The Shades

2003 - Band

Members: Jim Sawvel, Bill Nank, Boud Stoewer, Bob Smith, Bobby Greenwood, Artie Mentz, Ronny McDonald, Joe Hedley, Donny Stoewer, Denny Tranel, and Terry Williams


The Dubuque area was home base for The Shades, a top area rock and roll band of the early 1960s.

The group had its beginnings in late 1957 at Bill Nank’s house in Dubuque. He, along with Joe Hedley and Bobby Greenwood attempted to get a rock and roll trio going, but it fizzled because, according to Greenwood, “The sound wasn’t right, no jobs – the usual pitfalls of a young band.”

Then a manager came along. He along with Bill and Joe hired a talented lead guitar player named Ronny McDonald and superior tenor sax player, Boyd Stoewer.

The group enjoyed minimal success due to the need for a powerful singer and front man. Then Jim Sawvel joined The Shades. He added the knack for getting the band to cook and swing.

Just as the band was really starting to take off, the Army sent a draft notice to Bill Nank. Joe decided to move over to bass guitar and Bobby Greenwood was hired back to fill the drum spot. Greenwood’s vocal lead strength and harmony added to the band’s all around solid sound.

The Shades opened for many rock and roll stars of that era including: Johnny & the Hurricanes, Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs, Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon, The Champs, Bobby Rydell and others.

No sooner had keyboardist Donny Stoewer joined the band, than the Army hit again. Joe Hedley and Donny accepted the draft board’s invitation to be all that they could be. Hedley was replaced by Denny “Truck” Trunel. When Jimmy Sawvell decided to hit the rodeo circuit, his true passion, the group “was lucky to pick up a handsome super singer and songwriter named Bob Smith; and the band was sailing high once again,” Greenwood noted.

Over the rest of the band’s performing years some highly talented musicians replaced leaving members. They were Terry “Mouse” Williams and one of the top 10 Elvis impersonators (according to “Rolling Stone” magazine) Artie Mentz.

Boyd Stoewer passed away in 2000 and Bob Smith died while performing on stage in 1987.

The Shades exemplify the “stick to it” drive of many rock and roll bands trying to survive, improve and, most of all, entertain with their music through the turmoil of the Vietnam era.

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