By Jim Misunas
LARNED — The headline act at Larned High’s All School Reunion Friday night reunited in 2000.
Friday’s 8:30 p.m. concert kicks off the three-day Santa Fe Trail Days and All School Reunion weekend. Dozens of events are scheduled Friday and Saturday.
Six members of the original Jimmy Dee and the Fabulous Destinations performed to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the group.
Positive feedback from supporters convinced the group to continue to perform. In 2002, Jimmy (Dee) Schmidtberger released a CD “Round Trip” and followed with “Summer Fun.”
Members of the band are lead singer Jimmy (Dee) Schmidtberger of Russell; drummer Bill Gasper and bass player Red Schmidtberger of Ellis; keyboard player Joe Dreiling, Victoria; and guitarist Anthony Pfeifer and saxophone player Tim Pfeifer, both from Hays.
Musical influences include Elvis Presley, The Righteous Brothers, Chuck Berry, Bill Haley and the Comets, The Beatles and Roy Orbison. They will perform a variety of music from the ‘50s and ‘60s.
The Pfeifer brothers grew up performing Polka music with their father’s band. Tim Pfeifer remembers performing when he was 11 years old. Jimmy Schmidtberger was a next-door neighbor and the Pfeifers were die-hard musicians. Tim Pfeifer, the youngest musician, was talked into performing when the group wanted a saxophone player.
The musicians all graduated from Victoria High School.
“Everyone gets along great and it’s like a family reunion,” said Tim Pfeifer, who serves as general manager. “We have great camaraderie in the band and we get the thrill of live entertainment. It’s a thing of the past that people still enjoy. There were a lot of bands in Victoria, where we all grew up. We still enjoy entertaining people and we still get feedback.”
The group performs about a half-dozen times in outdoor venues like Larned. The other concerts are small-town celebrations, reunions and weddings.
“We’re always ready to perform in an alternate facility,” he said. “We always hope for nice weather.”
Gasper said Tim Pfeifer and Anthony Pfeifer are passionate musicians who have consistently performed through the years.
“They’ve been performing since 1975 in some way,” he said.
Gasper said one reunion performance was turned into a 12-year gig.
“When everyone moved back in the same area, it seemed logical, we’d get back together,” Gasper said. “We get along really well and enjoy the music. What surprised us a little is the demand is still there. We built a reputation as a fun party band and people still remember that.”
The group has been generous with their talent, donating proceeds from sales of DVDs for Kayden Tiernan, young boy diagnosed with liver cancer and to help Smoky Hill Public TV celebrate its 25th anniversary.
A DVD biography was put together after months of compiling and editing photographs and video footage with the assistance of Smoky Hill Public TV. One documentary featured the history of “Jimmy Dee and the Fabulous Destinations.” A second DVD was recorded for sale featuring a performancel at the Fox Pavilion in Hays.
“You could call in and purchase a DVD to benefit Smoky Hill Public TV,” Pfeifer said. “The guys even came in and accepted pledges.”
Jimmy Dee and the Fabulous Destinations performed at clubs and dance halls in western Kansas. The group routinely packed the house.
The popular television show, Happy Days, provided an additional boost to the nostalgia craze, as did well-known national bands Sha Na Na and Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids.
In the early 1980s, the Fabulous Destinations went their separate ways, some performing in popular groups such as “Blubird,” “The Heat,” and “Anthony & the Anamals.”
Jimmy Schmidtberger went on to perform as the “Jimmy Dee Band,” and has maintained a loyal following for many years.