The XLs

2009 - Band

During the mid to late 60’s, there was no more influential or popular band in Eastern Iowa than the XL’s of Wilton Junction.

Key man was Joe McClean, bass player and one of the two lead singers. He was a rosy-cheeked “nice guy” who could get away with more risqué jokes per set than any other mike-patter guy around. He was also a fine musician. The other lead singer was organist Bob Guy, who was also winningly personable and a smooth vocalist. Diminutive but powerful drummer Les Thede (who, in his hairier days, resembled a sunny Charles Manson) was idolized by his peers. Guitarist Mike Heinrich had a frantic but fluid style. Gary Martin was the business manager primarily; but he got on stage to play sax and tambourine as well as add back-up vocals.

Showmen par excellence, the XL’s played constantly in Iowa and Illinois . They opened for numerous name bands from the Buckinghams to the Yardbirds. Their single on the CBC label out of Omaha “I Need A Ride” got airplay on Davenport ’s KSST, among other stations in ’67 and ’68. The single was generating lots of excitement when the record label folded.

The XL’s started in 1963 as a brass band called The Swinging Shepherds. The musicians were junior high and high school students in school bands. That same year, they converted to electric instruments but continued to carry brass (McClean on trumpet, Guy on trombone) with the aid of fill-in guitarists Jim Grothusen and Craig Zigenhorn.

As the XL’s, they played KSST Radio’s “Good Guy A-Go-Go” at the Col Ballroom several summers. At the urging of the station’s DJ Bob Henry, the band came up with a song about teenagers on the beach “Summer Love In The Sand.” That recording was submitted to the national Vox Battle of the Bands in ’67 and they won! The group was flown to Hollywood and performed the song in the MGM movie “A Time To Sing” starring Hank Williams Jr. Also as Vox winners, they were able to purchase Vox equipment at cost for the duration of the band’s existence.

When Guy and Heinrich were drafted, the XL’s became Fire and Ice. Filling in on organ was Andy Bailey with Larry Barrett on guitar. Fire and Ice, with these members ended in 1969; however Gary Martin kept the band going with various members for a while.

In Eastern Iowa , The XL’s were in the top echelon of garage bands and the public loved them. A crowd of 1500 of their fans enjoyed their reunion concert in 2008. For the quality, scope and range of their work, the XL’s join the IRRMA Hall of Fame Class of 2009.

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