The T-J's

This photo from the late 1950s shows the T-J's, La Crosse's first rock 'n' roll band, which included, from left, Duane Schroeder, Bill Weigel, Jack Roubik and Tom Terry.

Contributed photo

Sometimes you just have to trust your instincts. You’d think I would have known that, especially coming out of an early evening screening last Friday of “Rogue One,” the newest installment in the “Star Wars” saga.

From the first “Star Wars” movie, it has been a mantra that trusting “the Force” instead of overthinking things was a really good idea. After coming out of the movie last Friday, I was feeling a pull, almost like a tractor beam, yanking me toward the Moose Lodge, which is just the length of an Imperial AT-AT Walker down Ward Avenue from Marcus Cinema.

I knew Good Tymes was playing at the Moose, and I’d always wanted to see that band, which is fronted by Tari Tovsen, one of the pioneers of rock ’n’ roll in La Crosse. I heard a whisper: “Go see the band, Randy.” But did I listen to my inner voice? No. I went home and finished reading the Bruce Springsteen autobiography.

Had I gone to the Moose, I would have witnessed a fun flashback to the birth of La Crosse rock ‘n’ roll — a live performance of the first single ever recorded by the La Crosse’s first rock ’n’ roll band, the T-J’s.

The band was formed as rock ’n’ roll was just taking off by two Central High School students, singer/guitarist Jack Roubik and drummer Bill Weigel, and an Aquinas student, guitarist Tom Terry. The trio had been playing a few songs at Lindy Shannon’s live radio show at the Teen-A-Reena, a youth center that was at the corner of Main Street and West Avenue, and they gained a fourth member after Roubik cut his hand slicing a banana with a machete with a Teen-A-Reena gig coming up that night.

Weigel remembered seeing Duane Schroeder, a couple years older than the other T-J’s, play Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue” at a school assembly, and he drove out to his farm to see whether he’d sit in that night on guitar. “After that, we decided to keep Duane in the band,” Weigel said by phone from his winter home in Florida.

Shannon, La Crosse’s first rock ’n’ roll disc jockey and a savvy music promoter, offered the band a chance to go to Minneapolis and record a single. This was 1958, when Weigel was a junior and Roubik and Terry were seniors. Weigel still has the note his mother wrote to excuse him from school because he had to go “make a musical recording.”

For the A side, Lindy and the band members listened to a stack of records, looking for a song they could cover. They settled on a song called “Party Party,” written by Dean Beard and Slim Willet and recorded by Beard in Texas. “We said, ‘We think we can jazz that one up a little bit,’” Weigel recalled, adding that they might have jazzed it up a little too much, in hindsight. “We played it at too fast a tempo, I think.”

Roubik sang lead on “Party Party” and on the B side, “Take My Love,” which was written collectively by the band.

The band made two more singles as the T-J’s, including one with both songs written and sung by Schroeder, and shared stages with a lot of the famous bands of the era, including the Everly Brothers. They also played (without any credit on the record label) on several singles by Marv Blihovde, a Coon Valley man.

In recognition of the band’s efforts, the T-J’s were inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

When that “Party Party” record came out in La Crosse, it was a huge sensation. Shannon arranged an autograph session for the band at Leithold Music, and the kids went wild. “They were all the way out into the street,” said Weigel, who lives in Connecticut when he’s not in Florida. “That was a lot of fun. It was a big deal for La Crosse at the time because rock ’n’ roll was new.”

One of the kids who was a huge T-J’s fan was Tovsen, who was a couple years younger than Weigel but already had musical aspirations. “I idolized them,” Tovsen said. “It was the only rock ’n’ roll band we had in La Crosse. I thought they were like Elvis, they were that big.”

Imagine Tovsen’s surprise last Friday when Weigel, who had become a good friend, showed up at the Moose Lodge for some Good Tymes. After Tovsen saw Weigel, he offered him the chance to come up and play drums on “Party Party.” Even though Weigel hadn’t performed since the last T-J’s reunion performance in 1994, he readily accepted the offer to play, and Tovsen said he didn’t miss a beat.

“He had no problem playing. He’s in great shape. He walked right up, sat down and said, ‘Let’s go,’” said Tovsen, who knew enough of the song lyrics to sing a rousing rendition. “He made it such a fun night. It was such a surprise.”

Weigel, who was back in La Crosse to visit family, also pronounced his cameo appearance fun. “It was a good time at the Moose Club, and it was a good time way back when it started,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun thinking back on those days.”

Two members of the T-J’s — Terry and Schroeder — have gone to that big sock hop in the sky, so a full T-J’s reunion performance at the final Lindy Shannon tribute concert in August won’t happen. (Actually, this will be the third “final” Lindy show, but this time, 25 years after the first Lindy show, I think they mean it.)

Weigel said he’s going to try to make it for the Lindy show in August at the Moose Lodge, and Roubik still lives in town, so there’s some potential for an encore performance of “Party Party” as well as a lot of other bands that loom large in the area’s rock ‘n’ roll legacy. I’m not gonna miss that one, even if I have to steal the plans for the Imperial Death Star to get there.

‘Larry’ is at the shop

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the DVD release of “Larry Has Left the Building,” the documentary about Elvis tribute artist Larry Hass, who was fatally stricken by a heart attack onstage at the Elvis Explosion. While I embedded a link to the website to buy the DVD in the online version of the story, I didn’t put the web address in the print edition: http://store.pagetfilms.com/Larry_Has_Left_The_Building_DVD_p/lhltb4.htm.

While I was on holiday break, I did get some voicemails from people wondering where they could buy the DVD. That struck me kind of funny. Why don’t they just Google it?

Then it occurred to me that a lot of the people who would want to see “Larry” might not be so tech savvy. I can just hear them saying, “What’s Google?”

So I had a talk with Dave Rogers at Dave’s Guitar Shop and he is going to get some copies of the DVD to sell at the shop. I think he’s even going to have some bonus movie posters to give out with the purchase of a DVD. At deadline, the deal had not gone down for certain, so I’m not sure when he’ll have DVDs in stock. But you could always call the shop before you go. Just Google the number … er, just call 608-785-7704.

To Dave, I just want to say “thankyouverymuch.”

Rock on …

Randy Erickson covers arts and entertainment and county government for the La Crosse Tribune. Contact him at 608-791-8219 or randy.erickson@lee.net.

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Entertainment and county government reporter

Randy Erickson covers arts and entertainment and county government for the La Crosse Tribune. Contact him at 608-791-8219 or randy.erickson@lee.net.

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