Category: Iowa Rock 'n Roll Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award

At age 12, Merle Pithan purchased his first electric guitar with his paper-route money. It was the early '60s, and his admiration for rock bands such as Dee Jay and the Runaways, Danny and the Velaires, The Caskets, The Sha-Dels, The Mustang, and the Rubber Bande influenced his dream to play rock 'n roll music. Climbing the Roof Garden stairs to watch his favorite Mid-Continent Kansas bands served as an incentive as Merle was already dreaming of playing

the famous Roof. Fast-forward to 1968, Merle’s popular band, The Boys, became the Magnificent Board of Directors, and Merle stepped onto the Roof Garden Stage to perform for the first time. The Magnificent Board of Directors signed with Mid-Continent and John Brown. Then came the Young Raiders contract. The Midwest “big time” experience included gruesome schedules of one-nighters, stinky worn-out buses, and very few motel accommodations that had the band performing all over the Midwest. It was what Merle considered a dream come true.

Post Mid-Continent, Merle founded the band, Bonesteel. The mid-'70s and early '80s were unique and successful. Following the recording of two original albums in Iowa studios, concert performances with national acts became frequent all over the region. National recognition came following the number one hit "Big Sioux River" that topped national Indi-Charts. Two additional albums followed.

Keeping up on the national level after Bonesteel, Merle surfaced again as a member of the Gypsy Riders, a touring band for RCA/Columbia label act Zella Lehr. Zella Lehr was coming off ten top 20 singles, their most famous hit "Two Doors Down" made it to #3 on the Billboard chart. Merle performed in and out of the country with Zella for three and a half years before leaving when the group lost their Mercury label. After turning down an offer from the famous Diamonds, Merle enrolled in college again and obtained his degree. Working in the legal field and writing his own library of music became his life. With his growing archive of songs, Merle made several trips to Nashville to pitch his music. Moving back to Iowa in 1987, he continued to perform with Bonesteel and Leafy Spurge. 

Performing music is and has been Merle’s life's passion. The constant support from his wife Teresa Mae, his daughter Staci Leigh, his son Justin Dean, and now grandchildren, have enabled the world to embrace and enjoy Merle’s music. His 54-year career is full of award-winning music. To quote one of his songs, Merle’s been “runnin' on dreams.”

Honoring achievements, educating youth, and inspiring artists.

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