RON HARTMAN/CHRONICLE PHOTO – The Windy Ridge Band, a Cottage Grove group that formed in 1966, has played shows every year for 56 consecutive years.
COTTAGE GROVE – The music has never stopped.
Through marriages, new jobs, kids being born, divorces, new bands, new marriages … the Windy Ridge Band members have seen it all since they formed a band in 1966.
“It works because we get along,” lead singer and rhythm guitar player David Munsell said.
“Music is the one constant in our lives – we all actually started out with different wives,” bass player Ken Bachelder, 72, said.
The band got its start when Munsell collaborated with Bachelder’s brother to start a band in ’66. The brother went to Vietnam, but he rejoined the band when he got back.
Lead guitarist Joe Tennis, 64, came along in the early ‘70s.
“I lived in the house where these guys practiced and they used to say, “We need to get that dummy in the group.”
Together, they put on a memorable show at Covered Bridge Brewing Group – and this isn’t just a bunch of older guys playing rocking-chair music – they still know how to capture a crowd, with a mesmerizing “Harvest Moon” by Neil Young and one of their old standards, “Heard It In A Love Song,” by Marshall Tucker.
“Just trying to give them an earful of cheerful,” Tennis said.
All of the band members went to Cottage Grove High School. They recruited a new drummer, Brad Helsel, after the original drummer retired.
“We were very fortunate to find Brad,” Munsell said. “We’ve all known Brad for a long time. He’s a little younger.”
They all said that Cottage Grove was a “happening” place to be in the late ’60s and early ’70s.
“Cottage Grove in the ’60s, there were 12 or 15 bands running around town, it was kind of the Beatles thing,” Tennis said. “Once we turned 21 we started playing all the bars and clubs.”
They’ve just about always stayed busy, playing at least one show a year for the last 56 years, producing two CDs. One year they played 50-of-52 weekends as Daybreak, then they briefly split up and formed new bands, before getting back together for good in 1990 as the Windy Ridge Band.
They’ll be playing again at Covered Bridge, and they’re part of the Concert In The Park series in the summer. But they’re also at a point where they can pick their spots now, and play when they want to play.
“We choose not to play every weekend, we’re very selective about where we play,” Bachelder said. “One thing we have that a lot of people don’t have is we have a studio on Blue Mountain where everything is set up, a stage is set up, we have tons of equipment, so we’re able to leave everything there, we meet there once a week. That’s our haven, our man-cave.”
And the beat goes on …