Plying the songs of that era, staying true to the songs of that era, but we do our own versions…keeps it fun, allows us to apply our own creative thoughts to how we deliver the songs.

Lee Rasch

Singer/Bass, The Executives

We connect with Thomas Kelley and Lee Rasch of The Executives, we hear about early interest in music, origins of the band, 60’s rock n roll influences, and what’s coming up for this well known area band.
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Frozen River Film Festival
Transcript

Amy Gabay 00:00
This podcast is brought to you by People’s Food Co Op, a community owned grocery store in downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin and Rochester, Minnesota that promotes local farmers and producers through an emphasis on fresh, healthy, sustainable food. Anyone can shop, everyone is welcome. For more information, visit them online at PFC.coop. This podcast is also brought to you by Trempealeau County Tourism. Whether your idea of fun is bicycling, hiking or canoeing, afterwards head into the heart of one of their welcoming communities to experience historic architecture, independent shops and locally owned dining establishments. Visit Trempealeau County Tourism online. The Great River Shakespeare Festival is running now through July 31st. Featuring Twelfth Night and the African Company presents Richard the Third and more at Minnesota’s premier Shakespeare Festival in Winona, Minnesota. Buy tickets online at grsf.org. Great river, great drama. We connect with Thomas Kelley and Lee Rasch of The Executives, we hear about early interest in music, origins of the band, 60’s rock n roll influences, and what’s coming up for this well known area band. You can find more conversations, food reviews, live music and events on our website lacrosselocal.com. I’m Amy.

Brent Hanifl 01:21
And I’m Brent.

Amy Gabay 01:22
And this is La Crosse Local.

Lee Rasch 01:24
I guess I’ll start I’m Lee Rasch. I was born in the Chicago area as a youngster we’ve moved around quite a bit, the Milwaukee area and Nashville back to Chicago. And I came to La Crosse in 1989. I’m one of those people that as a kid I watched the Ed Sullivan Show when The Beatles came on and had their live performance and it was a kind of a watershed moment for a young teenager. I persuaded my parents to let me start taking guitar lessons and I joined a band called The Specters. Later I ended up in another band called The Bell Esprit, and then then a band called Eye, EY E. We played oh, lots of different local Chicago area venues in high school and the early years of college. We never made it as a big band. But we did play as an opening act for some of the bands of the day. The Buckinghams or the Shadows Of Night. So I had a wonderful experience. Then life intervened and I stopped doing any music really for over 25 years. And then I was approached by Tom Kelley and the guys that formed Executives, this was 1997. And that’s how things kind of started.

Tom Kelley 02:50
I’m Tom Kelley was born in the Quad Cities in Davenport, Iowa. And much like Lee, in February 1964 I was gathered with my family to watch The Ed Sullivan Show and The Beatles came on. It seems like across America 1000s of bands started that night. I was only 12 at that point but much like Lee, I got a real low price Marco Polo guitar and classical guitar and started learning how to play that. I found some some friends at school we started a band really haven’t looked back. So the band in that day was called the Todd, a five piece 60s band. And then we moved on with later bands called Headwinds and Lock Speed. So I played up until the point I got drafted. They gave me a call. So I went to Germany and took some time off like, served over there, came back and kind of started my career. I started for Lee Enterprises, a newspaper company down the Quad Cities and moved to La Crosse in 1988. So I follow the Lee pretty closely there. We met at a Chamber of Commerce mixer, we kind of knew each other. As we were standing around socializing, we started talking about music and found out that several of us had been in bands in the 1960s. So we decided to get together for single performance to play at RiverFest where we had a chance to play there. So we played on a separate stage on the far side of the RiverFest grounds. It was made out of metal, I think it was probably 100 degrees that day. So we had our first roasting as a band. Had a great time though. And I say we grew up with love playing 60s music, and that was kind of a bond between all of us. We’ve continued that now. So this is our 25th anniversary this year, a long time to hold the band together.

Brent Hanifl 04:40
You bill yourselves just from your influences talking about but it’s 60s rock and roll band. Is that where your influences largely preside when you’re covering songs or?

Tom Kelley 04:49
Yeah, so I’ve we’re still learning new songs from the 1960s if that’s possible, but yeah, that’s kind of our love of music was that Beatle period. It was a happy time you know, after our President Kennedy was assassinated. It was like the Beatles gave them almost a rebirth to host a sense of joy out there. We still I mean, the music, I still love with and like to listen to is still, I’ve got all my Beatles albums, I got Byrds, you got Rolling Stones, I still listen to the old vinyl records, and still love that whole period.

Lee Rasch 05:19
Yeah, I do think one of the things that I enjoy is playing the songs of that era, staying true to the songs of that era. But we do our own versions, I call it we executize them. And that keeps us, it keeps it fun. It allows us to apply our own creative thoughts to how we deliver the songs.

Brent Hanifl 05:41
I’ve known about your band for quite a while just from Moon Tunes, and those sorts of events and all of those kinds of local community stuff. You’ve been together for 25 years. I know it’s not your your full time gig. But guys definitely show a passion for it. How was COVID for you guys for those two years.

Tom Kelley 05:58
Oh, its a bit challenging. We were able to we have a nice studio space where we could spread out. So we were able to set up pretty far apart from each other and observe COVID protocol. So we were able to practice a lot of ways we’d like practicing as much like playing, just kind of good night to get together. I always said it’s like bowling night for a band here. We get together and have some fun and play some music. So we’re able to get through that we did one outdoor gig, which was a drive by fundraiser. I can’t remember the, Lee probably remembers the name of it.

Lee Rasch 06:32
It was the Coulee Council. It was a fundraiser for them.

Tom Kelley 06:36
That’s right, yeah. And they had a breakfast that we played outdoors. People drove by and waved at us. And we kept playing for the three hours, it was the only COVID performance.

Lee Rasch 06:45
So yeah, as Tom said, we enjoy – I enjoy – but I’m speaking for the band, we enjoy practicing as much as any other performance. And we’re pretty religious about it. We practice every single week. That helps us keep sharp, it keeps us tighter. But then it means we can add new songs, new old songs into our repertoire. And I don’t know how many songs we have that maybe was about 70 I don’t we got a lot of stuff. That sounds about right. So, so that gives us an opportunity to keep fresh on all of them, too.

Brent Hanifl 07:18
So what’s next? What are you excited for coming up this summer 2022?

Tom Kelley 07:23
Well, we’ve got a bunch of gigs coming up. We, at the very first Moon Tunes it was called Noon Tunes. So we’ve continued with that. So we’ve got a great Moon Tunes show coming up again this year, have 1000s of people last year’s performance of this almost overwhelming. We love to do the concerts in the park. So we’re doing Holmen, Sparta and Spring Grove. Lee found a chance for us this year to do Ashley for the Arts, so we’re gonna have that to our repertoire as well.

Lee Rasch 07:52
Yeah, we also we do have a fundraiser coming up. It’s a benefit dance for La Crosse Community Foundation. It’s our way of celebrating 25 years of performing by giving something back to the community. So we’re hoping to raise some money for that cause.

Brent Hanifl 08:05
Kind of touched on that the 60s vibe, but what else can people expect from your shows if they’ve never seen you before?

Tom Kelley 08:11
Well, I think one of the things we play with period instruments. So one side of the stage has all Vox equipment, the other side of the stage, it’s all Fender so we’re true to the era. That’s kind of cool. We have a good time when we play and we have a lot of interaction with the audience. One of our favorite things to do is we allow somebody to come up on stage and play cowbell with the band. They get to front the band playing calm and a lot of songs. So we found at least two or three people that actually had a sense of rhythm.

Lee Rasch 08:42
And if you do that you get this a very valuable collector’s item: a tshirt that says I Played Lead Cowbell With The Executives. So that’s really in demand.

Brent Hanifl 08:54
That’s awesome. I well, I asked you, you know, before we started recording, but are you gonna work any original music into your set? Or is it basically just honoring the 60s?

Tom Kelley 09:03
There’s been some discussion about doing some of the songs that I wrote with Silvers. Some of those songs actually were written back in the 1960s. So there’s at least three or four of them that we could bring forward for the band record though, so that’s certainly possible.

Lee Rasch 09:18
I’ve got a song or two in my repertoire that are you know, the thing is, we’ve really been focused on being ready for the performances we have we got a full season coming up. So we want to make sure we’re sharp with the material that we need to deliver.

Brent Hanifl 09:30
Is there any particular album that’s been something that’s been kind of hold dear to your heart? That’s just that one album?

Tom Kelley 09:36
Well, for me, I’d have to say Revolver, that was The Beatles album that kind of turned the page for rock and roll music. So doing that and the second side of Abbey Road. Favorites.

Lee Rasch 09:49
It’s interesting because I at that time I was in the Chicago area. So I was a huge Beatles fan. I love the Animals, but there was a lot of soul music in the Chicago area at that time too. So I also became a fan of playing some of those old soul classics from the 60s too.

Brent Hanifl 10:07
I’m super excited for Moon Tunes, love to take my family down there every Thursday, so I can’t wait for that. And those shows are happening, but if people want to find out more, what’s the best avenue for them to follow?

Tom Kelley 10:17
The best way to find information about our band stuff is Facebook. Our Facebook name is The Executive 60s Rock and Roll when used to do a search for us. So you’ll find us there and we have some videos on there. We have information about upcoming shows, just other things that we think our fans would appreciate.

Amy Gabay 10:39
La Crosse Local Podcast is a production of River Travel Media. Do you have an interview idea you’d like to share with us? Message us on Facebook at La Crosse local. Find out more about us at lacrosselocal.com and you can subscribe to the La Crosse Local Podcast on your favorite podcast app. If you like us, rate us five stars. We appreciate it.

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