Sioux Falls Rock City? Celebrating South Dakota's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Last Saturday, most of the original members of Chicago converged in Cleveland for the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Like many groups before them who had to prepare to accept the honors, members tried to mend fences, agree on a set list, clear schedules, and rehearse songs. As the date neared, the question loomed (as it always does about some band): Who would show up and who wouldn’t? Ultimately, former lead vocalist Peter Cetera passed, but original drummer Danny Seraphine played “Saturday in the Park” and “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” with four other founding members for the first time since 1990. They entered the Hall, alongside Cheap Trick, Steve Miller, N.W.A., and Deep Purple.

Today, Craig Katt, a 60-something president of an audio/visual technology company in Atlanta, will make similar preparations to those honorees, but his journey will be to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Katt is bringing together former members of his band, Ivory—who you may not be familiar with unless you attended rock shows in the Upper Midwest in the ’70s and ’80s—to perform at its induction into a much lesser-known institution: the South Dakota Rock and Roll Music Association Hall of Fame. Every year, the association inducts a slate of musicians, DJs, promoters, venues, and instrument stores that, at some time, played a part in the music scene of America’s 46th most populous state.

“The band is still tight and really good,” Katt, who still plays music occasionally, tells mental_floss. He says that when it formed in 1975, Ivory was “like a Crosby, Stills and Nash of the Black Hills,” with vocal harmonies and members recruited from other regionally successful bands. Though they never scored a Top 40 hit or a gold record, Ivory played more than 200 shows a year for 13 years and opened for the likes of REO Speedwagon and Mötley Crüe.

“We have two of the other original members, along with five guys who later joined the band coming in,” says Katt. The two other original members, one currently the CEO of a robotics company and the other the owner of a marketing firm, will travel to Sioux Falls to relive their rock and roll heydays—minus the long hair and tight pants.

The South Dakota Rock and Roll Music Association Hall of Fame started “eight years ago with a few people who thought it was important to preserve the area’s musical heritage,” says Mark Aspaas, chairman of the board of directors. The first class was inducted in 2009.

A person, group or institution can be nominated through the group’s website, and the 11-person board, made up of longtime state music stalwarts, votes on nominees. Performers can be from South Dakota or have toured through it frequently. The association also manages a physical hall of fame, with instruments and photos from inductees, at Washington Pavilion, a Sioux Falls performing arts venue.

While some states, like Tennessee and Michigan, have district musical flavors that have influenced the greater musical history of the U.S., the nationally obscure South Dakota honorees more reflect popular music’s mid-century evolution through the lens of an intimate music scene. The Class of 2016 includes The Postmen, a group of high school kids from the city of Tripp with early Beatles-ish marching suits and haircuts; the Handy Bros. Chessman Show, a late-’60s racially integrated soul band from Sioux Falls; WhiteWing, an ethereal progressive rock band from Rapid City; and KSQY DJ Jack Morris (on-air name: “Jack Daniels”), who helped introduce hard rock to Deadwood in the ’80s.

Many of the South Dakota acts reunite for inductions, bringing together whose dreams of making a name in music far beyond Sioux Falls or Rapid City were aborted but never forgotten.

“You pick up where you left off 40 years ago,” says Brian Wheeler, a two-time inductee for his work with The Apostles and Nickel Bag of Soul, bands that together spanned the ’60s and ’70s. “You know these guys. You traveled with them.” He tells mental_floss, “Some of them haven’t picked up an instrument in 40 years, but they do it because it’s an honor.”

While outsiders may imagine South Dakota’s musical history to be as sparse as its population, Katt assures that, back in the day, it was hopping. “There were ballrooms all over the state and if you played one, you get the whole town to come out,” he says. “It was just a huge market and you could make a lot of money.” He says, in the ’70s, unknown bands playing Boston or New York City could charge a dollar or two at the doors. For anything more, young people would scurry to another club. But in an Upper Midwest town, there was no competition. Ivory could charge $5 to $10 and earn a decent living without being nationally famous. That’s why they always had the best gear and the most elaborate stage sets—jungle- and tundra-themed backdrops they used to tote across the Midwest in diesel trucks. “We could afford things other touring bands couldn’t.” He says that when he met a young Prince at a Minneapolis gig, the music legend admired his wireless electric guitar.

It's all part of a history he wants to help preserve, so that others can appreciate this small but loud part of rock and roll's colorful past.

To learn more, visit the South Dakota Rock and Roll Music Association's website.

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Photograph by John Robert Rowlands. © John Robert Rowlands
Pop Culture
Take a Sneak Peek at the Brooklyn Museum's Upcoming David Bowie Exhibition
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Photograph by John Robert Rowlands. © John Robert Rowlands

David Bowie was born in London, and spent his final years in New York. Which makes it fitting that an acclaimed traveling retrospective of the rocker’s career will end at the Brooklyn Museum in 2018, five years after it first kicked off at London's Victoria and Albert Museum.

Following a whirlwind global tour, “David Bowie is” will debut at the Brooklyn Museum on March 2, 2018, and run until July 15, 2018. Curated by the V&A, it features around 400 objects from the singer’s archives, including stage costumes, handwritten lyrics, photographs, set designs, and Bowie’s very own instruments.

Together, these items trace Bowie’s evolution as a performer, and provide new insights into “the creative process of an artist whose sustained reinventions, innovative collaborations, and bold characterizations revolutionized the way we see music, inspiring people to shape their own identities while challenging social traditions,” according to the Brooklyn Museum.

“David Bowie is” has received nearly 2 million visitors since it left the V&A in 2013. Due to its overwhelming popularity, the show is a timed ticketed exhibition, with priority access reserved for Brooklyn Museum members and certain ticket holders.

Tickets are on sale now, but you can take a sneak peek at some artifacts from "David Bowie is" below.

Photograph from the David Bowie album cover shoot for "Aladdin Sane, 1973

Photograph from the album cover shoot for Aladdin Sane, 1973

Photograph by Brian Duffy. Photo Duffy © Duffy Archive & The David Bowie Archive

Striped body suit worn by David Bowie during his "Aladdin Sane" tour in 1973

Striped bodysuit for the Aladdin Sane tour, 1973. Design by Kansai Yamamoto 

Photograph by Masayoshi Sukita © Sukita/The David Bowie Archive

Cut up lyrics for "Blackout" from David Bowie's album Heroes, 1977

Cut up lyrics for "Blackout" from Heroes, 1977

Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum

Original lyrics for “Ziggy Stardust,” by David Bowie, 1972
Original lyrics for “Ziggy Stardust,” by David Bowie, 1972
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum

A 1974 Terry O'Neill photograph of musician David Bowie with William Burroughs.
David Bowie with William Burroughs, February 1974. Photograph by Terry O'Neill with color by David Bowie.
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum

Original photography for David Bowie's 1997 "Earthling" album cover

Original photography for the Earthling album cover, 1997

Photograph by Frank W Ockenfels 3. © Frank W Ockenfels 3

Print after a self-portrait by David Bowie, 1978
Print after a self-portrait by David Bowie, 1978
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum

One of David Bowie's acoustic guitars from the “Space Oddity” era, 1969

Acoustic guitar from the Space Oddity era, 1969

Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum

An asymmetric knitted bodysuit designed by Kansai Yamamoto for musician David Bowie's 1973 "Aladdin Sane" tour.

Asymmetric knitted bodysuit, 1973. Designed by Kansai Yamamoto for the Aladdin Sane tour.

Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum
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Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
8 Musicians With Incredibly Brainy Side Gigs
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Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

The Pink Floyd line “we don’t need no education” might hold true for some musicians, but for others that couldn’t be further from the truth. The musicians highlighted below didn’t just swing by a university to pick up an honorary diploma only after finding musical success. Nope, they put in the long hours to earn doctoral degrees and then picked up jobs with outfits such as NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense. Because as cool as having “rock star” on your Wikipedia page is, having “rocket scientist” follow it is just that much cooler.


British guitarist Brian May could have easily called it a day when Queen’s recording career came to an end following the death of Freddie Mercury in 1991. While May continues to play live with his remaining bandmates, he has also embraced his interest in astrophysics.

May had abandoned his doctoral studies at the Imperial College of London in the mid-1970s to live the rock star life, but returned to complete his PhD in 2007. Since then, May has co-authored two books on the cosmos, and in 2015 collaborated with NASA as the New Horizons space probe passed by Pluto. If that weren’t impressive enough, May can lay claim to compiling the first high-quality stereo image of the dwarf planet. Not too shabby for a guy who had already made his mark with arena rock staples like “We Will Rock You” and “Stone Cold Crazy.”


Punk rockers the Descendents weren’t joking around when they named their first album: 1982’s Milo Goes To College. Frontman Milo Aukerman put all those punk rock lyrics about binging on coffee to serious use, earning a doctorate in biology from UC San Diego and a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

For many years, Aukerman split his time, leading the Descendents while working as an adjunct professor at the University of Delaware and plant researcher with chemical company DuPont. The two chosen fields of study, punk rock and biochemistry, might not seem to have much in common, but Aukerman found many similarities. In 2011, he told The Scientist that in both fields, he was “always looking for discoveries that challenge current thinking.” Fans shouldn’t expect Aukerman to get too geeky with his lyrics though: “I will probably never ever write a song about DNA,” he said. In a 2016 interview with Spin, Aukerman shared that he's now dedicating his full-time life to music. “[Science has] gotten less and less interesting to me,” he said. “Also, working in a corporation has become a misery of sorts. As I was discovering this and realizing maybe I should just do music full-time, lo and behold, [my job] laid me off anyway.”


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Orange County, California punk rockers The Offspring have been regularly touring and putting out albums since the mid-1980s. What fans might be surprised to learn though is that in between writing songs like “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy),” the band's lyricist and frontman Dexter Holland was working on HIV research.

In May 2017, Holland earned his PhD in molecular biology from the University of Southern California, completing a 175-page dissertation titled Discovery of Mature MicroRNA Sequences within the Protein-Coding Regions of Global HIV-1 Genomes: Predictions of Novel Mechanisms for Viral Infection and Pathogenicity. Lengthy scientific jargon thesis titles aside, Holland told Rolling Stone his focus was on the molecular dynamics of the HIV virus. "I am interested in virology and wanted to contribute in some small way to the knowledge which has been learned about HIV and AIDS,” Holland said.


People fall into side gigs like dog-walking or crafting all the time. Finding yourself unexpectedly taking on a second job as a consultant in missile defense systems, on the other hand, is a little more out of the norm. Jeff “Skunk” Baxter spent much of the 1970s and '80s playing guitar with acts like the Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, and Elton John. Since the mid-1990s though, Baxter has had a second job working with the Congressional Advisory Board on Missile Defense and consulting for General Atomics. And he landed those gigs almost entirely out of sheer luck.

Baxter credits his natural curiosity to look at technologies and how they can be improved upon as his springboard into the field of missile defense. The guitarist would regularly pick the brain of his next door neighbor, a retired engineer who had worked on the Pentagon's Sidewinder missile program. Baxter spent the next several years doing his own research and learning everything he could about the hardware developed for missile use. He would eventually submit his own proposal on how to improve the ship-based Aegis missile system to California Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher and the rest is history.


Katie Stratton/Getty Images

For more than three decades, Bad Religion has held a spot as one of the most respected punk bands in the genre, with vocalist Greg Graffin commanding the stage. Graffin’s politically-charged lyrics have helped the band maintain a healthy following, but music isn’t Graffin’s only passion.

Since 2008, Graffin has split his time between playing with Bad Religion and teaching evolutionary biology at several universities. Graffin earned a PhD in zoology from Cornell University and has returned to his alma mater to teach courses on the subject. The punk rocker has co-authored three books on the subject of evolution and religion and taught life science courses at the University of California Los Angeles. Like other musicians who dabble in the sciences, Graffin has found parallels in the two. “If I’m behind a lectern or onstage, I’m just trying to provoke people to use and expand their minds a little,” Graffin told the San Diego Tribune.


The life of Philip Taylor Kramer was one filled with both exceptional success and horrific tragedy. Kramer first made a name for himself in the 1970s playing bass with psychedelic rock band Iron Butterfly. He went on to play with other groups into the early 1980s, but would later leave music and find success in the field of computer engineering.

The musician’s father was a professor of electrical engineering and after a career in music, Kramer co-founded a company that produced significant work in missile guidance systems as well as computerized facial reconstruction models. Tragically, Kramer’s life was mysteriously cut short in 1995 when he disappeared after making a frantic call to his wife from the Los Angeles International Airport and telling her to meet him at a hotel.

The musician/computer engineer then called the police and said he was going to kill himself before abruptly hanging up. He wasn’t heard from again until his burned-out van was discovered in the bottom of a ravine four years later. The death was ruled a probable suicide, though some of Kramer’s closest family and friends suspected foul play.


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Deadheads will probably best know the name John Perry Barlow from the liner notes of Grateful Dead albums as a co-writer on a number of classics like “Mexicali Blues” and “Cassidy.” Further exploration would reveal that there are many sides to John Perry Barlow besides Grateful Dead lyricist. Barlow can be credited as a pioneer in the digital revolution, leading the way to preserve and protect internet freedoms as a co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 1990.

These days Barlow has shifted his focus to a new calling—pond scum. More specifically: algae. He is the vice president of Algae Systems, a company working to grow microalgae as a biofuel and convert sewage into a fertilizer.


Rock band Boston had one of the best-selling debut albums in music history with their 1976 self-titled debut selling 17 million copies. Almost all of that success can be attributed to guitarist Tom Scholz’s background as a mechanical engineer.

Scholz had received both his bachelor's (1969) and master's degrees (1970) in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but he had dreams of rock n’ roll stardom. To pay the bills, Scholz took a job as a senior product design engineer at Polaroid. The young guitarist and engineer spent his paychecks and nights building his own basement recording studio and creating nearly every sound, except for the vocals and drums, of what would be Boston’s debut album. The DIY process was unheard of at the time and Epic, the band's record company, demanded that the demos be redone in a proper studio. Scholz refused to budge with nearly all of his original recordings eventually making it onto the highly-successful album.


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