Formed in Sioux Falls in 1973, Felix was a polished rock band that had a large following. The band featured a massive sound and lighting system and had about 175 songs they could perform, from Grateful Dead, Todd Rundgren, Ramones, and Beatles.
Felix found its genesis while Eric Peterson and Brad Rensberger were third-graders at Robert Frost Elementary in Sioux Falls. Orchestra teacher Doc Walker asked a group, “Who wants to get out of class?” and Eric and Brad’s hands shot up. They continued to play music in one form or another through Patrick Henry Middle School until as Lincoln High sophomores they formed a band with friends: Peterson on bass, Rensberger on drums, Perry Luther Loftesness, Ray Roder, and Jon Sympson on guitar, Tom Hartig on woodwinds and Ray Pearson occasionally played keyboards. They began rehearsing in Leo and Gina Hartig’s basement, recording themselves in order to improve.
The name was Luther’s idea after he doodled Felix the cat. The group began practicing at Calvary Cathedral in downtown Sioux Falls, cleaning up after themselves following every rehearsal. One of their first gigs was at the J&M Club on Christmas Eve 1973. The boys needed permission slips signed by their parents to play where alcohol was served. Bar owner Turk Franken encouraged the band to keep playing by paying each musician $20 per gig.
Initially Felix rented PA equipment from Keith Newcomb at Sioux Falls Music. Eventually they borrowed money from Jerry Sympson (Jon’s Dad), Nina Rensberger (Brad’s Mom), and Abby (from Top Hat). They prided themselves in using the best PA available, and added light shows. They bought an old school bus (which Brad lived in for more than a month while parked in front of the Donald Peterson home on S. Phillips).
Felix played many homecoming dances and proms in the area. Full Tilt Productions booked the band mostly in southeast South Dakota. They played at the Wagon Wheel, many times moving their gear downstairs to play from 2-6 a.m. at the Night Owl. Felix was a Pomp Room favorite, working with the Aaron Baron Band and with Elisar, playing at the Clay County Park for more than a thousand fans.
The Felix guys felt that more musicians respected them than did the public. They had a great support crew. Marc Haaland ran sound as did Jim Peskey, who had crafted a 16-channel snake. Don Carlson drove the bus, Curt Friesen ran lights and took pictures, and Cindy Buren acted as band manager.
Their most memorable tour was in the summer of 1976. Stops included Kadoka, Hill City, Gillette, Wyoming, Strasburg, North Dakota, Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, and the final gig in Welcome, Minnesota, on July 4. This Bicentennial event was also a biker-centennial bash. The band witnessed some gunshot-related activity, but music won the day.
Felix continued to rock the area until late 1979. Many members still perform with other bands.