Duane "Dewey" Leopold
2012 - Iowa Rock 'n Roll Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award
Duane Leopold was born in 1943 at Clear Lake, South Dakota, as the third of eight children to Fritz and Joyce Leopold. The next year, the family moved to southwestern Minnesota where "Dewey" grew up on a farm west of Heron Lake.
Dewey's first experience with a guitar came at about 10 years old when his older brother traded a car radio for an acoustic guitar. Despite the fact the instrument was a right-handed guitar, the left-handed Dewey learned to play right-handed and has been doing so for nearly 60 years.
When Dewey was 13, his Mom and Dad bought him his first electric guitar and he began taking lessons. After a year of lessons, Dewey decided that learning to read notes was too slow and he began practicing on his own by listening to 45 records at 33 1/3 speed to slow the song down so that he could hear the notes and chords better.
Dewey found inspiration in guitar player John Senn from Harris, Iowa during this time. He heard John's band play at the Legion Hall in Heron Lake in the late '50s and knew that he wanted to be on stage himself, performing and playing guitar.
Finally in 1967, Dewey was asked to play lead guitar in his first band, The Sundowners. Two years later the band made some changes and renamed themselves The Siestas. They played country and country-rock music for nearly a decade at ballrooms and clubs all over southwestern Minnesota and northwestern Iowa.
The Siestas, with Dewey Leopold on lead guitar and vocals, were one of the area's most popular bands. The Siestas cut two records at the IGL Recording Studio in Milford, Iowa, and had a big highlight in the summer of 1969 when they played for Vet's Oil Company's Appreciation Days, opening for the Minnie Pearl and Kitty Wells show at the fairgrounds grandstand in Jackson, Minnesota. "It was quite an honor being backstage with Minnie and Kitty," remembers Dewey. "That was the biggest crowd we had played for, and it was a neat experience."
Through the years, Dewey played lead guitar in several more bands including Orange Blossom Special, The Blackstead Brothers, Northern Lights, and The Rock and Roll Review. He is currently playing with Starfire, a purely 50's and 60's rock band, which has performed several times at the new Grand Falls Casino near Larchwood, Iowa.
Dewey has recently written and recorded a pair of instrumentals in his recording studio at his home. "Loving Emily" which is dedicated to his granddaughter Emily, and "Those Lonely Streets" for which he owns the copyright.
Dewey met Bobby Vee in the late 1990's, they became good friends, and Dewey opened for Bobby Vee at his performance in New Ulm, Minnesota.
"Playing lead guitar has always been a difficult challenge," says Dewey about his long musical career. "I don't know where my super-interest in the guitar came from. We all worked on the farm and were never really in touch with the music world. I am the only one in my family who has played with a band." He adds, "My goal has been to play the original leads to the songs so people could hear them like they were recorded."
Dewey notes that he has tried to learn and copy the style of The Ventures, which he considers to be one of the all-time best instrumental groups. "The Ventures always had such a great band and sound," he says.
Through the years, Dewey Leopold has helped others become involved in music. He has shown new guitar players the chords and licks of some of his favorite instrumentals and believes that, "If you really want to play, get into a band, as it forces and motivates a person to learn and improve."
Dewey Leopold, who now structures his bands to play strictly 50's and 60's rock and roll, says he feels very fortunate. "God has blessed me with the ability to play the guitar and enjoy, preserve and play the music I love."
Starfire's website is www.starfirerocks.com, which includes the band's schedule and other information about the five-member group which still "rocks you back in time" with the great music from the past.