2009 - Band
The story of The Impacts is similar to that of many bands formed in the early 1960s but also so very different.
Bob Fields, Bob Marshall and Bill Johnson met in art school in Council Bluffs in 1961. They ended up living in the same rooming house together. One night, with nothing else to do, they decided to go to a movie starring Bobby Darin. In one movie scene, Darin was in a nightclub singing in a rock and roll band; and they were all wearing great looking red tuxedo jackets.
On the way home the trio started talking about starting a band but only Fields knew how to play any instruments. Giving it some thought, they came up with the idea that he would teach the other two how to play. At first Marshall and Johnson thought it was funny, but when they saw Fields was serious, they decided to give it a try. Marshall easily learned chords on the guitar, thanks to piano lessons in his younger years. Johnson learned to play the bass. The first song they tackled was “Blue Moon” because it was fairly easy. Both caught on quickly so they learned more songs and were on their way. Still needing a name, they ran across an ad in the paper for “Impact Cleaners” and The Impacts were born.
The band still needed a drummer in order to get jobs so they went to see Mike McColley who had shown some interest. Mike had been playing to records but by teaching him some basic rock beats, they were now on their way. The Impacts started playing on weekends at high school dances, skating rinks, halls and ballrooms in Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota . They also saved enough money to buy those red tuxedo jackets and added candy apple red shoes.
The music they were playing was primarily instrumentals by The Fireballs, Duane Eddy, Ventures, etc., but they did learn a few songs with words. Their big break came in 1962 when they were asked to back up Johnny Tillotson at a New Year’s Eve party. This was quite a shot in the arm for the group and a real boost to their experience level. At that time, The Impacts heard a group from Kansas City called Danny and the Roulettes and that changed their music direction.
In early 1963 the band got a gig at Rocky’s Hide Away playing four nights a week. This allowed the band to work to get tight. At the same time they met a sax player named Wes Piner who was looking for a steady gig; thus changing the band’s sound once again. While at Rocky’s, McColley and Gordon Gammell (who had replaced Johnson) left to go on the road with another band. The Impacts hired Ronny Tuccito from the Roulettes as bass player and Bob Cowgar on drums. This ensemble of Impacts did a number of recordings but none of the cuts were ever released.
After a nine-month stint at Rocky’s, the band hit the road, playing the halls, ballrooms and nightclubs. In 1964 the band decided to call it quits when Fields joined another Hall of Fame band (The Great Imposters) and the balance of the band wanted to go on to do other things. Bill Johnson won a couple of Grammys for album design while working as an art director for CBS Records in Nashville . The other Impacts went to other groups and contributed greatly to the overall impact of Iowa’s rock and roll history. For their varied and quality contributions to that history, The Impacts join the IRRMA Hall of Fame Class of 2009.