2006 - Band
Members: Ralph Stephens, Tom Till, Douglas Campbell, Charles Grau, Jay Saul
Rural was Iowa’s first high energy, “Country-Rock” band. The group was founded by Ralph Stephens (drums, vocals), Charles Grau (lead guitar, vocals), Doug Campbell (bass, vocals), and Jay Saul (guitar, vocals).
They began rehearsing in a farmhouse northeast of Ames where they put together an eclectic repertoire ranging from rock to folk to country with about 40% original songs by Jay and Charlie. Rural played its first gig in the spring of 1971 for a Sorority/Fraternity party and then began working at local bars, the first being the infamous Beach House in downtown Ames. In the summer of 1971 Tom “Basil” Till (piano, guitar, vocals) joined the band, Jay acquired a pedal-steel, and Charlie took up fiddle which added a new “hoedown” dimension to RURAL’s sound which became a real crowd pleaser.
Rural became known for their happy, party atmosphere performances which included “Team Drinks”; Grateful Dead style jams; intricate harmonies; hand-clappin’, foot-stompin’ country; good ‘ole rock ‘n roll; and strong, meaningful, original songs. Genuine John’s in Ames became Rural’s home venue. The Circle Pizzeria in Cedar Falls was the band’s second home.
Jay Saul recalls, “Rural became the catalyst for our 70’s Midwest boomers’ need to have fun; maybe a reaction to the Vietnam War added to all the new ways to get high that emerged in those years. We enjoyed a local fame that was so much fun. We were not the focus; we were the catalyst for many, many people’s good times. It was magic and like all magic cannot be studied or explained. You had to be there.”
Rural played in 9 states, opened for many national acts and received several awards from the ballroom association. When performing with other local and regional bands, Rural was usually the headliner. Their professional, high-energy show was a tough act to follow.
The band recorded some of its original material in two sessions. The first at Steve Monroe’s A & R Studio, Ames, IA, produced their initial single. The second session was the recording of the album “One by One” at WestMinist’r Studios at Otho, outside Ft. Dodge.
Rural was the first band in the area to use stage monitors and the first to put a soundman out in the crowd. The band was the pioneer in Iowa when it came to high quality, professional sound, carried to every gig by the band. To help accomplish this, the band hired Jim Healey as manager/soundman and Jim Butler as roadie/bus driver, the first full-time, paid crew for a central Iowa band.
Rural disbanded in 1975 with their last performance in Ames. They were truly a unique Iowa band, pioneering the “new country” sound that became the Urban Cowboy craze in the 80’s. One of the most successful regional bands from Iowa at the time, their influence on the music scene at the time was profound. They truly are one of the highlights of the Iowa rock ‘n’ roll music scene of the 1970’s.