Deputy Dawg Band

2009 - Band

The Deputy Dawg Band, a rowdy, bawdy, high-energy party band, was founded in Mason City, Iowa in late 1977 by Ralph Stephens, former leader/drummer/vocalist of Rural, (2006 Inductee) and Gregg “Del” Plagge, local guitarist-songwriter-vocalist. Mutual friend and bass player Bruce Vrchota brought the two together. Ralph called up Don Myers, lead guitar-pedal steel-songwriter-vocalist formerly of The Kilowatt Pioneers, from Boone, Iowa. Myers, also a graphic artist, came up with the name and the cartoon-style graphic identity.           

Their first performance was in March 1978 at the Stage Coach Bar in downtown Mason City. Club owner Pete Farrell called and was told “We aren’t ready yet Pete.” Pete said, “You’ll never be ready, I need a band,” and the journey began. The Deputy Dawg Band was an immediate hit, playing a unique blend of rock’n’roll, rock-a-billy, folk, and country (50% original songs) that kept people smiling, dancing and drinking.

Known for “howlin’ good times” and providing a “highly animated show”, the band was soon packing Central Iowa venues every weekend. Bruce did not want to play that much, so he was replaced in 1979 by John “Doc” Reynolds, also from the Kilowatt Pioneers on bass-vocals. Grateful Dead style jams were added to the set list along with high-energy bluegrass featuring Ralph on washboard and Del on banjo. “The Dawgs” opened the Second Annual Buddy Holly Memorial Concert at the Surf Ballroom and served as Del Shannon’s back-up band in February 1980. At that concert, an agent from the Good Music Agency from Minneapolis offered them a contract. In March 1980 they quit their day jobs and became full-time touring musicians. After two years, they became self-managed, yet maintained relationships with multiple agencies. They created a party atmosphere everywhere they played and set register and door records across the Heartland.

In 1981 John “Barney” Behm (Mason City) replaced Doc on bass-vocals. Don was replaced by Mike Haselman (St. Paul) on lead guitar-pedal steel-vocals and Tim Kight (Minneapolis) on fiddle-guitar-vocals, making a five-piece combo. In 1982, John Stortz (Cedar Falls) replaced Mike on lead guitar-steel-vocals. Tim left the band in 1983 and the four-piece line-up of Ralph, “Del”, “Barney”, and John was stable until the band broke-up Labor Day, 1985.

The Deputy Dawg Band toured 13 states and Canada. They opened shows for over 24 national acts in seven States, often stealing the show. They recorded three singles at A&R Studios (Ames, Iowa). The second, “Skylab”, received brief national attention during the fall of the satellite. The third, “S.O.L./Melinda Rose” became a top-10 jukebox hit for Liberman Distributors in the Northern-Midwest. Their album “Alive & Howlin”, all original songs, was recorded in 1983 at Catamount Studios (Cedar Falls, Iowa). “Feelin’ Good”, the single from that album, charted in Billboard for two weeks.

The band was known for its professional, highly entertaining stage show, bringing a good time wherever they performed. The Dawg Band always got the crowd involved with sing-a-longs, team drinks, and engaging stage antics. You never knew what they would do next, but you knew it would be fun and well done. In seven years, they never missed a gig, only flipped their bus once (no serious injuries), and received rave reviews.  “An outrageous good time!”- DM Register & Tribune. “An electrifying performance” J. Uran, KCLD Radio, St. Cloud, MN. “Iowa’s prime exponents of country-punk – provides good music, fun and laughter.” Mason City Globe Gazette.

Twenty years later, they still draw over 250 people to their every five-year reunion in Mason City. The Deputy Dawg Band is proud to be from Iowa and Iowa can truly be proud of them.  

Bruce Vrchota, who was the catalyst that brought The Deputy Dawg Band together, died in 1998. They dedicate this induction to his memory.

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