– by Cyndi Meyer and Jeff Arnold
Rainbow Bridge was formed in September of 1976 by Cyndi Krachey and myself, Jeff Arnold. Cyndi and I had been playing in another band for about a year and decided to form our own group. The very first version of the band included: Jeff Arnold (guitar), Cyndi Krachey (Meyer) (keyboard), Bob D’entremont (bass) and Rich Erdman (drums). The name was inspired by a Jimi Hendrix album. One of first jobs was at the Janesville Eagles Club. Later that year, we added Cyndi’s long time friend Debbie Smith to the band, who provided rhythm guitar and background vocals.
We kept a busy schedule playing clubs, weddings, festivals, ect., all over Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Deb eventually left the band, returning us to our original four piece line up. Some of our fondest memories are that of the Raintree, where we became the regular Sunday night band. Sometime in 1978, our bass player, Bob, decided to leave the band and was replaced by Steve Doiel. Steve added a very strong vocal presence to the band which opened the door to a whole new range of material. Steve stayed with the band about a year and decided to move on. Bob agreed to re-join the band, but following Steve’s vocal abilities was going to be a problem.
We needed a strong male voice to replace Steve. Through an area booking agent,we found Kurt Wheeler. Kurt, who was from Beloit, was a classic rocker and into groups like REO Speedwagon, Cheap Trick, Lynyrd Skynyrd, ect. Bringing Kurt’s influences into the band gave us a whole new image and style. We continued to play weddings, local bars, and the Raintree. The schedule became too much for Bob, who again decided to leave the band. Enter, Jim Peterson. Jim was a wild man on bass. We had some great times with this combination. This was about the time we started playing regularly at Rocky’s in downtown Janesville. The band was now playing mostly current and classic rock and developing a good local following. Also, developing more as a high energy bar band, we added Steve Johnson (sound) and Russ White (lights) to the band. Steve and Russ were both classmates of my brother, Matt Arnold, who also filled in on sound occasionally and would be a future member. Steve was the older brother of Kathy Johnson, who would be a future bass player. Anyway, Kurt decided to join the army and sadly was replaced by Larry Hunt. Larry was an extraordinary singer but personal issues soon developed and he was replaced by Cyndi’s classmate, David Kane. David stayed until Kurt was discharged from the army and wanted back in the band. Cyndi and I were a couple at this time and were married in 1979.
We always wanted to go on the road and started looking into agents. Jim Peterson had a family, so this was not an option for him. Following this goal meant having to replace Jim with another Jim – Jim Marks. Jim was a young bass student of mine and extremely talented. Also around this time, our original drummer, Rich, left the band. We hired another of Matt’s classmates – Tim Pogorelski. Tim was a power drummer and really changed the sound of the band. Finally we had the right combination to go on the road. It was 1983. (to be continued)
History of the band Part II
We started our road adventure in January of 1984 with: Jeff, Cyndi, Kurt, Tim, Jim, and Steve Johnson (sound). I believe our first job was in South Bend, Indiana. There’s a (now funny) story about our Volkswagen mini-bus actually starting on fire on our maiden voyage. We managed to remove our personal belongings from the burning “hippie van” and were basically waiting for the thing to blow up. Kurt flagged a tow truck, who just happened to have a fire extinguisher, and we saved the bus. We drove to Indiana, in January, with no heat. Nobody ever rode with me again and the bus was sold shortly after.
The band played generally in the mid-western states, with one southern trip through Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. In Indiana, we toured the Indy track, Tennessee meant a trip to Graceland, and in Mississippi we toured the Peavey plant. It was almost like a paid vacation. We would play 2 weeks, 5 – 6 nights a week at most clubs.
Steve was replaced with Phil Moss, who had run sound for the Piper Road Spring band. Phil was a top-notch soundman and we received many positive comments on the sound. Unfortunately, Phil was not comfortable with the lounge scene and gave notice. We picked up another Miltonite – Charlie Gallagher, who replaced Phil.
After the first year, Kurt decided to leave the band. We asked Dave Nelson to join and Dave agreed. Dave was a former guitar teaching friend of mine and was a groomsman in my marriage to Cyndi. Our two years on the road can be defined as the Kurt year (1984) and the Dave year.(1985) Dave was married to Carol, who also came along and ran the lights. I’d like to say that the road years were great memories for all of us as it was a once in a lifetime experience.
We decided to come home towards the end of 1985. This was a defining moment for the band as Tim, and Jim wanted to move on. My brother Matt, an excellent guitarist, agreed to join playing bass. Dave’s former band mate, Jim Millard was hired to play drums. We decided to run sound from stage so Charlie also left at this time.
Matt, Cyndi, and I had a local friend who had a hunting accident and we agreed to play a benefit for him at the Countryside Inn. We asked another mutual friend, Kathy Johnson, (Steve’s sister) to play bass with us. Matt switched to guitar and we used a drum machine. This group went over quite well and the owner asked us if we wanted to play regularly on Sundays. Thinking this wouldn’t interfere with Rainbow Bridge, we agreed. We called ourselves “The Arnold Johnson Band” as we had three Arnolds and a Johnson in the band. This group was a lot fun as the girls sounded great together and Matt and I were both playing guitar. Tension started to mount in RB as some of us being in two bands was seen as a conflict of interest. Both groups were doing a lot of the same material which also caused problems. Eventually things came to head, and Cyndi and I had to make a difficult decision between the two groups. Given how much we enjoyed the Arnold Johnson band, we decided to fold the current version of RB and add a drummer to AJ band and make that the new version of RB. We offered the job to Jim but he turned us down. Rick Mattelig, a drummer I had played with in previous bands, decided to join. The line up of myself, Cyndi, Kathy, Matt and Rick was one of the longest running and most popular versions of the band. Rick left and returned to the band about three times over the next twelve years. Other drummers were: Dan Steinke, Jeff Ross, and Bob Hamann. Rick’s friend, Greg Van Blaricom, also worked for the band doing setup / teardown and sound during this time. In 1989, Cyndi and I divorced but continued with the band.
In 1997, Kathy decided she wanted out of the bar scene and gave notice. Kathy was an extremely talented bass player / vocalist and was strongly identified with the band. We decided not to give up and started looking. One night at Slicks, I was watching the band “Two Left Feet” and noticed how well bass player Denny Wayne handled both bass and high harmony vocals. We approached Denny about joining the band and he agreed. With Denny picking up Kathy’s harmony parts, and Cyndi adding some of Kathy’s songs, we were able to keep going. Shortly after having Denny settled in, Matt began having some health and personal issues and had to leave the band. Matt, with his smile and good time attitude, was greatly missed. We kept playing as a four piece, but the magic was gone and proved too much for Rick who soon left as well. We re-approached Bob Hamann, who agreed to rejoin the band. Rick was a fine singer and Bob, although a solid drummer was not a vocalist. We knew we needed another singer / rhythm guitarist to fill the gap.
While Matt and I were operating Appleseed music, one of our favorite customers was Cary Deets. (now Cary Farmer) Cary played a duo with Cary and Crud and we became good friends. We decided to ask Cary to join the band. Cary made sure that this was okay with Matt and Crud before he agreed. Both Matt and Crud thought it would be a good move for him, and so Cary became the new lead male vocalist / rhythm guitarist. Former sound man for Rockin’ Horse, Tim Waggoner was also approached to run sound for the band. Cary, with his good time attitude and powerful voice, gave the band the spark it needed. Tim, undeniably the finest sound man around, gave the band a quality of sound not heard since the Phil Moss time. This was a very popular version of Rainbow Bridge which lasted about four years. But, as with any situation, tensions arose once again resulting in the departure of Denny Wayne. Matt agreed to once again join the band playing bass.
Cary, in the meantime, had started his own gutter business and was feeling uncomfortable about the band’s busy schedule. Things came to head in the summer of 2004 and Cary left the band. One night at Tremors, while Cary was still in the band, a young singing DJ named Jason Brunner sat in and sang Mustang Sally. We were all quite impressed with not only his vocal ability, but also his overall good natured attitude. Cyndi and I knew Jason’s parents from high school. We felt we needed another strong male singer to replace Cary and asked Jason to join the band. There were issues of age and lack of rhythm guitar that caused some concern but we all decided to make a go of it.
Around 2010, Jason’s son, Jackson, was diagnosed with an immune system deficiency and required lengthy hospital stays. Jason divided his time between Jackson, the band, and his DJ business, but was it getting to be too much. Jason took a leave of absence in the summer of 2010. We did a few jobs without him, and had Texas native Gary McAdams fill-in when he could. The medical bills were piling up and financially, Jason could do better with his DJ, karaoke, and sound company. One night after a gig at the Elks Club in 2011, Jason informed us that he needed to quit and pursue his other business interests. Gary had filled in for Jason most of the summer and knew most of the songs, so it seemed the logical choice to ask Gary to officially join. After some thought, Gary agreed.
Gary is a powerful singer with a lot of professional experience. Since adding Gary, the band’s vocals and harmonies have become a dominant force in the band. We’ve learned a lot of new songs since adding Gary, and we’re still going strong. Gary also books his own band, the Gary McAdams Band, around Rainbow Bridge jobs.
Sometime in 2012, our Soundman, Tim Waggoner, took different full-time work and decided to leave the band. I purchased a small PA that we use in smaller clubs, and we run the sound from stage. The Countryside and Tremors both installed a house system with their own soundperson, which meant for fewer jobs with Tim. Tim ran sound for many years and gave the band a great live sound. We appreciate and respect his talent, and miss his humor.
2013 marks the 37th year of Rainbow Bridge and we’re still looking ahead to
I’d also mention “fill-in” bass players Russ Wallace and John Nelson. John filled in for Matt one night at Taasbag and did a great job. Rockton bassist extraordinaire Russ Wallace has played with the band on a number of
occasions and always sounds fantastic. We really appreciate the efforts of both John and Russ and hope they had as much fun as we did.