The Union Jacks

2006 - Band

Members: Joe Sanders, Ralph Mays, Dave Buelow, Tom Kurtz, Mike Kuk, Mike Coons, Denny Jordan


It all started in the small sleepy town of Clinton back in 1965 when Tom Kurtz (drums) and Ralph Mays (guitar) became part of a group called The Tresspassers. This group lasted for a few months before Tom and Ralph got together with, among others; Mike Kuk (organ) and Dave Buelow (bass) in the group Peter Brian & the Disciples which played local affairs into the spring of 1966.

It was then in front of Burman's Malt Shop on a sunny spring afternoon, Denny Jordan approached Ralph, Tom and Dave to play for a gig he had already signed on for. Joe Sanders happened to be hanging around and became the lead singer and after one or two practices in the basement of Tom's parents the Union Jacks played the big stage at Albany High School.

In a matter of a few short weeks the 'Jacks became the house band in Clinton with Mike Coons replacing Denny Jordan who would return to replace Mike Coons before moving on to be replaced by Mike Kuk. Gaining a following and a reputation for good rock and roll they began to open for name groups such as the Vogues, the Robbs, the 5 Americans and Ides of March.

The band began to travel from Burlington to Aurora playing at the Col Ballroom, Turner Hall, various National Guard armories and became a fixture at The Barn in Mary-Lee-Lakes just west of Sterling, Ill. By the late summer of 1966 the band was flown to Janesville, Wisconsin to record its first and only single with Denny Jordan on rhythm guitar and his brother Ron Jordan, a 2003 inductee, providing harmonica on both sides. The single, 'I Gotta Go/No One But You' sold somewhere in the range of 2 to 4 thousand copies and still cannot be found on EBay.

After appearing on WQAD TEEN TIME for three weeks in a row and traveling and playing on weekends with little pay back in those days (maybe $35 a piece for three hours work) and with everyone needing to pay the rent and the war always lurking, the Union Jacks called it quits in the summer of 1967. It seemed like a short 16 months on stages throughout the Mississippi Valley playing the music the kids seemed to like.

Shortly thereafter Dave Buelow joined the Navy just steps ahead of his draft notice. Mike Kuk and Ralph Mays tried forming another band until Mike was drafted. Mike Coons and Joe Sanders got together for one practice that went nowhere while Tom Kurtz became the drummer for 13th Precinct who appeared on the Dick Clark production, "Happening 68" with Paul Revere and the Raiders and recorded under the DOT label. Denny Jordan continued to form bands until his untimely death in the early 90's. Mike Coons died shortly after Denny.

Dave Buelow spent 4 years in the Navy and came home to raise a family and work for AT&T settling in the Denver, Colorado area. Ralph Mays followed the way of the Jehovah Witness and has been married for 33 years raising three boys in Clinton. Tom Kurtz eventually put the drums away and went to work in the family business where he is now the owner of Kurtz Glass, living in Clinton with his family. Mike Kuk became a fireman and continued to play small clubs into the '90's before moving to Louisiana where he is a fire chief and area coordinator for Homeland Security. Joe Sanders ran his own record store throughout the 70's and dabbled in comedy theater before settling into a customer service routine.

The Union Jacks prided themselves on the music they chose to play which consisted mainly of rhythm and blues songs and little of the top of the pop daily radio fare. They gathered a crowd who came to dance and be young and if a little trouble broke out you could hardly blame the band. After all it was only rock and roll.

The Iowa Rock 'n Roll Music Association Hall of Fame & Museum exists to preserve the legacy of rock and roll music in Iowa by honoring achievements, educating youth and inspiring artists. Established in 1997, we are a501(c)(3) non-profit statewide organization with many areas of service.

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