After seeing "The Byrds" jam in Okoboji Neil Ruge of Marathon says that was it - he knew he wanted to be a musician. Ruge went out and bought a guitar and began playing in 1965 when he was in eighth grade and he's been playing ever since.
"Can't seem to stop," he says. "I've always liked music. I've been lucky, I've been able to play with a lot of good people." He says he taught himself to play by watching others. Ruge says he can play different styles of music ranging from country to rock.
After spending about six years traveling across midwestern and western states with bands like the country group Kenny Bradberry Band based out of Wyoming and Key Lane he says he's glad to be back in Iowa and closer to his mother who lives in Spirit Lake. Ruge performed in bands who opened for performers like LeAnn Rimes, Kenny Chesney and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Now Ruge mainly performs a one man concerts which he says are just a "good ol' show with no gimmicks" or effects. He enjoys jamming with a group at Al's Guitar Bar in Havelock. The group calls themselves 'The Havelock Jam Band' and includes Ruge on lead guitar, Craig Phillips on bass guitar, Rollie Jensen on drums and Al Sroufe, owner of the bar, on rhythm guitar. "We play anything from Merle Haggard to Jimi Hendrix," he says.
The group plays together the last Friday of the month. The group will also be playing at the bar November 8 beginning at 8 p.m. Ruge says the group is available to play elsewhere if booked.
Ruge grew up in Worthington, MN and then moved to Nashville. He went to college in Bemidji, MN. in the 1970's and says he remembers there were several places to go back then to play live music and says he would play put on shows while he was still going to school. Now he says things have changed, the places are gone which he says is disappointing. "The live music scene has kinda died," he says.
Ruge says that while he has written some of his own lyrics he really enjoys playing other's music, learning different styles. He says he's carried lyrics around with him for six to seven years before finishing them.
"The fun is just entertaining a crowd... being able to play for people is still a big thrill."
* To book Ruge for an event or for guitar lessons contact him at 712-289-6142.