MARQUETTE - They were among the most beloved bands of the 1980s in Marquette and the years since have seen the members take a wide range of different paths.
Now members of Blind Ambition and the Queen City Rockers will be reuniting Friday and Aug. 20 at The Wooden Nickel in Marquette, all to benefit a great cause: Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Marquette County. Friday will be performances by those two bands along with The Hideous Ones, while Aug. 20 will be an open mic night hosted by band members.
Scott Kirtley of Blind Ambition may be making the longest journey: He is living in Cartagena, Colombia, and working as a civilian employee of the U.S. Department of Defense.
In these 1980s photos, at left, drummer John Kumjian plays at Scarlett O’Hara's and above, the Queen City Rockers pose in a promo shot.
In an email inteview, he recalls the band's formation:
"I moved to Marquette from the Detroit area in 1978 and started playing in various garage bands. In 1979-80, Blind Ambition formed as a three-person group whose one real performance was the spring 1980 MSHS annual telethon," Kirtley recalled. "We played mostly Elvis Costello, the Clash, the Stones, and some original songs. The band was really going nowhere until late 1980 when an extremely talented young guitarist, George Friend, introduced himself to me telling me he had seen us on the telethon and would like to play with us. George's natural talent raised the quality and energy of the group immediately.
"In the spring of 1981, our drummer and bass player left the group. Mike Krieg - in those days known as 'Moose' because of his strength - signed on as our drummer and Greg Sandell joined as the bassist," Kirtley said. "With George's incredible guitar work, my vocals (modeled after the Clash's Joe Strummer) and the added high quality talent of Greg and Mike, the lineup clicked immediately.
On the web:
80s Scene and Reheard page:
The Queen City Rockers:
Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Marquette County:
The Wooden Nickel:
"We started playing open mic nights at the old Scarlett O'Hara's on Washington Street and quickly gained a following," he said.
For the Queen City Rockers, founding father "Fast Eddie" Consolmagno brought together Pat Smith, bass, and Gary Hughes, guitarist, with Dean Moilanen soon joining in. These musicians served as the core group of the band through its various lineup changes, which included Mike Letts, John Ciaravino, Danny Downs and John Kumjian.
Ron Carnell, who now lives in the state of Washington and still plays music, helped to organize the reunion weekend and will be the QCR drummer for the gig. He remembers the band's heyday well.
"I began playing in bands regularly when I arrived to NMU in 1979," Carnell wrote. "In Gries Hall, I volunteered to find a local band for a dorm party - got a hold of the Queen City Rockers who I'd seen at Snuffy's. They were the best thing going in Marquette, and I remember meeting with them at their band house and thinking 'this is exactly how I want to live my life.' And for better or worse, I did just that for the next 20 or so years. I have recorded, performed and toured with too many acts to recall, and have all the usual, boring 'proximity to greatness' stories. Don't regret a day of it."
He's thrilled about being part of the music and it's what he's looking forward to the most about the reunion, being the QCR drummer.
"It feels like a bigger honor to me than all my 1990s Seattle music activity, which included bills with international touring acts, playing the odd big name festival, or doing label showcases in Hollywood," Carnell said. "Next weekend I'm playing a set of music with one of the best rhythm sections that Marquette has ever heard, and with guys who for the most part never stopped playing. So I hope the Nickel is ready. We're going to kill."
Ishpeming native Moilanen, who now works as a musician in Las Vegas, recalls his days with QCR with great fondness.
"There are so many (memories). When I first start playing out with QCR, I was still a senior in high school, so playing places like Snuffy's Saloon was eye-opening to say the least," Moilanen wrote. "Opening for Cheap Trick at a sold-out Hedgcock Fieldhouse was great, and when Cheap Trick came down to the bar we were playing after concert well that was pretty giddy stuff.
"We did a lot of open-air weekend-long events Beerstock, Beggar's Banquet. We once played a statewide biker rally that truly defied description. One of the best memories was the Sunday night jam sessions at Scarlett O'Hara's. A lot of really great local musicians like Bobby Hayes, Dave Ziegner and Jerry Kippola would come down and play on Sunday nights."
For Blind Ambition's Kirtley, this coming weekend is something he's looked forward to for a long time as the whole band will be together again.
"I have been dying to see Mike, George, and Greg together since the last time we played as a group in 1982," Kirtley said. "These guys are my family and the friendship ran deep between us all. We learned a lot and had some great experiences. We had great chemistry as a band and made a lot of people dance and smile.
"I am really looking forward to re-kindling the magic and the energy of the four of us playing together again."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is email@example.com.