2014 - Band
Band Members: Steve Elliot, Jon Ludtke, Kim Ludtke, Mark Zaputil, Michael Orton,
John Carstensen, Paul Staack
Silver Laughter was born in the fall of 1969 in Davenport, Ia. The band would eventually play over 1,700 gigs over ten years throughout every corner of Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, as well as western Canada. The nine musicians that eventually played in Silver Laughter had all been teenage friends. The band would also record two albums of original material from which six singles were spawned.
The band was originated by Jon Ludtke (guitar/lead singer) and Steve Elliott (bass/lead singer). John Carstensen (lead guitar) and Jon’s brother Kim (Slim) Ludtke (drums) were incorporated within months to complete the original band. With the strong lead singing of Jon and Steve, Silver Laughter had an instant following in the Quad Cities, as the band played covers of some of the 60’s most illustrious rock bands, including the Beatles, the Kinks, the Rolling Stones, Cream, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. Some of the early gigs included the Hullabaloo in Moline, Ill - a left-over vintage teen club of the 1960’s complete with go-go cages, and the famous Col Ballroom in Davenport.
From its inception Silver Laughter focused on vocals and harmony, matched with the power of a driving rhythm section and lead guitar. During these early years, the band wrote and performed a few originals which became favorites of their fans.
In 1971 Denny Walton was added (guitar/ harmonica/ vocals). Denny brought a strong influence of up-tempo blues, and along with Steve’s occasional cross-over to pedal steel guitar, the band expanded its repertoire. Silver Laughter also expanded its playing area, often playing up to 150 mile radius.
1974 would result in being a year of significant change. John Carstensen left the band and Mark Zaputil, a young guitar enthusiast joined as the band began playing 3-4 nights per week. In August, Jon and Kim were at the Des Moines State Fair enjoying the music in the Teen Village when they saw an advertisement for a booking agency in West Des Moines. Upon meeting Rick Geisler, the two (although exhausted) realized that a new era was about to unfold for Silver Laughter.
Starting several weeks later, Silver Laughter began playing 6 nights a week throughout the Midwest. The change to playing on the road and being away took its toll however, as within six months Steve, Denny and Mark decided to return to Davenport. Although saddened by the departure of their friends, Jon and Kim were determined to continue and began contacting their family of musicians. First to be recruited was a teenage friend of Jon’s, Mick Orton (bass/ vocals). Jon and Mick had started their first band in junior high in 1965. Mick had joined The Contents Are, who later became Columbia recording artists Tabernash. Next was Ken Wiles (lead guitar/ vocals), another friend from Davenport who had played in Ivory Coast.
The new powerhouse of four musicians would now be booked continuously, 6-nights a week for what would become a five-year stint. In 1975, the band arranged a multimedia Beatles tribute show, consisting of 45-minute medleys of Beatles’ hits along with a visual history shown on two side-stage screens. The band also formed an International Fan Club during the road years, and stayed in touch with their fans through a fan club newsletter.
In 1976 Silver Laughter recorded their first Album, “Handle with Care” (Fanfare Records 4060). The album consists of 11 originals and included a guest appearance by Steve Elliott. Shortly after the completion of the album, Jon’s brother, Kim, decided to take a detour to college.
In mid-1976 Paul Staack (drums) joined the band. In late 1977 and early 1978, Silver Laughter recorded its premier album “Sailing on Fantasies” at the acclaimed West Minist’r Sound studio in Otho, Ia. (Fanfare Records 4070). As with the first album, the 14 songs were all originals, primarily coming from the pen of Jon Ludtke/Mick Orton. In Dec of 1978, Kim rejoined the band upon the departure of Paul, and Silver laughter continued to tour until performing their last gig on 5 May, 1979.