“It is great pleasure, and a feeling of it’s-about-time, that we present to you the world’s first and only CORN-FED ROCK AND ROLL BAND—COKELEY!” (from a promotional poster)
The Cokeley band was formed in 1974 in Scotland, South Dakota. Led by Dennis Cokeley on guitar and vocals and Curtis Cokeley on keys, they were joined by drummer Al (Schoop) Schrank from LeMars, Iowa, and bass player Don Leise from Yankton. Leise was replaced in 1975 by Dennis Brunssen for a short time, followed by Paul Johnson. Glen Winningham served as their roadie. This four-piece band reminded many listeners of the Allman Brothers.
The Cokeley brothers had been in The Tensions from nearby Tyndall. When they disbanded, Dennis joined Spectacle from NW Iowa. Cokeley performed many original songs, including “Luck Lady,” “Success,” and “Country Life.” They also covered Steely Dan, Steppenwolf, David Bowie, Crow, and Ted Nugent.
They played area dance halls including Groveland Park, Rest Haven, Island Park, Czech Days in Tabor, Utica, Vivian, Pickstown, Spearfish, Bow Valley Ballroom, Skylon (Hartington, Nebraska), and Saint Helena Dancehall, also in Nebraska. Cokeley traveled in a “Grey Squirrel Bus” to bars, legion halls, and high schools in the four-state area.
Cokeley considered Groveland Park their home turf. They always packed the place with their unique brand of rock and roll. Cokeley disbanded in 1977.
Dennis was an incredible guitar player and songwriter. After moving to Freeman, Dennis continued to write and record. He died tragically in a car accident in 1983 at the age of 33.
Don Leise died in 2007 in Sioux Falls. Curtis has lived in Des Moines and still plays with the Heartbeats band. Al Schrank, Dennis Brunssen, and Paul Johnson have continued their music careers with a variety of bands.
For everyone who enjoyed Cokeley—Thank you!