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Fan builds collection as a tribute to garage rock bands of the 1960s

Tony Texley holds a photo of Dean Senftner, the drummer for Steve Ellis and the Starfires, a popular garage rock band of the 1960s. Senftner recently met with with Texley to discuss the music of that time, with Senftner spending the night at Texley's Willmar home.

Steve Ellis. Marlys Roe. Jim Brandenburg. Dean Senftner. Myron Lee.

The names may mean little to the casual music fan, but to Tony Texley they are the bloodline of a sound which four decades past lit up the hamlets and boondocks, the whistle-stops and burgs of the American landscape: garage rock.

Known for its raw vivacity and distorted reverb, the genre was a precursor to the psychedelia of the late-1960s, gaining its moniker from the often juvenile laymen who spent their post-school afternoons rehearsing alternate takes of their favorite jams in the family garage.

The bands were everywhere, said Texley, a Pipestone native and Willmar transplant, padding weekend entertainment lineups at dance halls, legions and watering holes.

While many disappeared from the scene with nary a whimper, as the realities of adulthood came knocking, a scattering of these bandsmen would play an integral role in producing some of rock’s greatest numbers.

Tony Texley displays concert art from a Myron Lee show at Lakeside Ballroom in Glenwood. DAN BURDETT | TRIBUNEBobby Keys was one. A Texan discovered by Buddy Holly, Keys was merely 15 when he began touring with the rockabilly star. He later joined Bobby Vee, craftsman of umpteen Top 20 hits by his late-teens. Adjudged Minnesota’s first rock star, Vee’s career was birthed amid tragedy when he was tapped as a last-minute replacement for Holly at a 1959 show in Moorhead after Holly, Richie Valens and J.P “The Big Bopper” Richardson were killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa.

While touring with Vee in 1964, Keys met the Rolling Stones at a gig in San Antonio. Five years later, he became the legendary band’s go-to sax man, the solo to the 1971 smash “Brown Sugar” perhaps his opus. He remained a touring musician until his death last year.

“Those stories are everywhere,” said Texley, who has built an extensive collection of 45 vinyls and memorabilia from the garage rock heroes of his youth. “You just have to look.”

Texley’s journey began in the early 1980s when his mother came across an old 45 while cleaning out his brother’s closet. Mom was beelining for the trash, when Texley halted her in her tracks.

“It was one of those ‘Ma, no, moments’,” Texley recalled.

He soon began hunting for posters and vinyls at flee-markets and thrift stores, the bug, as he calls it, eventually leading him to research and seek out the musicians.

One such was Barry Hanson, who played with Steve Ellis and the Starfires.

Tony Texley thumbs through a scrapbook of photos in the basement of his Willmar home. DAN BURDETT I TRIBUNEEllis, born Steve Ellis Garlich, was perhaps the most well-known of Minnesota’s garage rockers and one primed for stardom, Texley said, when he was killed in a motorcycle crash in 1967 on a strip of Highway 23 south of Pipestone.

Hanson was thought to have also passed away sometime thereafter, electrocuted while playing guitar in the bathtub. The rumors of Hanson’s demise, however, were exceedingly exaggerated. Texley tracked him down and learned he’s a born-again Christian, playing religious fests and with prison ministries.

“He was the last link to Steve Ellis at that time,” Texley said. “It was wonderful to just talk music with him.”

Through his endeavors, Texley also met and struck up a rapport with Vee, sharing anecdotes and meeting the musician on occasion for coffee in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Texley’s collection features untold posters and memorabilia sporting Vee’s autograph.

They hang amid dozens of signed prints on the walls of Texley’s basement home office, all, barring a Beach Boys reprint, an original piece.

“It’s my place to just be,” Texley said of the space.

In recent years Texley has also been active with the South Dakota Rock and Roll Music Association’s Hall of Fame, conducting extensive research for the association on future enshrines. There, he met Seftener during his induction ceremony. They reminisced about Ellis and the Starfires and what could have been.

Just last month, Senftner paid Texley a visit and spent the night at his home.

“What’s better than that,” Texley said. “Spending the night talking music with a guy like that.”

Dan Burdett

Dan Burdett is the community content coordinator at the West Central Tribune. He has 13 years experience in print media, to include four years enlisted service in the United States Air Force. He has been an employee of Forum Communications since 2005, joining the company after spending two years as the managing editor of the Redwood Gazette and Livewire in Redwood Falls. Prior to his current position, Dan was the presentation editor at the Tribune.

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