for Dennis Palmer — he wanted people to hear it, too.

So, the long-time musician abandoned his original idea of writing a book, and instead turned it into a DVD, complete with interviews and music.

The result is Disc 1 of “50 Years of Rock-n-Roll in the Heartland: The Pioneers, 1957-1963.”

Palmer decided on a DVD because, he said, “There would be a lot of value in being able to hear the recordings that were made back in those days. Many of the early rock ‘n rollers wrote and recorded songs that were very popular.”

Besides, Palmer realized he had the equipment in his home recording studio, Midnight Sounds, to make the recording. He also discovered that publishing and printing a book can be expensive.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” he said.

The DVD will be available for sale for the first time on Oct. 13 during the sixth Country Music Reunion in Belgium. The free event, featuring local musicians, will start at 1 p.m. at the Riggle Banquet Hall on Lyons Road.

The concert is put on by members of Music in the Heartland Society.

The DVD will be on sale for $10 during the country reunion; after that, the cost will be $15. Members of the Music in the Heartland Society pay $10 any time.

“I just wanted to get this history out for people to enjoy,” Palmer said. “It’s a rich history that we shouldn’t forget about.”

The DVD is about 75 minutes long, and is divided into chapters. It includes interviews with several musicians, including Arlie Neaville, Jim Foley, Herb Wiese, Punky Ice, Steve Danko, Ben Leonard, Arlie Miller and others, as well as rare recordings and rare photos.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “You’re not going to find that anyplace else.”

Palmer is going to have a preview party next week for the people involved in making the DVD; nobody has seen the finished product yet.

Harlan “Punky” Ice is eager to watch it, saying, “I like the idea. I think it’s really unusual. I don’t think anybody has done one (a local history of rock and roll) in the years I’ve been around.”

For his part, Ice gave an interview talking about the bands he used to play in and how he became involved with Herb Wiese and other musicians.

Palmer is a stickler for details, and has taken an in-depth look at the history, Ice added.

The idea started percolating three years ago when Palmer, Tony Shuman and Wiese put together the first 50-year Country Reunion Show in Georgetown. That show is now staged twice a year, and has moved to Belgium. Then, they formed Music in the Heartland Society, which now has about 140 members — both musicians and non-musicians.

Two years ago, Shuman published his book on country music, “Fifty Years of Entertainment in the Heartland, 1960-2010.”

“From that, I got the idea to do something similar but in the rock ‘n’ roll realm,” Palmer said, “since that is where I got my start back in the mid ‘60s.”

At first, he said, it was going to be a project focused on the bands he knew when he was playing with The Villagers in the mid- to late ‘60s. However, as he did research, he realized there was a lot going on before that, and he couldn’t overlook that golden era.

The first DVD focuses on that pioneer era.

Palmer plans a second DVD on the Beatles-era bands of 1964 to 1970. He’s compiling information on that, and asks people with photos and recordings to contact him. He wants to have the second DVD ready by the next Country Music Reunion show in April.

While doing research for the first disc, he spent hours going through newspapers on microfilm, starting in January 1960.

“It was like going back in a time machine,” he said, describing the historic events then and the advertising. “It was really marvelous going back in time. Some of the things I saw were disturbing, but overall … what an experience.”

Danville was booming then, he recalled, and the music scene was booming, too.

People can no longer enjoy a plate of Baker’s spaghetti, he said, but, “You can still go back and relive the music from those days. You can hear those songs from the jukebox when you were 13 or 14.”

Palmer recalled wearing a Beatles wig when he played in his band in the ‘60s. He worked at Eisner’s at the time, and had to follow a dress code of a bow tie, no sideburns and no mustache, and so, he wasn’t allowed to grow his hair long.

Reflecting on the project of compiling the history, Palmer said, “I feel richer in my experience. It’s been a tremendous journey so far.”

Although Palmer’s roots are in rock and roll, he later moved to country, and plays bass in his studio band called The Midnight Sons.

FYI To order a DVD or become a member of Music in the Heartland Society, call Dennis Palmer at 474-1508 or email: musicintheheartland@comcast.net. The DVD will be for sale for $10 at the Oct. 13 Country Music Reunion, and $15 after that. (However, society members pay $10.) Palmer also is seeking information for the second DVD, which will focus on local rock and roll from the Beatles era. Contact him at above information.