2013 - Support Person
Rock and roll was still finding its way in the early 60’s when, during a family gathering, John Senn announced to his brother-in-law Gordon Finnern that he was starting a rock band and he needed a good booking agent to locate some playing opportunities. When asked if he had ever thought about trying something like that, he responded with a quick, “I haven’t, but you know what, I think it sounds exciting.” Thus, began a very successful venture into the world of rock and roll music that would take him not only into the booking agency field, but would also lead to the ballroom promoters field.
Gordon’s love of music, his excellent work ethic, and his keen sense of what the Midwest rock and roll venues were looking for proved invaluable for not only the Rhythm Aces, but to the very venues he was selling the product into. He felt that groups who provided strong showmanship and dance music would be easier to sell than those that didn’t. He was right. The Rhythm Aces and all the other groups he worked with seldom had open dates. He landed gigs across a six state area in places like Omaha,NE, Yankton, SD, Spearfish,MN, Minneapolis, MN, Des Moines, IA, Madison, WI and all points in between. Over time, the venues developed a strong trust in his ability to provide good groups they could count on to support their business. To this day, John attributes a great portion of the success he has enjoyed in more than 50 years in the music business to Gordon. Through his role as booking agent and manager, he offered support and guidance that allowed them to grow and prosper as both musicians and business leaders.
As his knowledge of the booking business grew, Gordon also grew a keen sense for the music business. He saw opportunities to go into smaller towns and promote his own shows where he would hire the entertainers and promote the shows. For example, he approached the owners of the ballroom in Bancroft, Iowa when he heard it was for rent. He began by booking smaller, local bands. Once he had demonstrated that this approached worked, he gradually took the next step to book some of the big name acts including, Conway Twitty, Buddy Knox, the Crickets, and The Trashmen. Bancroft became a popular place to go on Saturday night, drawing big crowds.
The business leaders from the various communities where he was renting venues took notice of the success he was having. They, too, wanted to be a part of the rock and roll dance boom, and it became clear to Gordon that those venues would become less available now that the communities wanted to run events. He did feel some disappointment about losing those venues, but he knew he played an important role showing these communities that the rock and roll music scene could support their communities in ways they had never known before.
While few may have noticed at the time, Gordon is known today as someone who helped pave the way for many Iowa bands, such as the Rhythm Aces, Jerry Paige and Radicals, the Chevelles, and Dee Jay & the Runaways. He also served some of Iowa’s small communities by bringing his dances to their local venues. Gordon Finneren flourished in an industry that was still young and established some strong roots which still exist today.