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Front Page of Savanna Times Journal June 25, 2015 - Scroll down for full text of article...

Times Journal Road Runners 50th Anniversary

Text of full article by BOB WATSON

Members of the legendary Road Runners band will be celebrating their 50th anniversary of performing together when they once again reunite at the 2015 Savanna Fireman's Ball this weekend.

The dance is scheduled for 8 p.m. to midnight Friday, June 26, in the fire station parking lot, with gates opening at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets $5 in advance and $6 at the door are available from any Savanna fireman or at the fire station.

Those attending are welcome to bring their own beverages. Food and pop will be available. Lawn chairs are recommended.

All proceeds will go toward new equipment for the fire department.

Rain date is Saturday, June 27.

The band that eventually became The Road Runners began taking shape in the early to mid-1960s, according to an account by Gary Goetz on a website devoted to the band.

"The four of us, Dick (Grissinger), Joe (Sikora), Mike (Picolotti) and I (Gary Goetz) did a sock hop at Avenue School," wrote Goetz, who resides in Las Vegas, Nev. "This was a dance for 7th and 8th graders and the band name was The Impressions, not knowing there was a group already known as The Impressions."

Added Goetz, "We didn't keep that name except for that first gig and we changed it to Pic and The Road Runners. Dick had found out that a guy named Tim Hendrick had a bass and amp and he joined us too. We practiced out at the Hendrick farm and did our first dance at the Catholic school."

In a front-page feature story on The Road Runners by Larry Stebbins in the Aug. 17, 1967, Savanna Times-Journal, the future Savanna businessman and mayor wrote, "The well-known Savanna band plunked its first sounds on guitar for a live audience in November 1965. The band's first appearance was at Club Swing, a local teen gathering place. Originally there were six Road Runners and practice was held in the back rooms of the Savanna Greenhouses."

Stebbins' story continued, "The Road Runners, comprised of Joe Sikora, 21, Dick Grissinger, 21, Kenny French, 17, Bill (Ramsey) Mason, 16, and Gary Goetz, 16, have become a big drawing card for area dances. The group usually plays Friday and Saturday nights, but in a week such as next they may play four nights."

Other musicians who were part of The Road Runners over the ensuing years have included Jay Mason, Michael Mason, Kevin Hamilton, Cathy Nichols and Charley Mason. Bill Haas was the band's manager, said Grissinger.

During the band's four big years in the spotlight (1965-69), The Road Runners gained regional fame when they captured first place in "Showdown A Go-Go," a weekly presentation on WQAD Channel 8 in Moline.

The Road Runners reunited for a couple of performances in the summer of 1971 in Savanna, one at Mix's Tap followed by a Sunday afternoon outdoor performance at the Golden Hi-Point.

The band also reunited in the early 1980s for one performance at the former Quinn's Restaurant in Mount Carroll and then began playing annually at the Savanna Fireman's Ball in the mid-1990s.

"I just love to play, I could play drums from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m." said long-time drummer Grissinger during a lunch interview last week, where he was joined by Sikora and Picolotti.

"I'm Carroll County's only one-legged drummer," joked Grissinger, 69, referring to a motorcycle accident 50 years ago that resulted in the loss of his right leg. He added that he named the band after one of his favorite cartoon characters, Road Runner.

All three men said they very much look forward to playing every summer at the Savanna Fireman's Ball, noting that band members arrive in town early in the week of the show and practice at Grissinger's house three or four nights before the performance.

"It comes back pretty quickly," said Sikora, 68, who admitted he would not have predicted the Road Runners would still be playing in the 21st century. "We were all good friends."

They have fond memories of playing at The Den in Savanna and the old Farm Bureau Hall in Mount Carroll. Sikora recalled that they were paid $350 a night for playing at the old Farm Bureau Hall, while other bands were getting $75 to $100. Admission was $1 per person.

Asked about their staying power over five decades, Sikora, who lives in Clinton, Iowa, said a friend described The Road Runners' music as "a wave of original sound that comes across the crowd as soon as we start playing."

Asked how long The Road Runners will continue to play at the Savanna Fireman's Ball, Grissinger said, "As long as the guys' health is good, we'll still be playing."

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