The band came together for the first time in the spring of 1983 for Guttenberg High School’s annual end-of-year picnic. Members Bruce Bryant, Steve Dikkers and Ed Dvorak, teachers at the school, invited Fischer, then a high school sophomore, to join them. Their combined passion for music and youth betterment fueled their spirit of generosity. “It’s all about the kids,” said Dikkers.
The 50s and 60s era music Backwater specializes in served as a music history lesson for many area students. Since Backwater often played for pep rallies, homecoming, and other special school events, students from kindergarten through 12th grade experienced rock and roll. Students learned the words to hits from that time, sang along, and even learned some classic rock and roll dance moves. Band members taught courses on song writing, playing harmonica, and how to serve on a road crew.
Backwater’s main groupies, those who showed up at gigs sporting t-shirts, hats, and jackets, with the band’s familiar pink flamingo logo, were of the 50s and 60s generation. The band has played for weddings, anniversaries, and class reunions, at bars and restaurants, as well as at community events like Guttenberg’s Germanfest and Stars and Stripes celebrations, Elkader Sweet Corn Days, Solon Beef Days, Cassville Twin-o-Rama, and most recently, at the Rock the River Road Show.
Although the band formally retired in 2008, they joined the Rock the River Road Show in Guttenberg in 2011 and returned for appearances in 2015 and 2016. They’re back this year for the seventh annual event, now known as Rock ‘n Roll on the River, to be held Saturday, April 8, at Lakeside Ballroom. They came out of retirement especially for this event because they were asked by the Iowa Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to do so, and two years ago they were nominated for the hall of fame.
Each musician in the band has a long personal history with music. Front-man Bryant (vocals, bass guitar, tambourine) began singing in a church in Cuba City, Wis. He performed hundreds of wedding ceremonies and funerals, played coffee houses in Platteville, Wis., and even appeared on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. Bryant also founded and played in Uncle Sam’s Band, a classic rock and roll group.
Dikkers (lead/rhythm guitar, harmonica, vocals) placed first in the 2001 National Traditional Country Music Association Flattop Guitar competition, and second in the Upright Bass competition. In his spare time, he paints electric guitars in the bass boat sparkle finish and checkerboard purfling popularized in the 1960s and 70s.
Dvorak, drummer, began his musical career playing accordion. In 1964 he was hired to play drums for the 2+2s, and later the Backdoormen and Cold Mountain. He still plays the same Ludwig White Pearl drum set he used in 1964.
Fischer (lead/rhythm guitar and vocals) first sang at Lakeside Ballroom at age four and was playing professional guitar by at 12. He has earned many vocal and band awards and has toured the Midwest playing with both an 18-piece jazz ensemble and with the cover band Midnight to Six.
Backwater will perform alongside PastMasters and Steve Bobbitt, with emcee Scott Sanborn running the show. A 50s and 60s dance and costume contest will be held. Tickets are available from AutoTek (563-252-1336) and the Guttenberg Chamber of Commerce (563-252-2323). Doors open at 5 p.m. on April 8, with music to begin at 6:30 p.m.
Photo courtesy of the band.