Ralph Lundquist

2011 - Matousek Lifetime Achievement Award

As with most every teenage kid of the 1950’s, Elvis’ rise to stardom made an impact on their life. Whether it was the music they listened to, the clothes they wore, the way they talked or the things that all of a sudden interested them, change was happening. For Ralph Lundquist it was no different. He  was intrigued enough with the new music he was hearing that he dragged out an old four-string guitar that was a part of this quiet young man’s family possessions and began the process of learning whatever he could on it.

While the guitar was important there was an even deeper passion that was forming and that was his desire to develop into a singer. While Elvis was the match, that match really got lit up when the likes of Johnny Cash appeared on the scene in 1956. He really liked the music of Johnny Cash and over the next 50 years he would highlight the music of his idol while also developing into a very popular entertainer and performer.

Ralph Lundquist was born in Lake Park in 1940 with a beautiful singing voice. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the United States Air Force and was soon shipped out for duty in Okinawa.

It was there that Ralph took his interest in music to the next level. After visiting some of the clubs off base he knew music was something he wanted to do. While he had always possessed that great voice he was also well aware he would have to improve his ability to play the guitar. After some intense sessions with the guitar he set out to play in those clubs. It didn’t take long and he was playing in those clubs to packed houses. He was well on his way to establishing himself as a “must see” entertainer.

Upon returning to the in 1965, he was stationed in Albuquerque, NM where he entered his first singing contest. It was at the Hootenanny, where he took first place.

When Ralph left the Air Force and returned to Iowa he formed his first band called the Kountry Katz. Members of that band, in addition to Ralph, were his wife Bonnie, Bernadine VonHoldt, Ron Hasbrook and Darrel Frerichs. His unique voice and personality allowed him to continue his rise in popularity.

A few years later he formed his second band called Ralph Lundquist & the Midwest Travelers. Along with Ralph and Bonnie, Ron Nichol, Doug Lund and Kay Kaiser played a great circuit of venues in Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota where their success grew to the point they were averaging well over 200 dates per year.

In 1971 Ralph made a trip into the Iowa Great Lakes Recording Company studios in Milford to record and release “Beer And Popcorn” on the IGL label. The song had been written by local writer Dave Peterson. That record was heard on radio stations throughout the Midwest and even made it onto several radio stations overseas.

Among the many talented area musicians who played with Ralph’s band were: Steve Streit, John Senn, Dean Aakhus, Denny Burnett and Lynn Wee. They played throughout the Midwest, venturing far from his home base at the Log Cabin just across the Iowa border in Sioux Valley MN .  He continued on for many years and became known as the Johnny Cash of the Midwest .

Ralph still lives in Lake Park and has been a guest performer at several Rock the Roof shows in the Roof Garden at Arnolds Park during the summer. He is a real audience favorite and can still draw a crowd. When he starts singing a Johnny Cash song, the crowd is thrilled and lets him know how much they appreciate his sharing his talents with them.

For 50 years this popular entertainer shared his great musical talents with the masses and no one enjoyed doing it more than Ralph as he truly loved the stage and gave it the utmost respect. Because of his efforts, his total dedication and respect for the music business here in the state of Iowa and way beyond its borders we honor Ralph Lundquist with the IRRMA Dan Matousek Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.

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