090321_con_Bear Creek 1985

The Bear Creek Band lineup in a 1985 photo: front, Leonda; and, back from left: Dave Kappus, Dan Callan and Rick Roder.

EAU CLAIRE — One common thread for past members of the Bear Creek Band ties together the fun they had and continuing sense of camaraderie.

Four alumni were asked in phone interviews what they enjoyed about the experiences as the current lineup, including founder Dan Callan, helps celebrate the band’s 40th anniversary. The responses have been condensed.

• Bob Holden, of Mondovi, was drummer for the band from 1984 to 1988 and for about a year starting in 1991, when the band had an engagement in Reno, Nevada. He went on to play in other groups, including the Gray Band and City Lights:

“I think just the fact that we got to play some really premium jobs. Just the fact that I got to do that. … There’s just so many great memories. Even when I went back and was able to play in Reno, that’s kind of a once in a lifetime deal. ...

“We played with a lot of different acts. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Bellamy Brothers, bands like that, and and met a lot of people. It was a learning experience, and I’m grateful that Dan had the confidence in me. ...

“(Since leaving the Bear Creek Band) I’ve had people call me to play, to sit in or fill in or something, and it’s usually a recommendation from Dan himself. It’s great to have that. We’ve been friends for a long time.”

• Dave Kappus, of Eau Claire, was a drummer for the Bear Creek Band and other bands with Callan, notably Prime Choice and Switch. After leaving the group, he played in bands such as the Mighty Bullfrogs.

“I enjoyed the whole time. I learned a lot from Dan about singing on key. ... He was always a good friend, still is.

“One of my favorite stories is when we were traveling on the road, (Callan) would get tired and wanted me to drive, and I didn’t want to drive, so we started arguing politics and that woke him right up and he kept on driving. Anytime I didn’t want to drive I’d just start in about politics and, boy, he’d just spark right up. ...

• Leonda, of Eau Claire, sang with the group for about 10 years, starting in the early 1980s. She sang on the Bear Creek Band’s self-titled 1986 album, including the single “Falling in Love Right and Left,” which made it on the Billboard and Cash Box charts. Before the Bear Creek Band she sang in local groups such as Mike Maresh’s Straight Shooter and Vermillion. Since leaving the band she will, once in a while, get onstage and sing with the Bear Creek Band.

“We had so much fun, just the band members alone were so much fun, and kind. Everybody worked well together. ...

“Some of my favorite memories were being able to front bands that were highly popular, the really good ones. Tanya Tucker, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Bellamy Brothers we fronted a lot, Ricky Skaggs, Kitty Wells even. … Even the band (the Wright Brothers) that was in the movie ‘Overboard’ with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell at the Medina Ballroom in Minnesota. That was pretty cool. That’s probably one of my favorite shows; I think I’ve probably watched it more than 30 times. ...

• Wendy T sang lead vocals from, she estimates, about 1989 till 1993. A native of Colorado now living in Morristown, Tennessee, she’s known for shows in which she portrays Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire. She has performed in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, in casinos, on cruise ships and on USO tours.

“(The Bear Creek Band) was probably one of the best experiences of my career. We got to open up for everybody. We got to open for Garth Brooks and got a great write-up in the Minneapolis Star Tribune from Jon Bream. ...

“We got to meet everybody. Dan was so great with me because he would always get me to meet the stars so I’d get a picture with them. And I never even cared. At first I was like, what do I care? I care so much now that I have those memories. That I can look back and there’s a picture of me with Vince Gill. There’s a picture of me with Marty Stuart. Garth Brooks. ...

“Sometime in everyone’s life I wish they could experience the fun that we had being in a band where everybody does well and likes each other and makes the crowd feel so great.”

Contact: 715-833-9214, william.foy@ecpc.com, @BillFoy1 on Twitter