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Columbus Music

Columbus Music Co. was started in 1945 by Forrest Corn, who was the Columbus High School band director from 1935 to 1943.

The first location was in downtown Columbus at 2312 13th St., two blocks east and across the street from its current location. Television, radio and record sales were added to the offerings in the early years. Many customers enjoyed the try-it-before-you-buy-it method of listening to 45s in the record booth, played by Mary Jo Tucek, before making their purchase.

Mike and Jan Moser purchased the business from Corn in 1977, moving the business to the 30 Center Mall.

After renting in the mall for six years, they purchased the former Kaufman Hardware buildings downtown at 2514 13th St., where the business remains today.

Mike has been active with music since his teen years, playing at St. Bonaventure Catholic Church and in bands, and formed the band Cruisin’ in 1990 with Fred Ritter and Bill Boucher. He still plays for weddings, dance clubs and other celebrations.

Jan has been active in music since her youth, playing piano and organ in church and for weddings, funerals and the Consonaires singing group, and helping various schools with music program accompaniment.

The Mosers help organize the entertainment for Lawnchairs on the Square each summer. They have also helped organize Community Band for the last two years and Mike has amplified events, like Columbus Days and the Columbus Marching Festival, for the last four decades.

Many musicians got their first instruments at Columbus Music and still shop there today.

Dalton Fuller

Born in Keith County on Sept. 3, 1940, Dalton Fuller spent eight years in country schools, graduating from Ogallala High School in 1958. He taught for Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Beverly Hills, California, then enlisted in the U.S. Navy.

Fuller's musical life began playing bass guitar with the Silver Bell Rangers in Imperial, California. He learned to play and also learned the music business with help from Dugan Robinson.

After receiving his honorable discharge from the Navy, Fuller began working for Electronic Tec. He formed his own band in 1965 and transitioned into the music business full time the next year.

Fuller worked with several top musicians over the years, including many Nebraska Music Hall of Fame inductees.

In music promotion, Fuller served as general manager and coordinator of USO tours' overseas division out of North Hollywood, California; entertainment director at the Lucky Nugget in Deadwood, South Dakota; marketing manager for the Ramada Inn in North Platte; business manager for Good Life Recording in Grand Island; business and road manager of White Water Jade, a band from Nashville, Tennessee; and co-owner and marketing manager of Industrial Power in Black Hawk, South Dakota. He helped boost membership in the Ex-Serviceman Club in Ogallala, designed a new sound system and worked for Renee Sound Studio in David City and produced 26 weeks of television programming for Country Showcase in David City.

In 1998, a car accident caused Fuller to slow down.

He currently works with Black Hawk International, a booking agency in Pine Bluffs, Wyoming; is owner of David City Publishing, a BMI publishing company in Black Hawk, South Dakota; owner of the Performing Arts Forum in Pine Bluffs, Wyoming; and still does solo shows in veterans’ and nursing homes plus his regular dance jobs.

Jack McKown

Born in Topeka, Kansas, Jack McKown moved to Columbus when he was adopted at 8 months old by Joe and Gerry McKown. His music interest started when he was quite young, listening to his mom playing piano and cousin Jean playing boogie-woogie.

Jack hung around other musicians living in “the brown house” (now a parking lot for McKown Funeral Home). Among those were members of Freedom Road. The first band McKown helped form was Purple Stone. Other members were Jim Holmstead, Jan Zaura, Robin Oberg and Jerry Moore.

He later played with a series of Nebraska bands including Sweetwater from Platte Center and Otis from Fremont. McKown stepped away for a couple of years then played with Bill Vickers’ country band Southern Comfort with Holmstead and his wife Joann. After a short run with Patchwork, he rejoined the Holmsteads in the Sunshine Bottom Band.

Rejoining Vickers and Southern Harmony, McKown hit the road, traveling throughout Colorado, Oregon, New Mexico and other states. After returning home, McKown found work at Columbus Music and joined former Freedom Road members Don Swager, Don Peterson and Tim Tarnick to form the New Road Band. From there McKown began a 16-year musical relationship with Rick Jacobson, Warren Frerichs, Bob Hartle, Harley Zumbrum and Zaura in the Nebraska Music Hall of Fame band Shilo.

He played with several other artists before rejoining former Shilo members Warren and Luke Frerichs, Zaura, Coleman Broaders and Mark Burns to form Cactus Flats.

Ryan Comte

Ryan Comte was immersed in music at an early age. With a big band leader for a father and mother who could sing nearly any song from the 1930s to the 1960s, music was bound to be a major part of his life.

He started his musical career by learning to play trumpet from Bob Olsen in Fremont. He played trumpet in both marching band and concert band throughout his junior high and high school years at David City Public Schools. Around the age of 12, he started sneaking into his dad’s recording studio to teach himself how to play drums.

When his dad, Bud, caught him playing rock music one day, he said, "f you are going to use my equipment, then you are going to learn how to play all kinds of music.”

Comte learned how to play many different types of music, which has helped him throughout his career.

At age 14, Comte had his first “professional” gig playing drums for Joe Cockson at a keg party near Bellwood. His pay was sandwiches and a beer.

At that point he was hooked, and continued to hone his craft by keeping the beat for the David City High stage band his sophomore, junior and senior years. Toward the end of his high school career, he had the privilege of playing with his dad in The Bud Comte Orchestra.

As a sophomore at Wayne State College, Comte was asked to be in the backing band for a variety show on the college TV station KWSC. The rock band Magnum was the result of this collaboration. The band played in the Wayne area, as well as on the TV show. They disbanded after his junior year.

A musical collaboration between Bud Comte, Dalton Fuller, Larry Good and Bob Palensky resulted in the album “A Bit of Country with a Touch of Brass." A few years later, demand escalated for that music to be played live. The group put together the band Country with a Touch of Brass.

While Bud managed the band and ran sound, Comte and his little brother Rick worked as the lighting crew. The brothers traveled with the band during the summer months as the group played state and county fairs throughout the Midwest.

When the touring drummer quit, Comte stepped in until the band disbanded a few years later.

Comte was then asked by Fuller to join the country portion of that group, The Dalton Gang. He played locally with The Dalton Gang for around seven years. When the decision was made to go back on the road, Comte bowed out because of his involvement with the family business, Five Star Feeds.

But he met Patti Mahoney and joined The Sunny River Band. He played country music with that group for around four years.

After his time with The Sunny River Band, Comte was again contacted by Fuller to play for the River City Roundup as part of the Trail Ride Band. This was an annual event that started each year in Ogallala. The band played nine gigs in eight days across the state, ending at the River City Roundup in Omaha. He played the annual gig with The Dalton Gang for 17 of the 25 years they performed as the Trail Ride Band.

Toward the end of Comte's time with The Dalton Gang, Delmer Schultz, manager of The Country Troubadours and a lifelong employee of Five Star Feeds, approached him about replacing his departing drummer. Comte agreed to fill in for six months until they could find a permanent replacement.

Those six months turned into seven years, and when Fuller decided to leave the band Comte followed to pursue his desire to play the blues.

A jam band Comte played with at The Pour House in Surprise got its first gig for the Butler County Arts Council and quickly became The Blues Infectors. Over the span of a couple of years, The Blues Infectors played at several fundraisers for local charities. Almost everyone in The Blues Infectors was already involved in other projects, so they disbanded. Comte and a couple of the others formed what became Out Of The Blue.

The new band went through several personnel changes before playing its first gig at an open stage night at Duggan’s Pub in Lincoln. Out Of The Blue played throughout the tri-state area for the next 14 years before breaking up.

He also put together a stage band to play during the holiday basketball tournament at David City High. The Swinging Neck Breakers played for the tournament over the next three years.

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Comte joined Standing Stranded eight years ago and the group continues to perform locally. He also plays a few times a year with The Balmer Brothers and with Max Carl, lead singer for The Chancellors, Jack Mack & The Heart Attack, .38 Special and Grand Funk Railroad, in a group called The Enablers.

Comte also formed Barrelhouse, a blues/rock group that has been together for a little over a year and plays throughout the area.

He has also carried on the business of running the Nebraska Music Hall of Fame recording studio his dad started out of the family garage many years ago, Renee Sound Studio.

The Country Ramblers

The Country Ramblers band started in the summer of 1971 with members Jack Merrill of Silver Creek (vocalist and guitarist), Dale Parker of Silver Creek (bassist and vocalist), John Johnson of Columbus (lead guitarist and vocalist) and Rick Graham of Silver Creek (drummer and vocalist).

This group played together for three years at numerous weddings, anniversaries, parties and bars around Silver Creek, Columbus and the surrounding area.

In 1974, two members moved on. Ron Sypal of Columbus was a new member on lead guitar and George Thielen of Shelby joined the group on drums. The group’s first female vocalist, Denise Klassen of Silver Creek, was with the band for a few years. Then Moni (Nienaber) Albrecht joined the group in the early 1980s. Also in the 1980s, the band picked up Jutta Graham of Columbus (bass guitar). Later on, Mike Allen of Columbus (guitar) and Howard Ernst of Columbus (guitar) were part of The Country Ramblers.

The group has been playing country, classic rock, polkas and waltzes across the state for more than four decades.

In 1978, they made their first recording at Renee Sound Studio in David City, produced by Bud Comte. The album “Just for You” was released on eight-track tape and more than 600 copies were sold.

Recently, The Country Ramblers have been playing for veterans' events and opened for Gary Puckett and the Union Gap in Norfolk.

The Deal

The nucleus of The Deal came together in the summer of 1979 when Jimmy Rains met Dave Sommermeyer in the rehearsal space Rains was renting in downtown Columbus. The two soon discovered a mutual interest in starting a band.

Rains and Sommermeyer soon put together the band Avenue with Richard Molacek on bass and Rod Watson on drums. The band had limited success, but the members gained valuable experience playing at a few private parties in the Columbus area. Next came Perfect Stranger with Julie Carlton on bass and Scott Adkisson on drums. Perfect Stranger enjoyed more success than Avenue, but also ultimately disbanded after a couple of years.

After hearing Billy Drozd sing at a high school band concert, Sommermeyer contacted Rains and the three arranged to meet. Drozd brought his friend, bass player Jay Augustin, with him and the four hit it off immediately. Augustin and Drozd joined and The Deal was born. John Liebentritt also played keyboard with the band but left after a short time to pursue college full time.

The Deal played its first paying gig at St. Joseph’s Church Social Hall on Sept. 18, 1985, a wedding reception for some friends.

Over the next seven years The Deal played hundreds of shows wherever and whenever they could with regular stops at Steve’s Place in Bellwood, Ma and Pa’s in Fremont, Jacks or Better in Lincoln, P.J.’s Lounge in Hastings and The Navigator Lounge, The Quarthouse, Maximus and Wishbones in Columbus.

The Deal played a number of benefit shows over the years and opened shows for national recording artists Head East and Kansas, as well as international recording artists The Bay City Rollers and Accept.

Other shows were in Yankton, South Dakota, Clarinda, Iowa, Carroll, Iowa, Beatrice, Hastings, Scottsbluff and Kearney.

After Sommermeyer and Augustin left the band in 1992, Rains and Drozd continued as The Deal with Jim Pitts on lead guitar and Mike Congdon on bass. The Deal eventually disbanded, and Rains, Drozd and Congdon joined with guitarist Scott Murphy and drummer Tommy Jackson to form the band Tantrum.

The original members of The Deal reunited on Nov. 25, 2005, for their 20th anniversary and the grand opening of Kudron’s Keg in Humphrey. The original lineup was able to play three more times, at a benefit for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, at the Twisters Bar and Grill summer luau and one more time at Kudron’s Keg for the bar’s fifth anniversary celebration on May 15, 2010.

Augustin died less than a month later.

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