On The Road With Silver Laughter

Managed by Rick Geisler

Managed by Rick Geisler, from left clockwise: Kim Ludtke, Mick Orton, Mark Zaputil, Jon Ludtke (seated)

When I first joined Silver Laughter, the idea of being on the road non-stop was very exciting to me. Our first manager was Rick Geisler of Showcase Talent in Des Moines who booked us in some little clubs around Western Iowa and Eastern Nebraska. The longest we stayed in any one place was two weeks. And even though the one nighters were murder as far as setting up, performing, tearing down and then often traveling all night to the next job, they had their own special rewards. Yes, even driving all night in a blizzard had its element of appeal as long as what was waiting for us on the other end of the trip was worth it.

Though none of us would probably cherish life on the road now, back then we were young and saw each challenge as an exciting opportunity for adventure. In fact, each new town we visited gave us the chance to “wow” the crowds and win them over. Most often, we did. Occasionally there were flops, but those were very rare. In fact, there were so few, I can’t remember a single place we did not enjoy playing as a band. Other times we were returning to “conquered” territory where people already loved us.

Living in places with five people (including our sound and light man) there was a constant effort to find privacy. We very democratically rotated who would get a room by themselves, if that were the case. Other times, someone might sleep on the couch in the living room when we ended up staying in an apartment which had been provided for us by the club management. Sometimes the members found themselves staying with a designated girlfriend for the length of the engagement. But that limited other opportunities, if you know what I mean…

For the Matching Outfits owners

For the Matching Outfits owners, L-R: Mick, Mark, Kim, Jon

When I left The Contents Are: (Tabernash) and my little house in Pinewood Springs, CO to join Silver Laughter, the first place (I think) we played was a place somewhere in Nebraska. we only played there once, as I recall. I also remember it being cold so it was most likely winter. But it was exciting to be on stage bluffing our way through the sets with ad lib material. We probably strung out cover songs longer than the recorded versions just to make it through the night. Jon and I had played many years together before this and so a lot of the old repertoire came out of the closet. Mark Zaputil, the youngest (I think) of the group, was very good at picking up stuff quickly.

Our second job I am pretty sure was a Nebraska college town that had a night club called Scotty’s. I was starting to feel more comfortable with the material. and Scotty’s was a regular success for the previous Silver Laughter lineup, so we were pretty sure we would be well received. We were and returned there several times to rave reviews.

One of the things that was made clear to me right from the beginning was that occasionally matching suits would be required by some of the club owners. So we opted to have one of our suits be the white ones with black turtlenecks, reminiscent of The Beatles “Your Mother Should Know” sequence in their television special, “Magical Mystery Tour”. The photo was taken in the Ludtke’s living room (again, I think) by Jon’s dad. There is no logo or contact information on this shot, so I do not know if it was ever made into a publicity photo or not.

Looking back, I would not trade a single minute of the experience, even though I have gotten comfortable in my  California life and could not do it now. Unless a band makes it big, this type of life is best left for the youngsters!

Mick Orton

Categories: History

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