Steve Ellis &

The Starfires

2015 - Border Band

Steve Ellis at the age of 12 began to learn to play the guitar. Soon school buddy Randy Fellman joined Ellis on guitar and they began playing local jobs around their hometown, Pipestone, MN.

Ellis joined up with Luverne, MN’s Butch Hatting on drums and Jim Brandenburg on guitar and in 1962 the Starfires were born. Shortly thereafter they became “Steve Ellis and the Starfires” when Ron Butler from Sioux Falls, SD and Butch Jurgens from Verdi, MN joined the band.

Weekends would find the Starfires playing ballrooms, American Legions, armories, high school dances and nightclubs throughout the Midwest.

During the Starfires’ reign of the Upper Midwest music scene, other band members would include Barry Hanson, Dean Senftner, Bill Storie, Bobby Berge, Mike Mulligan and Jimmy Groth. The band shared the stage with national acts such as the Everly Brothers and Chuck Berry.

The band’s recording career started in 1965 with the release of two of Ellis’s original songs “Walkin’ Around” and “That’s How It Feels” on Decima label. “Walkin’ Around” told the story of walking the ‘Square’ around Pipestone looking for girls and love.

KOMA Radio in Oklahoma City chose the song at a pick of the week. KELO Radio in Sioux Falls had the song on the charts for eight weeks along with Herman’s Hermits, Rolling Stones and the Byrds. It stayed on the charts in 1966. It was the only 45 they recorded.

The Starfires were invited to play at the April 1967 Roof Garden Jamboree in Arnolds Park. Their song “Pride of a Man”, another Ellis song, made it on the now ultra-rare LP “IGL-Roof Garden Jamboree.”

The summer of 1967 found the band recording their first album at the IGL Studios in Milford when tragedy struck. On Aug. 31, Ellis was killed in a freak motorcycle accident close to his home.

“Songbook”, an LP of the completed studio sessions and the two songs from the 45, was later released as a tribute to Ellis and the talented group called the Starfires.

The band continued to play for a time after the accident. Their music has been re-released in several compilations of what is considered some of the best music to come out of Minnesota in the rock and roll era.

Steve Ellis and the Starfires made a major impact on rock and roll music in the Upper Midwest and for their stellar contributions are inducted into the IRRMA Hall of Fame with the Class of 2015.

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