Ronnie Meek &

Tom Gilman

2014 - Band

Band Members:  Ronnie Meek, Tom Gilman

Ron Meek was born November 29, 1941 in Denver CO. From a few weeks after birth until he was 6 years old he was raised by his grandparents in Loveland, CO. at which time he moved to Fresno, CA and from there to Sioux City, IA with his mother and stepfather.

Meek got his first guitar at age eleven and began teaching himself to play. Listening to late night radio, he heard blues music from Chicago and New Orleans; country music from Del Rio, Texas and Nashville; Cajun music from Louisiana; and the beginnings of Rock n’ Roll at places like the Louisiana Hayride.

Thomas Patrick Gilman was born June 24, 1941 in Sioux City, Iowa.  He began playing the accordion at age nine and met Ronnie Meek while on his paper route for the Sioux City Journal in 1953.  They were both 12 years of age and their mutual interest in music would make them life-long friends.  Meek lived on Gilman’s newspaper route and would stop while on his route to watch and listen to Meek play guitar. After a while, Gilman picked up a guitar and started to learn the cords and they would practice whenever they could get together.

In 1956 Meek and Gilman entered a talent contest at the Top Hat Ballroom, a local venue in Sioux City. They won and with the glory came the opportunity to open for the well known recording star, Gene Vincent and the Bluecaps, of “Be Bop a Lula” fame.

The Top Hat’s owner, Don Shaw, invited Meek to appear with his Don Shaw Orchestra, a big band, swing, jazz group. So, with his mother’s signed permission, the 15 year old started traveling the road with the band. With big band music dying out, Shaw decided to change the band to follow the popular music of the day.  A drummer was imported from Chicago and the band came together: Meek on guitar and vocals, Gilman on bass and vocals, Al Johnston on tenor sax, and Johnny Wallace on drums.  Jack Hintz, a keyboard player and arranger, filled in from time to time as did other musicians.  Don was full time manager and occasional player, as well. The band went from being “The Don Shaw Orchestra” to “Don Shaw and His Top Forty Band”; playing the songs on Billboards’ top forty listings.

The group was very popular, traveling all over the Midwest, playing indoor and outdoor venues. They appeared as the opening band for the Johnny Cash concerts at the Roof Garden ballroom in Arnold’s Park, Iowa, some Nebraska, Minnesota and South Dakota shows as well as music for the Miss Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska competitions. They toured with country legend Sonny James and appeared regularly on television in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on a danceland style TV show.

The band recorded several songs thru Kaybank Records in Minneapolis, MN., that were released on the Soma label. One of them was “Your Lips Tell Me No, No” with “I’ll Never Smile Again” on the flip side.

In 1961 and Don Shaw left Sioux City for business interests in Hawaii, and the band broke up.  Tom and Ronnie played in Sioux City and the surrounding area for a few months; then Tom enlisted in the Navy and the group was over.

Meek and Gilman continued to perform wherever their careers took them and still get together today to make music.

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