Mitchell’s band ‘Faded Blue’ inducted with standing ovation into South Dakota Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – Mitchell Republic

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SIOUX FALLS — Faded Blue, a rock and roll band born in Mitchell in the mid-70s, was inducted into the South Dakota Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Saturday, Sept. 24.

The Hall of Fame ceremony, which was attended by nearly 1,500 attendees, showcased some of the band’s biggest hits and earned them a standing ovation from audience members.

Faded Blue drummer Harlan Nielsen said of the Hall of Fame induction, “It’s a really exciting thing, I think. It’s exciting for all of us.

What started as a group of teenagers playing for a high school overseas exchange event turned into a life of musical genius and very established friendships.

It was 1974. The popularity of 50s and 60s music was surging after the release of the soundtrack to the movie “American Graffiti,” giving four teenagers the spark of inspiration they needed to start their band.

The four youngsters – Steve Thomas on lead vocals, Cleve Carlson on guitar and vocals, Don Harris on bass and vocals, and Harlan Nielsen on drums – decided that playing as a band would give them all the ladies.

“We were all just quirky,” Nielsen said of how the band came together. “We were all musicians and singers.

According to Nielsen, it was their choir director, Bob Elleson, who quickly realized the teens’ potential.

“He’s the one who brought us together,” Nielsen admitted. “We were the group supporting the choir.”

Known for their strong vocals and smooth harmonies, the band played an exchange gig with Sioux City North High School, which then quickly moved on to play larger venues – Faded Blue Jeans were booked for proms, homecomings, street dances and more.

At one point, Faded Blue Jeans was shortened to Faded Blue by lighting director, roadie and close friend Jim Paul, who also hauled the bands’ gear for many months in his white Ford Thunderbird.

Faded Blue was founded when the teenagers were all still in high school. Courtesy of Steve Thomas, lead singer.

In 1974, Faded Blue booked their first gig at a strip club.

The band landed their first gig when bassist Don Harris’ father introduced the band to Moonlight Bar owner Jerry Davis.

“The Moonlight was known for a totally different form of entertainment back then,” Nielsen admitted with a laugh. “And – this is so serious – we were all underage.”

The band settled around the pole in the middle of the stage for the show. They would later become Moonlight’s weekend house band during the summer of 1974.

They have performed at Rest Haven, Groveland Park, Milltown, at USD fraternity and sorority nights. Faded Blue was featured throughout the Midwest, playing bars and pubs like The Last Step, The Plains, The Zoo, Night City, The Flame Room, Chase on the Lake, Wagner’s Lanes and The Chalet – they were even a house band at the Kongo Club.

In 1975, Bob “Whitey” Walker, a tasteful and sweet guitarist, added a new dimension, and the sound of Faded Blue began to evolve. Walker previously worked with DD Night Train & The Soul Express, an R&B group from Dakota Wesleyan University. He left the band the following year, around the same time Carlson and Harris went on hiatus to pursue other careers.

In 1977 John Mogen, who played keyboard, synthesizers, soprano sax, flute and had a high vocal range, was introduced to the group.

Soon after, Mogen brought in Bob Bego, another keyboard player from Akron, Ohio.

Faded Blue, now with two skilled keyboardists, continued to thrive in the Midwestern music industry, leading to Cleve Carlson returning to the band.

They continued to play together until 1979.

Conclude and come together

Like all good things, the band eventually came to an end.

Mogen left the band two years after joining, leading Don Harris to join. The group continued to play in the Midwest before officially disbanding in 1979.

A few original members returned to play again, turning Faded Blue into Good Times for a brief stint in 1982, but most had moved on to other projects.

Carlson and Harris then formed Flatland Express touring the Midwest and Canada. Carlson moved to California while Thomas and Nielsen continued to work with bands based in Louisville and Green Bay. Bob Walker continues to play with his daughter, Layla, with Twenty One 20.

“The Hall of Fame induction will be the first time some of us have played together in 43 years,” Nielsen said. “Most of us moved away…Steve went to Chicago and Cleve ended up in Texas. So it’s exciting to be able to see them again and play with them again.

The band, which only rehearsed seven hours before the reunion, received a standing ovation at the ceremony, as well as plaques for their contribution to Rock and Roll in South Dakota.

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