2012 - Band
Band Members: Ron McKewon, Bill roepke, Duane Wolff, Mickey Doren, Larry Beach
The Embers formed in 1984 and played a wide variety of music from the 50's, 60's, 70's, rock 'n roll, country, and country rock. The band has been in existence for 27 years and played gigs at countless venues in Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota.
Sioux City musicians Ron McKewon and Mike Erskine combined their long friendship and love of music to form a 4-piece band to play small venues. Mike was on the rhythm guitar, Ron on lead guitar, Bill Roepke fit in right away as drummer and Dave Stokes joined them on bass. This newly formed band was named The Embers and the four began playing around Sioux City in 1984.
Mike and Dave left the band after several months for other ventures. Ron and Bill stayed together and over the next several years brought in Mickey Doren, Hank Barber and Larry Beach on bass, Sonny Sundstrom and Duane Wolf on keyboard. Musicians came and went over the years but Ron, Bill, Duane and Larry remained together for more than 20 years.
Ron McKewon was born into a musical family. There were always musical instruments around and at one point in his youth there were five working bands in the McKewon family. The first band was The Vicky Lee Trio, comprised of Ron, his sister Vicky and her future husband Jim Rhymer. They played together at Wag's Wharf in Sioux City for several years. Later Ron formed the band called Chisholm with Bill Roepke, Rick Lester, and Tom Landers. Chisholm quickly became a popular Siouxland band showcasing a variety of music from country to rock 'n roll. Ron took a very short break after Chisholm disbanded and by 1984 joined Mike Erskine, Dave Stokes and Bill Roepke to form The Embers. Ron is still with this group 28 years later. He divides his free time between family, art and music. He is an accomplished western and wildlife artist and has participated in many national art shows.
Bill Roepke started playing drums in 1967 at the urging of his good friend Gary Greiner and he has worked in five different bands in the Sioux City and Omaha area. Chisholm was the most fun because of fellow musicians Ron McKewon, Rick Lester and Tom Landers. When The Embers were formed in 1984, Bill took over the drum throne and has been at it for 28 years. He likes to ride his Harley Davidson motorcycle in his spare time - especially for several Siouxland organizations including Patriot Guard, Harley Owners Groups (aka "The Hog") and the Legion Riders.
Keyboard and vocalist Duane Wolff joined The Embers in 1989 but his first appearance on Sioux City's music scene was in 1975 with the band The Establishment (IRRMA HOF class of 2008). In 1977 Duane co-founded the group Lockwood and this popular Sioux City band was inducted into IRRMA in 2010. Duane left Lockwood in 1985 to pursue a little edgier sound with Headwind from Emerson, NE. He emerged as a vocalist, singing lead vocals on several songs. After three years, he took a music break from Headwind after the birth of his daughter. The break was short however, The Embers were looking for a keyboard player and vocalist to enhance the group. Duane auditioned in 1989 and the rest is history.
Larry Beach was born in Sioux City, IA in 1961 and when he turned nine years old he asked for an acoustic guitar for Christmas. His parents bought him a right-handed guitar, but Larry was left-handed. While in high school, he was invited to sit in with his brother-in-law's band, The Country Wonders. This experience led him to teach himself to play the banjo. At 16, he had a permanent job with The Country Wonders playing pure country although his personal taste was for The Beatles, Elvis and rock 'n roll. He played with them for a year and made the switch from rhythm guitar to bass. The band Diablo was formed with Larry's sister Patty and her husband Mike. This opportunity expanded the variety of music to a mixture of country and rock 'n roll. A few years later Larry was ready for change and started the band Eastbound with "Jack" Jackson on guitar, John Bradley on drums, and Mike Stevenson on rhythm guitar. Jack and John left and were replaced by guitarist Tim McDonald and drummer Bill Roepke. When Eastbound disbanded, Ron McKewon with The Embers asked Larry to join them on bass guitar and Larry quickly agreed. A job promotion after a few years required a move to Des Moines while The Embers played on. Career moves brought Larry back to Sioux City and he rejoined The Embers. He has been with them for more than 20 years. Larry states, "I am grateful we have stayed together longer than most marriages do. The men on my left will always be special to me, we share many secrets that will only be told among my band of brothers."
The Embers have performed in multiple venues including the Sioux City Convention Center, Orpheum Theater, Siouxland Rivercade, Casino Omaha, Argosy Casino, Wild Rose Casino, Stormin' Norman's Rock 'n Roll Auditorium, Avalon Ballroom and many more. They have opened for national acts such as Bill Haley's Comets, Chris LaDoux, and Kenny Chesney.
When asked what has kept them together as a working band for so long, the guys offer these reflections, "One of the many things we love about playing together is the teamwork it takes to make good music. Every person has to do his part for the music to sound great. As a group, we've been actively playing together for 28 years." They have had a great ride and it's not over yet!