Con Brio

2009 - Band

Con Brio wasn’t always known by that name. Like so many bands that formed in the 60’s, these musicians went through many names and many musicians before “it took.”

Their story began back in 1967 when five junior high aged teens got together in Bill Overland’s bedroom to form “Five of a Kind.” Of those five, four would stick together until 1973. In addition to Bill, they were Steve Overstreet, Dave Bunch, Chuck Wallerstadt and Steve Mathews. Then Gary Coleman joined the band and they became The Rooks.

The band played private parties and a school-wide Indianola Junior High party in 1967. Their big break came in 1968 when Simpson College ’s DU House discovered them and hired the band to play every Saturday night through the school year at $45 per night. The House insisted on rhythm and blues so they started working on Temptations, Sam and Dave, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels music. According to Mathews, “There’s nothing like six junior high wasps belting out soul!” They practiced daily and started making the Central Iowa “Legion Hall” circuit.

Under the booking guidance of Big G Enterprises, Mike Weeks and Maurie Dray they branched out to play high schools all over Iowa . The Rooks competed in battles of the bands in Des Moines, Osceola and Knoxville but didn’t win. By 1970 as five of the six were graduating a younger guitarist, Ron Burchett, and pianist/vocalist Gary Coleman were added. They took their first battle of the bands title in Knoxville with the new lineup.

In 1971, they tried out for the Iowa State Fair Teen Town Battle of the Bands and made the cut. With lead guitarist Dave Bunch taking the summer off to tour Europe with the Central States Choir, the band only had two weeks to prepare for the competition and come up with 14 songs. They changed their name to Con Brio, worked every day and won the Battle !

Winning $300, a trophy and a gold-plated Shure microphone changed their fortune. Con Brio played everything from high schools to colleges, to the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake; traveling all over Iowa and beyond.

For the musicians, favorite memories include playing for a battle of the bands in Greenfield during the filming of “Cold Turkey”, backing up the Five Man Electrical Band at the Iowa State Fair in 1971, opening for Chase at the Surf, opening for Chuck Berry and Mason Proffit in Des Moines .

Mathews credits Dick Bunch. “We would never have been able to keep it together had it not been for our manager and Dave’s dad Dick. From lending us his basement to practice to building Heathkit amps when we couldn’t afford the Fender Twins. From renting the U-Hauls to buying our first trailer. From driving us to every gig to keeping us out of trouble. To Mr. Bunch we dedicate our rock ‘n roll story.”

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