Freedom Road

2011 - Band

Band Members: Mike Woltz, Dale(Fred)Fraser, Kathy Fraser, Carl Nord, John Chrischilles,
Gilbert Wildin, David Kohlhaas, Jack Dimond, Randy Swanson, Colleen Devine

It was late spring/early summer of 1969 in Burt, Iowa when Mike Woltz and Dale (Fred) Fraser decided it was time to play some rock 'n' roll.  Fraser, then 16, was a veteran rock 'n' roller as he had played bass guitar with "The Shymen." Woltz, then 23, and Fraser strongly bonded despite the age difference. Fraser knew guitarist and vocalist Carl Nord from Algona, then 20, who had also played with "The Shymen" so Carl was invited to join. Woltz, Fraser and Nord jammed a few times and it all seemed to click together so they set about finding a drummer. They found in Algona a drummer named John Chrischilles, age 17.

The band now needed a name, posters and jobs. Woltz made the statement that he liked the word "Freedom" and the origin of the word “Road” is in dispute. In addition to playing guitar, Woltz set about being the business manager and booking agent for the band. Vocalist Kathy Devine of Algona became a part of “ Freedom Road” which opened the door for the addition of some tunes.Freedom Road’s first job was a high school dance in Emmetsburg, Iowa. Much to their disappointment, the weather caused the dance to be cancelled. The next weekend, they performed at a bar named “Magoo’s Too” in Emmetsburg. Freedom Road’s first paying job was in a saloon that housed “go-go girls” during the week. They continued to hone their skills playing high school events and lounges. They basically become the house band during the summer and fall of 1970 at a popular nightspot in Clear Lake named “Pier 18.”

Freedom Road spent the next few years performing at high school functions, college functions, youth-centers, ballrooms and of course lounges.  Some of the venues include the Bancroft Ballroom (Bancroft), the Fox Lake Ballroom (Fox Lake, MN), the Golden Bubble Ballroom (Wells, MN), the Interlaken Ballroom (Fairmont, MN), the Playmor Ballroom (Fort Dodge), the Star Ballroom (Dakota City), the Roof Garden (Arnolds Park) and the Skyline Ballroom (Estherville).

Drummer John Chrischilles was the first of the original five members of Freedom Road to leave the band. A drummer named Dave Burns from Mason City replaced him. With Burns,Freedom Road developed a heavier style of rock ‘n’ roll. Sometime later Burns and Nord left Freedom Road to begin full-time musical careers. Nord was replaced by guitarist Gilbert Wildin of Algona. Dan Heinrich of Spencer replaced Burns. Wildin was and continues to be an accomplished guitarist and changed the musical direction of Freedom Road somewhat dramatically.

Wildin left Freedom Road when he enrolled in college, which made room for Carl Nord to return to the band. Dale (Fred) Fraser left Freedom Road in the fall of 1973 when he enlisted in the Army. He was missed. Bassist, vocalist and guitarist Mike Hansen replaced Fraser on bass. During Sept. of 1974, Kathy (Devine) Fraser left Freedom Road to join her husband. Her sister Colleen Devine, who was also a superb vocalist, replaced Kathy.

The times had changed and it was a time for Freedom Road to change; so a new and different band emerged. David Kohlhaas (Burt) was on drums, Jack Dimond (Algona) was on lead guitar, Randy Swanson (Emmetsburg) sang and played rhythm guitar, Colleen Devine (Whittemore) sang and Mike Woltz had moved to bass guitar. Kathy (Devine) Fraser returned to the band six months later when she returned from . The vocals and harmony were second to none. This band was excellent and continued to perform with fervor and continued to draw large crowds.

Freedom Road continued to perform until March or April of 1976 and then it was time to move on with their lives and families. The party was over.Freedom Road did record a 45 at the Iowa Great Lakes Recording Studio with John Senn as the recording engineer. The 45 consisted of a Bob Dylan song entitled “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” and an original song entitled “Hayseed.”

Most members of  Freedom Road have continued to be involved with music over the years. A new Freedom Road CD was released in 2007. The band, through the quality and quantity of music, takes its rightful place in the IRRMA Hall of Fame in the year 2011.

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