The Original Sensational Showmen

The Original Sensational Showmen
National Guard Armory-Concordia - 1965

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Rising Suns-Coffeyville, Kansas

The Rising Suns-Coffeyville
Inducted Members: Steve Alter, Doug Bundy, Steven Datson, Mike Floyd, Randall Grundy, Jim Jensen, John Keith, Richard McBride, Isy Martin Jr., Jacks Rawlins, Dougls Ricke, Bill Snow, Butch Neese, Gene Tucker
Home Town: Coffeyville, Kansas

Everyone fondly remembers the exciting show band, the Sensational Rising Suns. The Rising Suns were another of the incredible horn bands booked, promoted, and sold through the legendary Mid Continent Productions of Lawrence, Kansas.
With such groups as the Fabulous Flippers, The Young Raiders, and the Roarin’ Red Dogs, the Rising Suns are another in the long line of creative and highly successful Kansas show and horn bands, entering the IRRMA Hall of Fame in the out-of-state category.
The band started out in 1967 in Topeka, Kansas and went on the road as the Rising Sons. Six months into their new career, the group would experience a terrible bus accident, and the group no longer existed. Mid Continent needed to find another Rising Sons and fast, as bookings were starting to pile up.
This time they recruited a great horn band out of Coffeyville, Kansas that was originally called the Dalton Gang. The band took on the new name of the Rising Suns and would tour as the Rising Suns all the way into 1972.
The Rising Suns were a 7-8 man horn and show band that featured Mid Continent’s first interracial soul band fronted by black singers, “Big” Walter Downing and Izzy Martin. Walter was the younger brother of the legendary R&B performer “Big” Al Downing.
Mid Continent was not sure that a multi-cultural band would be accepted in many of the Midwest ’s small rural ballrooms, but the opposite occurred, as the band became one of the hottest sellers on the Mid Continent roster. With Downing’s and Martin’s incredible live shows, they became a Midwest rock and roll rage. One special aspect of their show was that their last set of the evening featured a complete costumed recreation of James Brown’s Live At The Apollo show. The band was heavily featured on KOMA Radio in Oklahoma City, and KAAY in Little Rock Arkansas , so when they showed up in town, it was always a major music event.
Because of being a Mid Continent band, they played virtually every ballroom in Iowa including: the Roof Garden-Arnolds Park, Cobblestone-Storm Lake, Surf-Clear Lake, Val Air-Des Moines, Inwood-Spillville, Matter’s-Decorah, Electric Park Ballroom-Waterloo, Avalon Ballroom-Remsen, Danceland Ballroom-Cedar Rapids, Starline-Carroll, The Library Ballroom-Iowa City, Dancemor Ballroom-Swisher, Star Ballroom-Dakota City, Lake Robbins Ballroom-Woodward, Lakewood Ballroom-Lake View and the Pla Mor Ballroom in downtown Fort Dodge on three separate occasions.
In 1972 the group would disband with Downing and Martin relocating to California and becoming members of national soul group, the Undisputed Truth and their big hit record, “Smiling Faces”.
The Sensational Rising Suns of Coffeyville are honored to be inducted into the Iowa Rock & Roll Music Association Hall Of Fame. They were inducted into the Kansas Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. What an exciting Induction Spectacular show it will be, when all the horns and original players along with Izzy Martin are on the Roof Garden stage for the Hall of Fame concert. “Big” Walter Downing passed away in 2004 due to complications from diabetes but will certainly be there in spirit!

Arnold's Park- Lake Okoboji, Iowa

Arnolds Park Amusement Park - 2011 Spirit Award
Home Town: Arnolds Park

In the late 1800's, when steamships carried passengers to historic ballrooms and other grand sites around the Iowa Great Lakes, pioneer developer Wesley Arnold envisioned an attraction that would draw visitors to his lakeshore property in Smith's Bay on West Lake Okoboji. The construction of a formidable water toboggan slide on that property gave birth to the Arnolds Park Amusement Park , a landmark that would evolve over the next century into the very essence of the Okoboji experience.
Throughout the next one hundred years - as the amusement park diversified into a Coney Island-style attraction and became known as a vacation destination, throngs of visitors and local residents alike filled the 21-acre lakeside site to ride the roller coaster, bumper cars and go-karts, shop the Queen's Court for Okoboji memorabilia, nutty bars and listen to big bands and rock n' roll at the legendary Roof Garden under star-studded summer nights. Arnolds Park Amusement Park became synonymous with the best music anywhere in the USA.
The "Roof,” as it became known, was a “must” destination for several generations of music lovers. Thousands danced to the music of the big bands in the 1920s, 30s and 40s - Count Basie, Harry James, Dorsey Brothers, Duke Ellington, and Glen Miller orchestras, to name just a few. The 1950s ushered in the Rock and Roll era and the ballroom featured nearly all of the top-40 artists and bands of the time, including Jerry Lee Lewis, The Everly Brothers, Bobby Darin and the Four Freshmen.
Throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s impresario and Roof Garden owner Darlowe Oleson continued to bring the stars of the day to Okoboji. Teenagers boogied to The Beach Boys, Bobby Rydell, Johnny Cash, Bobby Vee, the Yardbirds, the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars, and more – if they had chart-topping hits, they played “The Roof.”
The ballroom also featured regional bands, including perennial favorites The Fabulous Flippers from Lawrence, KS and The Rumbles from Omaha . Iowa-based bands competed in an annual Battle of the Bands competition and the top finishers were rewarded with future performance dates. Playing “The Roof” became the sign that a band had “arrived.” Interestingly, many of the groups that played the ballroom back then have been inducted into the Iowa Rock ‘N Roll Music Association Hall of Fame and many are still performing.
Although different owners and attractions came and went over the years, the park and music remained a staple of Iowa Great Lakes tourism and fashioned generations of fond Okoboji memories. After a stunning renovation by owner and philanthropist Chuck Long that revitalized attendance, the park’s existence was threatened by a developer who announced plans to turn the historic landmark into a condominium, hotel and retail complex. The battle to save the park was won when a non-profit, “Save the Park” group raised $7.25 million and purchased it.
The entertainment complex is now officially titled Historic Arnolds Park, Inc. (HAPI) and is run by a board consisting of community leaders who oversee the operations of Arnolds Park Amusement Park , Arnolds Park Raceway, the Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum , Preservation Plaza , the Majestic Pavilion, the Roof Garden and the Queen II excursion boat. With the proven fiscal and management skills of these individuals, the preservation and bright future of this historic landmark is certain.
The HAPI board and staff was and is dedicated to bringing live musical entertainment throughout all of these years. They erected a large performance stage on the “Green Space” area on the east end of the Amusement Park and present regular free concerts during the summer season. A new Roof Garden was built in 1997 so that rain or shine; the public can enjoy live entertainment. The IRRMA Hall of Fame induction ceremonies have been held in that facility from the very beginning. The IRRMA Museum is located adjacent to and under the roof of the new Roof Garden.
The "Park” staff works diligently with the IRRMA board, staff and volunteers to present 10 Thursday night Rock the Roof concerts during the summer for locals and visitors to enjoy. Keeping the music alive and accessible to the public garners Historic Arnolds Park Inc. the 2011 Spirit Award.