The Senders are Iowa's longest-playing band, with four decades of constant performances
Before Dave Matthews, Eric Clapton, and Lenny Kravitz were spinning out hits on their guitars, one northwest Iowa group was delivering classic rock and roll music to people using Montgomery Ward guitar amplifiers and drums borrowed from the high school marching band.
Forty years later, the tradition that began in legion halls and community centers is still alive and well, as The Senders will celebrate 40 years of songs such as "She Told Me" and "Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White" this September.
Iowa's longest running classic rock and roll band will mark its 40th anniversary in style, as former members of the band, fans and guest stars such as recording artist and songwriter Dickey Lee will gather at the Skate Palace in Ida Grove on Sept. 7 to hear songs and reminisce about the group's four decades of soothing chords and harmonic melodies.
The makeup of the classic band has fluctuated throughout the years, but founding member Don Schossow of Laurens said the level of excitement and appreciation the ensemble has shown toward its music and its fans has not changed over the course of time at all.
"We've been very fortunate to have been able to play our music for great fans," Schossow said. "Back when we started, we had no way of knowing that we would still be around 40 years later, but here we are. We're still having a great time doing this, because our fans have been great and we love playing the music that we're playing."
Schossow, who was a freshman in high school in Newell in 1962, teamed up with classmates Bob Thompson and Merle Leadey and juniors Rusty Davis and Kurt Paeper to form The Twilighters, a quintet which played tunes together for about three months before disbanding later that year.
Schossow, who played guitar, quickly recruited his brother, Dave, and sister, Colleen, to help create a new band, and the trio of Schossows were joined by Dave "Maynard" Wayt, Danny Peterson and Kevin Gillett to form The Senders. The six musicians quickly made an impact on the local scene with their upbeat rock-and-roll tunes, gaining a number of fans over the next four years.
The Senders made regular appearances at the famous Cobblestone Inn in Lakeside, and gained regional attention in 1967, when the group won the summer-long Battle of the Bands contest at the Roof Garden in Arnold's Park, earning the title of Band of the Year. The six musicians beat out ensembles from seven different states and Canada to earn the award, and Don said that was a defining moment for the group.
"That was a great honor for us to win the Band of the Year award," Schossow said, "especially since we were competing against so many different bands from across the country and even from Canada."
The musicians quickly capitalized on their Roof Garden success, recording their first album at the Iowa Great Lakes Recording Studio that fall. The album included several of their standard tunes, including "She Told Me," and became a popular disc on many record players across Iowa.
Two years later, several members decided to step away from the performance schedule for a while. However, instead of fading away, the Senders stayed alive, as the Schossows recruited people such as Primghar drummer Charlie Clark to ensure the ensemble would remain on the scene.
In addition to the change in personnel, the Senders also changed genre of music for a short time, singing country tunes for their fans. The country era of the Senders lasted into the mid-70's, when Don and Dave Schossow went into local law enforcement in Pocahontas and Ida Counties, and Wayt recovered from a car accident.
Don caught the band bug again in 1978, when he returned to become a full-fledged Sender, and helped the band get back to its roots of playing classic rock and roll. Dave Schossow, now of Holstein, and Wayt, who resides in Ida Grove, also stepped back into their roles in the ensemble, and Don said he and the other two original members decided to reunite in order to have the satisfaction of playing music together again.
"Playing music was always something that I liked to do, and I thought that it was time to get back in," Schossow said. "It's fun playing in this band, and I wanted to be able to start playing again."
The two Schossows and Wayt have continued to play in the band since the late '70s, but the other two positions have changed hands several times in the past two decades. The percussion role, now handled by Kenny Bright of Cherokee, was filled by Bob Harrison for nearly 18 years, while the spot of current Sender Marv Wipperling of Newell was occupied by Don's wife, Jenny, from 1989 to 2000.
Today, the current quintet have been able to spread their talents to sites in Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, South Dakota and Colorado, and Don said the group not only has been able to generate goodwill among fans with their music but with their charitable works as well.
"We've been able to do a lot of fundraisers, and it makes us feel pretty good to be able to help people out with our music," Schossow said. "We've been able to send terminally ill kids to Disneyland with some of our fundraisers, and we've also been able to send money out to a fund for terminally ill policemen in Colorado."
The current Senders will also look back at their success with other former members at the Sept. 7 celebration, and Don said he is looking forward to the occasion.
"It's going to be a great time," Schossow said. "We've had a lot of great memories with The Senders, and we think the celebration is really going to be a fun time for everybody."