In 1967, high school student, vocalist and drummer Mike Joyce had an idea to start a new band – a soul band. Mike asked three of his classmates to join him: Vern Herrera (bass), Dave Houck (rhythm guitar) and John Ryder (lead guitar).
Mike had heard about a vocalist named Charles Handy, who already had graduated from high school. After Mike tracked him down and shared the idea, Charles got on board. They added Charles’ younger brother Earl Handy along with Mack Lofton as vocalists. Thus the band The Handy Brothers was born. Later the three vocalists would be Charles, Mack and Charles’s youngest brother, Jerry Handy.
Being from Chicago, The Handy brothers were familiar with Leonard Chess of Chess records. The band name then was expanded to The Handy Brothers Chessmen. Soon after, due to some band members joining the service or moving, these members were added: Rod Jerke (trombone and keyboard), Barry Bryan (trumpet) and Scott Klaverkamp (drums).
The first gig for the original group was at the Sioux Falls Coliseum in a battle of the bands. The other two contestants were Those of Us and The Hursmen. The Handy Brothers knew just four songs after four practices: “My Girl,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “Land of 1,000 Dances,” and “Get Ready” but won the competition. When asked to play an encore, Charles said, “That’s all the songs we know!”
Venues included Ruskin Park in Forestburg, Teen Town in De Smet, Taco Town and the Varsity in Vermillion, the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, the Mouse Trap in Mason City, Iowa, Shorty’s in Sioux Falls, and several Sioux Falls ramp dances.
Charles, Rod, Barry and Scott left to join The Pilgrims, thus ending the Handy Brothers band. The brainchild of the group, Mike Joyce, along with Vern Herrera, have died. Tonight we remember and honor them.