DICK RAMADA  band  

Dick Ramada - The Story

Dick Ramada - The Story

It was the 50s and hot cars and wild music were sweeping the nation. That’s right–even in small towns like Fayette, Maynard and Denver, Iowa, folks were sporting slicked back hair and bobby socks. Blaring new music poured from those AM radios! Don and Bethel met each other in a perfect double dating situation. According to family lore, it was love at first sight for gorgeous Bethel and that jokester, Don.

After love took hold of Don and Beth they tied the knot in a beautiful wedding ceremony. Oh boy–what a honeymoon! Before they could send thank you notes for the wedding gifts, Uncle Sam sent a notice to Don advising he was to report for Army duty immediately. Don and Bethel changed the oil in the Ford, stashed some gas money and headed for Ft. Bliss Army base in El Paso, Texas. Yeehaw!

After getting somewhat settled in the Lone Star State, Bethel had a bun in the oven. The newlyweds were overjoyed and so were the folks back home in Iowa. As the due date came closer another problem arose–a severe diarrhea outbreak on the base. When nature called, the base hospital was shut down and all patients were attended to in Army tents–including the maternity ward.

Dick claims his first visual memories are of his smiling mom and dad. He thinks he remembers being in a tent and that his dad looked like he was in the Army. Eventually Don’s Army stint was over and the happy trio fired up that Ford and headed north for the Tall Corn State!

Dick was raised 2 ? miles outside Fayette, Iowa, on a beautiful family farm. He would follow his dad around and do what he was told. Country music was abundant at home–Johnny Cash, Hank Snow, Buck Owens and many others. But, Elvis was The King!

Bethel enrolled Dick in tap dancing lessons where he wore his first black tophat! Eventually Dick became the oldest of seven kids (four boys, three girls). He was involved in school, sports, 4-H and church.

Dick’s first musical instrument was an accordion. Although he would not become a member of The Lawrence Welk Orchestra, Dick soon learned to play the trombone. Dad was kind enough to let Dick use his silver horn from his old playing days–it was a real classic! Dick’s band directors, Mr. Ballou, Jim Cline and Bill Adams all taught the young Ramada with passion and an iron hand.

As young Ramada grew so did his love of music. Dick had (and still has) a very good buddy named David Albert. David’s mom, Harriet, and Dick’s mom, Bethel, came up with a couple of guitars for their young talented sons. Both guitars were $30 and looked exactly the same with good tone and best of all–they were playable! Over the years Dick has often wished he had kept that guitar.

Before you could say “learn three chords” the two boys were strumming away in church and school. Dick and David played “500 Miles”, “The Green Green Grass of Home” and the wild and wooly “I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail”. Dick and David found that girls not only went for jocks but also were attracted to musicians. Suddenly sports didn’t seem as important as they once were.

Don and Bethel, Dick and his brothers and sisters watched that historic Sunday evening as the girls ripped their hair out and screamed uncontrollably while The Beatles rocked the world on The Ed Sullivan Show. A local band from Oelwein, Iowa, called “The Pages” were raising havoc of their own. On Friday and Saturday nights ballrooms and high school gyms were havens for the farm kids. Honda 350s, Chevy Novas, Mustangs and perhaps a beverage or two seemed to be all Dick and his friends needed to get their courage up to pay the cover charge and even dance with hot girls!

Soon Dick and David–budding young rockers they were–got hold of a couple of Apollo electric guitars and the first of many bands were formed–look out world! David switched to bass and Dick continued singing and playing guitar. In the early years the bands had many names: The Velvet Flames, Mother Bear and Co., and The Albany Bridge Band. The young musicians played town halls, ballrooms, school gyms, frat houses and bars. No more country twang for these guys. Can you say Jimmy Hendrix, Stones, Grand Funk Railroad, Mott the Hoople, Savoy Brown, CCR, Steppenwolf, Foghat, Robin Trower and all the rest??

While taking his first vacation on his own, Dick headed west to the Rocky Mountains and the growing city of Denver, Colorado. While there he made his decision to bid adieu to the cornfields of Iowa. He loaded up all his wordly possessions into his hot red 1972 Gran Torino Sport and turned the page of what would be another chapter in his life. Hello Denver, Colorado!

After moving into his swank $150 a month apartment in Westminster, Dick set out to see just what Denver had to offer for rock and roll. He was fortunate to have a full-time job at Ralston Purina (transferred from his job in Iowa) but his evenings were spent at night clubs. Dick listened and took in everything Denver had to offer.

Dick frequented places like Ebbets Field, Mr. Luckys, The Godfather, My Sweet Lass, Sam’s on Lookout Mountain, Billy Jacks and the Blue Note. Denver was crawling with hot rock bands! One of Dick’s favorite bands was Canary–with Billy’s famous “drums of fire” drum solo, their supreme vocals and great sound and light production, made a real impression on Ramada. Another band that Dick considered “over the top” was a band named French Lick and their outrageous lead singer named Danny. French Lick ripped up David Bowie and Alice Cooper covers like they were showing David and Alice how it was really supposed to be done! The guitar player who really knocked Dick out however, was Davey Vomit of the The Womblies. Dick states, “He had a monster tone playing through a 2/12 Marshall 50 watt combo. He looked like some disorganized disease teasing the girls with a cocky, crazy look in his eyes, while wheeling and dealing out riffs that shook the crowd as his deep thunderous combination of notes and attitude humbled every other so-called guitar player in the joint–and they were all there.”

Dick would struggle into his job in the mornings after little to no sleep the night before and tell himself he had to get it going in this town. Dick met others who had similar dreams and ambitions and he did get it going in his early Denver bands of Hot Rox and Touch. These bands paid their dues and learned on the job. As Dick had learned in his early days in Iowa–good things just don’t happen because you want them to–you have to break down the door! Dick ended his Ralston Purina career and never looked back.

Hours of practice while trying out new ideas on stage and writing his own songs would get Dick to the next level in Denver’s club scene. After a two-month visit to Houston, Texas, with his buddy Jon Singer, Dick’s phone rang. How soon could be get back to Denver? A hot band named Dorian Grey was being formed and Dick was invited to try out for it. Bingo!! The band worked out beautifully and Dick was now part of a cutting edge punk rock band about to assault Denver and the western United States. Over time Dorian Grey morphed into The Heartbeats.

The Heartbeats played in a 14-state area from Vancouver, British Columbia, to El Paso, Texas, knocking out crowds with their energy and talent. Dick states, “When The Heartbeats were in their prime there wasn’t another band that wanted to follow their show. It was a no-win situation for them and we relished that fact!” The Heartbeats wrote a lot of their own music and recorded tracks in the US and Canada. In the end the band had a very sweet run and they could have ended up on top of the music business but sadly the pieces just didn’t quite come together. Dick says, “In the end you can’t take away the love of the music that was shared by the band and the fans.”

After The Heartbeats run came to a halt, Dick decided he wanted to put together a new band. He had heard a band in Missoula, Montana, that was called Phil and the Blanks and he had always liked their name. Dick’s new goals were to write some solid rock songs and produce some aggressive and memorable shows. The name he and his roommate Jon Singer eventually came up with was Dick and the Chicks. A new era of Dick’s rock and roll history was born!

Dick started out writing songs on two cassette players. He would bounce riffs and vocals from one deck to the other and then back again. Songs like You Never Grow Young, You Think You Know Me, Legend of a Lunchtime and a theme rocker called Tight Pants, Boots and Electric Guitars were written in his small bedroom at The Lodge apartments on Hampden Avenue. Dick wanted to stay away from musicians that were too caught up in Denver’s club scene so he could get a less produced, rawer sound going. Dick felt his own style in his heart and that it was just a matter of hard work, persistence, and letting his imagination run wild, before he would have that style driven into the hearts of Denver’s rock and rollers.

Dick had to get “a real job” in order to support himself while the transformation of his new band was taking place. The only job he knew for the previous eight years was blazing a rock n’ roll trail from the Mississippi River to western Canada and back. Dick found himself a job as a front desk clerk at the Ramada Renaissance Hotel. He worked odd hours and rehearsed with his new band, Greg, Stinky and Dirk. It was time to book some gigs!

Dick and the Chicks started playing places like The Pearl Street Music Hall, Bamboo Gardens and private parties. The Denver music scene was more aggressive than ever and Dick and the Chicks worked hard on pile-driving one song after another to the crowds like a machine gun. Intros and outros were Dick’s specialty. His opening words, “I’m Dick Ramada and this is my town!” were openly discussed in all of the music mags in town. He was either bashed or more often than not described as a songwriting ball of fire. The band was developing one of the fastest growing and loyal fan bases that Denver had ever seen. On some occasions the cops had to be called in to calm down the frenzied, buzzed up and rowdy fans.

The increased momentum of the band in Denver was great, but as with most rock and roll bands… member changes were inevitable and Dick and the Chicks would be no exception. In 1983, the tide was achanging.

One night Dick went out clubbing and discovered a band with elements that appealed to him. The guitarist was awesome and the drummer kicked ass. Both guys sang and had that on-stage energy that was a staple of all Dick’s bands. After introductions, small talk, and beers, Dick invited Eric Boa to jam the following week. Things went extremely well and it wasn’t too long before Gino D’Angelo joined on the drums! What a break to have rockers as talented as Eric and Gino in Dick and the Chicks. Fate would have it that Dick would meet a dynamite bass player at Bangles the very next evening. Julian Anderson was procured and the table was set for a ruthless rock and roll buffet served up by Dick’s powerful lineup.

Herman’s Hideaway, The Ironworks and Franklins Bar and Grill were a few of the many joints in Denver that were assaulted by this power quartet. Colleges, high schools and ski resorts didn’t know what to think of the scene created by the band. Many songs were written and added to the show proving that yet again this band was on a roll!

The mid to latter part of the 80s were dominated in Denver by the hottest band in town. Dick and the Chicks recorded two albums and released them locally to rave reviews. “Thief of Hearts” and “Come and Get It” sold out immediately. The band won several battle of the band competitions and was getting airplay in Denver. Things were starting to heat up.

“It’s funny how fast things can change”, Dick later said. The popular music started to head in a harder, heavier direction lead by bands like Guns and Roses. Burn out and creative divisions were starting to happen in Dick and the Chicks and the promise that had burned so brightly was starting to flicker. Changes were in the wind once again for Dick and the Chicks.

Gino graciously played drums during the transition and Dick plowed full steam ahead as members of the band changed. Eventually Gino moved on with his career and Dick and the Chicks stabilized with Greg Morgan on guitar, Lonnie Ray on drums and Dan Miles on bass. New songs were written and back in the clubs the guys went. The new line-up would lay it on the line every night but the music scene continued to change. The Seattle grunge bands were the latest phenoms and Dick and the Chicks days were numbered. Dick and the Chicks recorded another album but the band dissolved before its release.

“I was a bit fried from performing over the years but I felt that Lonnie, Dan and Greg gave everything they had and never waivered once. They showed spirit and class even though I needed a break from the music business pretty bad. I never forget how talented and relentless they were in their performances of the Dick and the Chicks’ classics and all the songs we wrote together. I will always be grateful for their efforts.”

Even as Dick was closing one chapter of his life he was opening another. In February, 1989, on what would become the coldest day of the decade, Dick married long-time girlfriend Patty and became dad to her young son, Dane. In 1991, along came Hank and the family was complete. Dick’s life as husband and dad was much different than his life as a road rat rocker but that was just fine with him!

Dick got a real job and settled down and soon became Coach to basketball teams, baseball teams and football teams for his boys. Eventually Dick focused his efforts on coaching football and was known for running the “double wing offense”. Dick’s philosophy was “all for one and one for all” with his players and he told them over the years that a football team was like a kick ass rock and roll band. Dick taught his teams to let it all hang out and play with the same reckless abandon and passion that he had in his bands.

Dick still played acoustic guitar at home and after awhile he started to write songs again. He began playing solo gigs in coffee houses. The recording bug bit again and he recorded the acclaimed “Acoustic Wood” album at his pal, Greg Morgan’s studio. Over the years Dick and the various Dick and the Chicks’ members played two reunion extravaganzas at the band’s old stomping ground, Herman’s Hideaway. Old friends, fans, and musicians loved reliving their good ole days! “I have a special place in my heart for every musician and bandmate that I ever had the opportunity to work with in my career. Regardless of good times or bad, I am proud to say that I love every one of them. Today I have a little piece of each of their soul’s tucked in my heart and I have become a better person from my relationships with this band of true outlaws and characters. I am proud to see them doing their thing and I hope I have made a positive impact on them.”

Have you noticed that most all of the veteran rock bands are still touring even as they are old enough to be grandparents of today’s young stars? These rockers are, in Dick’s words, “addicted to the riff” and need to do something that “keeps them out of trouble”. Dick recalls, “I missed the fans and fellowship with the guys. I realized that it’s not how big you make it in the biz–it’s the fun and friendships you acquire along the way that make it so special.”

It wasn’t long before Dick found himself in the basement of one of his old buddy’s. Will Rocket was a drummer Dick had grown up with in Iowa and they shared the same roots. Dick had his raunchy 50-watt Marshall retubed and when he cranked it up he was like a little kid who discovered rock and roll again! Fellow coach and rock and roll buddy, Less Hassle, joined Dick and Will Rocket. It literally took a 30-second phone call to Dan Miles and weekly practice sessions were getting noise complaints from Will Rocket’s neighbors. Soon Dr. Randolph P. Giddy joined the band on guitar and Are You My Daddy? was formed. This short-lived firecracker of a band played private parties and a few small clubs and played rock and roll the way it was meant to be played.

Whether it was fate or destiny, Dick’s circle of musicians continued to evolve. A garage in Commerce City became the next scene of the crime. Lonnie Ray became drummer, Greg Morgan had enough of Pflugerville, Texas, and moved back to Colorado, and the former Dick and the Chicks’ incarnation rose from the ashes. The Dick Ramada Band was born–or you could say reborn. With dates booked, a new recording project on the way, and smiles on their faces, the band resumed playing high and tight. The Dick Ramada Band’s shows include all of the styles, nuances and tricks of the trade that the boys have learned over the years. Shows are celebrations of the love of rock and roll by both musicians and fans alike.

OVER THE YEARS DICK HAS SHARED THE STAGE WITH:

  • Bachman Turner Overdrive

  • Kiss

  • Robin Trower

  • Savoy Brown

  • Foghat

  • The Spencer Davis Group

  • Molly Hatchet

  • Cheap Trick

  • Steppenwolf

  • Firefall

  • Jack Mack and the Heart Attack

  • Big Head Todd and the Monsters

  • The Producers

  • The Romantics

A list of Dicks bands:

  • The Velvet Flames (Steve and Randy Alber, Bill Kaberle, David Albert)

  • Mother Bear and Company (David Albert, Bill Kaberle, Brad Pattison, Warren Odekirk)

  • Albany Bridge Band (David Albert, Brad Pattison, Kendal William “Bird” Paget III, Kent Moore)

  • Hot Rox (John Parker, Jack West, Edison J.Crim)

  • The Rumbling Spires (Mike Vargason and a cast of various outlaws)

  • Touch (John Parker, Jack West, Edison J. Crim, Jeff Johnson and Robbie Johnson)

  • Dorian Grey (Jay Wetzler, Lenny Sita, Michael)

  • The Heartbeats (Jay Wetzler, Lenny Sita, Kevin Timbs, Butch Renold Carlson, Scott “Scooter” Stephenson)

  • Dick and the Chicks (Greg Kenney, Steve Jenkins, Dirk Weed, Dick Kroeger, Barry Adler, Eric Boa, Gino D’Angelo, Julian Anderson,

  • Jimmy Dougherty, John Harrison, Dean Wilson, Greg Morgan, Lonnie Ray, Dan Miles)

  • The Funnels (Dan Miles, Dirk Weed, Greg Kenney, Tom)

  • Are you my Daddy? (Will Rocket, Les Hassle, Dr. Randolph P. Giddy, Dan Miles)