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Old School Bed & Breakfast kicks off concert series

Posted 7/01/09 (Wed)

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

The Old School Bed & Breakfast offers a unique experience for anyone who stays there. But for residents of McKenzie County, there isn’t much reason to stay there when home is so close by. But even though spending the night may be out, area residents can still enjoy an evening at the Bed & Breakfast during its summer concert series.
The first of two scheduled concerts will be on Thursday, July 2, at 7 p.m. featuring the Fargo, N.D.- based group, ‘The Radio Stars.’
“My goal is to have these concerts work as a stepping stone for the groups,” says Milt Hanson, Old School Bed & Breakfast owner. “The groups have outgrown the bar scene, but they aren’t big enough for the big stage yet. Hopefully, someday soon you will hear these groups on the radio and think back to when you saw them here before they were big.”
The ‘Radio Stars’ are Merrill Piepkorn-guitars, harmonica, vocals; Gregg Temple (Smokey)-guitars, including pedal steel, vocals; R.P. Sell-Bass guitar, vocals; Alex Rydell-fiddle, vocals.
Piepkorn and Temple began playing together at Concordia College, in Moorhead, Minn. in about 1972, and although their personal and professional paths took them different directions in life, they maintained their musical relationship throughout the years.  They were members of the popular band ‘Skunk Hollow’ that played extensively in the Midwest from 1974 into the 90s.  Between then and now Merrill, Smokey, and RP have performed together several times over the years and for the past few years as ‘The Radio Stars.’  The newest and youngest member of the group is fiddler, Alex Rydell.
 “After each ‘Radio Stars’ performance over the past few years, people have asked where they can get a recording of our music,” says Piepkorn. “Although band members have numerous recordings to their credit over the years, as individuals and with several other groups, there was no ‘Radio Stars’ recording until this spring.”
After the group logged several hours in the recording studio and countless hours mixing the raw sound into the final product the CD Headin West was born.  The CD definitely has a western flavor, featuring a blend of traditional and modern western tunes, with other styles blended in.
“The Radio Stars are a really great group,” says Hanson. “I am happy to have them here, especially with their newly-released CD.”
Fans of that traditional sound will appreciate the ‘Sons of the Pioneers Medley,’ followed by ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky.’  Smokey shows off his vocals in the band’s treatment of a couple of Willis Alan Ramsey tunes and Lyle Lovett’s ‘Cowboy Man.’  Merrill steps out with his blues harp on ‘I Know You Rider’ and that good ol’ truck drivin’ song, ‘6 Days on the Road.’  The band even includes a Broadway show tune and a blues tune. One of the originals on the album, ‘My Dakota Home’ with lyrics by former N.D. Poet Laureate, Cal Waldron, is set to a tune by Merrill. 
“The project, ‘Headin West’ is a labor of love, a gift from the band to you,” adds Piepkorn. “This particular gift will be for sale at retail outlets throughout the state and at all ‘Radio Stars’ performances.”
Opening for the ‘Radio Stars’ will be singer/guitarist Tim Ritter along with his fiddle playing partner, Laura Enerson. Also appearing with Radio Stars will be Bridget Ertlelt. A Valley City native, Ertlelt is a versatile and talented singer.
“The concerts are a dream that I’ve had for the B&B since I first opened it,” says Hanson. “I am excited to bring this great talent to the area.”
Hanson is also pleased to announce a second concert featuring Eldon Johnson and True North. That concert is scheduled for Sept. 5 also at the Old School Bed & Breakfast.
“Eldon is from Williston and his dad, Kenny Johnson is originally from Arnegard. He even graduated from the school that is now the Bed & Breakfast,” says Hansen. “Eldon also has a new CD out so it will be great to have him here.”
Johnson entered the Colgate Country Showdown as a solo artist in 2007, winning the N.D. State Finals, and also won the Midwest Regional, advancing him to the 2008 National Finals at the world-famous Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. on Jan. 24, 2008, which was hosted by LeAnn Rimes. He was one of only five finalists out of over 50,000 across the nation that entered the contest, and competed for $100,000 on the grandest of stages. Eldon also recently auditioned for the blockbuster USA/NBC network program, "Nashville Star," and advanced to the National Finals for that, as well. All of this success and notoriety has certainly legitimized Eldon's place among the elite up-and-comers in the country music industry.
Currently residing in Fargo, N.D., Johnson continues to hone his skills as a singer/songwriter and performer, and also works as the Contemporary Music Coordinator at Faith Lutheran Church in West Fargo. Eldon's local, regional, and national popularity and loyal fan base continues to grow with each well-crafted show. His style has been described as a unique concoction of contemporary country, rock, Americana, bluegrass, and folk. His intricate and carefully-crafted lyrics blend seamlessly with the warm, smooth texture of his voice. Eldon's soulful songwriting and captivating performances are rich with universally-relevant themes, pulling the listener in and not letting go until the last note has been sung.
“I am excited to be getting this concert series underway and hope to have more concerts in the future,” says Hanson.
Concert tickets are $10.50 per person and can be purchased in advance by calling the Old School Bed & Breakfast at 701-586-3595 or at the door.