Whether it be in the lounge at the Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel, the Toledo Stoplight Festival, John Ernest Vineyard and Winery, area clubs and bars or wedding dances - Dogs on Skis are pretty well known for having made music in these parts.
Their familiarity isn't hurt by two of the four current members (Jeff Musel and Mike Roeder) growing up in Toledo and graduating from South Tama High School.
They're also known across the State of Iowa and play out-of-state on occasion.
Dogs on Skis (l-r) Stu Mullins, Jeff Musel, Mike Roeder and Nick Stika perform at the John Ernest Vineyard and Winery on Saturday night, Aug. 17. The longtime group will be inducted into the Iowa Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame this weekend.
Chronicle photos/John Speer
Their talent and longevity combined with their popularity has led to Dogs on Skis being named this year to the Iowa Rock 'n Roll Hall Music Association Hall of Fame.
They'll join 28 other bands and individuals being inducted on this Labor Day weekend at Okoboji. That event is Sunday afternoon, Sept. 1, at Okoboji High School.
Dogs on Skis will also be among those entertaining at a Sunday night concert dance at the Roof Garden Ballroom at Okoboji.
For a complete schedule of the Rock 'n Roll Music Association Induction Weekend events:
Dogs On Skis A History
In 1986, Dogs On Skis was the brain-child of Mike Simpson and Jim Clancy, two veteran Iowa City area musicians that played in many bands together and toured extensively. After coming in off of the road, they wanted to continue performing, so they began to look for other like-minded local musicians to form a band that would cover classic rock dance music, combined with current top 40 hits. Tight musicianship and multi-layered vocal harmonies were to be the number one priority with this new group. The original lineup included Mike Simpson drums, Jim Clancy keyboards and rhythm guitar, Bruce Vander Schel lead guitar, Rich Webster keyboards and rhythm guitar and Ty Montgomery bass guitar. Ty left the band very soon after formation and was replaced by Pat Hefron on bass.
The band's working title was 'The Clancy-Simpson Group' for lack of another name, but at a band member's house, with a gathering of friends for a 'Name the Band' party, original drummer and co-founder Mike Simpson and long-time friend of the band Tim Dickens wanted to call the band 'Dogs On Skis' based on the popular CNN segment, 'The Entertainment Minute'. One of the film clips for the lead-in included a poodle on water skis. Tim made t-shirts with the name 'Dogs On Skis The Clancy/Simpson Group' including a logo featuring a double image of the RCA dog, 'Nipper' on skis. Tim and some friends wore these shirts at the band's first public show, and soon The Clancy/Simpson Group became known as Dogs On Skis and the rest, as they say, is history.
Popularity continued to grow for Dogs On Skis in 1988, and the demand for the band's time grew as well. Co-founder Jim Clancy decided that this was too much to handle with his University of Iowa Dental Professorial duties, so they began the search for a replacement. Auditions were held and among the candidates were current members Stu Mullins and Nick Stika. Stu eventually won the job as keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist.
It was during this time that Dogs On Skis began to play many of the summer festivals and street dances around the area, including the Czech Village Street Dances and 'The World's Biggest Beach Party', held in a cornfield converted to a beach with tons of sand called 'No-Wa-Wa Beach' near Williamsburg, Iowa and their popularity continued to grow. In 1989, Rich Webster decided to pursue other musical avenues and to focus on his solo career, so the search was on for another replacement. Among those candidates, was current member Nick Stika. This time, Nick won the job as lead/rhythm guitarist/vocalist.
This lineup continued on playing area street dances and festivals as well as bars, weddings, retirement parties, holiday parties, anything they could get their hands on. Later in 1990, during the recording of the Dogs On Skis album 'I Bark, Therefore, I Am', bassist Pat Heffron announced he was leaving the group to pursue different musical endeavors and to train as a Chiropractor. Auditions were held and current member Jeff Musel was hired as the new bassist/vocalist. The album includes tracks by both bassists.
1994 saw the Country/Western boom with the likes of Garth Brooks and others, and the Dogs slowed down to summer shows. Nick, Jeff and Bruce formed a country band called 'Bandolero'. A band that included current Dogs On Skis drummer Mike Roeder. While Bandolero did play mostly country, the band ended up being 'Dogs On Skis with cowboy hats'. Dogs On Skis played a street dance in Mount Vernon, Ia. in July and Bandolero played for the Mount Vernon, Ia. fireman's dance a short time later. During a set break, an audience member approached the band and asked, "Hey, aren't you guys Dogs On Skis?" to which the band replied, "No, you've got us confused with someone else." The band promptly got back on stage and play the Steppenwolf classic 'Born To Be Wild' a staple song in the Dogs On Skis repertoire, thus confirming the audience member's suspicion.
Some of the old members of the band, including Rich Webster and Jim Clancy reunited with Dogs On Skis in 1995 and did a number of 'reunion' shows, but continued to play primarily summer events while Bandolero played the bars and dance halls throughout the rest of the year.
In 1998, Stu Mullins stepped aside to focus on his side band 'Stickman' and original keyboardist and co-founder Jim Clancy rejoined the group. Guitarist Bruce Vander Schel also briefly stepped aside to focus on other projects and family. Keyboardist/saxophonist Denny Lodin, who had worked with Nick in a side band was brought in to replace Bruce.
This lineup would stay together until early-1999 when co-founder Mike Simpson announced he was leaving the group to focus on his career. Jim Clancy followed suit to focus on his career and his family, and it was at this time that Denny Lodin moved to the Twin Cities. Stu Mullins and Bruce Vander Schel rejoined the band and current member Mike Roeder was brought in to take over on drums. Mike (Roeder) had worked with Jeff and Nick in Bandolero and was worked in quickly.
New Years Eve 1999 would be guitarist Bruce Vander Schel's last show with the band and a decision was made to keep the band at four members. The band has had the same lineup ever since.
Popularity and demand for the band, nearly 27 years after its inception continues and 2012 was the biggest year in Dogs On Skis history, playing nearly 80 shows. There is no let up in sight, though the Dogs are taking things a bit easier in 2013 to focus on family and other projects.
Today the band members include:
Mike Roeder on the drums and he also contributes some lead and backup vocals. He started playing in groups in his early teens and is a veteran of over 40 years while playing several years around the country and in Las Vegas at many of the main hotels while recording in Los Angeles on several projects.
Nick Stika enjoys the duty of lead and rhythm guitar as well as lead and backup vocals. Aside from Dogs on Skis, Nick performs solo acoustic shows at many of the local night clubs and music venues around the area. He has released an album of original songs called 'Big Ol' Moon' and is currently working on a follow-up and in 2008, he released his first novel called 'Bag Of Knives', a rock & roll mystery, and is currently writing a second one.
Stu Mullins splits his duties between lead and backing vocals, keyboards, rhythm guitar and auxiliary percussion. He shares his creative time with his other band Stickman, for which he is the lead singer and drummer. Stickman has released three CD's and he is released his first solo recording "Violet". Stu is the director of a youth center in Iowa City and also works with other musicians as a producer and engineer.
Jeff Musel is the bassist and one of the lead vocalists-a long time veteran of area bands Jeff spent several years at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles working as a sound technician and is credited as assistant engineer on albums by such musical luminaries as Yes and Bob Dylan. Jeff is still very much in tune with the local music scene being the manager of the West Music store in Marion.
According to the band's "History", it started in 1986 in Iowa City. While neither of the original 1986 founding pair, Jim Clancy or Mike Simpson, are still members, two veterans of the 1980s remain - Stu Mullins and Nick Stika. Jeff Musel joined shortly after, in 1990, and Mike Roeder in 1998.
Now, the origin of the name of the band seems certain - it seems a group of friends joined the Simpson and Clancy for a "Name the Band Party." During the party while watching CNN's "The Entertainment Minute" it is said to have shown a poodle on water skis in a lead-in clip. They apparently grabbed onto this, substituted "Knipper," the RCA logo dog and became Dogs on Skis.
But wait, there's a bit of a challenge to the account. Mike Roeder says it was not a poodle, it was a "squirrel on skis."
In any case, Knipper ended up on the skis.
Bands are somewhat notorious for not staying together.
But with Dogs on Skis you have three members who have played together for more than 20 years.
Jeff Musel's explanation goes something like this- "i liken it to a group of guys who get together for golf on the weekend and enjoy it. We get together to play, enjoy it and don't lose any money doing it."
The other three members agree saying they get along very well, "know what we're going to do" and play a variety of music which they all enjoy.
Band members say their primary focus now is to play at town festivals, wineries and for weddings. "They're a nicer crowd than the old bar scene," they said.
They also say they plan to keep on going and have bookings already which extend to the end of 2014.