MARQUETTE - The name might be Keep It Secret, but word is quickly spreading about one of the central Upper Peninsula's most crowd-pleasing bands.
Based in Dickinson County, Keep It Secret has become a frequent player in other parts of the peninsula as well, for instance, placing third in the hotly contested Battle of the Bands at the Ojibwa Casino in Baraga in August.
WIth regular trips to venues in Marquette County, the members of Keep It Secret have become famliar faces to rock music lovers here.
Randville resident Tim Driscoll, who plays guitar and shares lead vocals in the band, is probably the most recognizable member.
"I've played in bands all over Wisconsin and the U.P.," Driscoll said. "For a few years, I was a hired gun, sitting in with whoever needed a player because of a member change that needed to be filled. I've been in over 15 bands that played for money. The longest I've been in in a single group is Money Shot-Keep It Secret."
Money Shot was the predecessor band to KIS and included Driscoll and current KIS lead singer/guitarist Brad Ellis, along with brothers Kirk and Al Mattson.
Here are five musicians/
musical groups whose music you might hear at a
Keep It Secret show:
On the web:
"I started out with Kirk and Al, playing in the basement," said Ellis, a lifelong Iron Mountain resident. "Kirk and Al told me they had a friend named Tim who we could form a band with. When he showed up, it was Tim Driscoll, who I'd heard play.
"Tim scheduled our first gig without telling us. We opened up for Roadhead at the Randville Bar in Randville Bar," Ellis recalled. "He only told us just before the gig and Kirk and I were dying. But it went all right."
Money Shot played around the U.P. from 2003 until 2009.
"Keep It Secret started two years ago when Money Shot lost our good friends Al and Kirk to family life on weekends," Driscoll said. "Brad and I rolled in two new guys and never took a break."
The original replacements also left, but along came drummer Jesse Likwarz and bass player Chris Uhazie to join Ellis and Driscoll. In the last 18 months, the new lineup has gelled and enjoys working together.
"Chris and me had been in another band together and that fell apart," Likwarz said. "Chris knew Tim and Brad they asked us to join Keep It Secret. We had a rehearsal one day and just kept going from there."
Likwarz, a Tomahawk, Wis., native, has been living in Kingsford for four years.
"I had a lot of family in the area and always liked it here," he said. "I wanted a change so I moved to Kingsford.
"As far back as I can remember, I have loved to listen to music," he said. "I wanted a guitar when I was 11 or 12, then a year later got a drum set. I have been playing ever since."
For Kingsford High School graduate Uhazie, the moment he knew he wanted to be a musician is crystal-clear in his memory.
"My parents took me to an Aerosmith concert. I saw Joe Perry put his Les Paul over his back and play it," he said. "I said I was pretty sure I needed one of those."
He was 15 when he started on the guitar, then switched over to bass.
"I have a lot of fun with it. I jump around and act a little bit crazy," Uhazie said.
Driscoll was also 15 when he took his first serious guitar lesson but his musical interest goes much farther back and extends much wider.
"I remember always singing," he said. "My mom still plays organ in church and she has a very large church style organ at her house to this day. My dad would sing me country classics all the time. When I was 5, I stole some Kiss, T-Rex, and Osmond Brothers eight-tracks out of my babysitter's boyfriend's car, and pretty much knew I wanted a guitar and to be in a band from that moment on.
"I seemed to get into music before my peers, at least rock. Started taking guitar lessons at age 6, but it didn't stick, the old guy didn't want to show me anything good," he said. "I wrote my first original around fifth grade. My dad recorded it and took me to a recording studio that used to be in town to let me see how it was really done. By age 13 I had outgrown Kiss most classic rock and had found bands like U2, the Clash, General Public, Cheap Trick, Big Country, and Billy Idol and that pretty much set the stage for me wanting to pick up guitar again.
Got some lessons around age 15 for a few months and never looked back. My tastes and influences have always changed every few years, with it all being building blocks for where I still feel I'm heading.
"I play, tuba (have a bachelor's degree in music performance from Northern Michigan University), guitar, bass, drums, sing, and piano. I also run a small recording studio and have about 10 artists that have released albums with me."
Driscoll now has three musical children of his own.
Ellis comes from a musical family as well.
"My brothers and sister all sing," he said. "My grandfather played in a band. He passed away when my dad was 4, but when my dad came out to watch me play, he said he could remember his own dad playing."
All four KIS members said interacting with the crowd and stirring up excitement is the best part of being in the band.
The toughest part?
"Scheduling," Ellis said. "Trying to get four different guys at four different stages of life together can be a challenge."
Driscoll and Ellis also perform as a two-piece act for smaller venues under the name Money Shot Acoustic.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.