John Senn, co-founder of the Iowa Rock n Roll Music Association and talented musician, left his mark on music in many ways. John’s interest in music was sparked back on the farm in Harris, IA, in his younger days sitting on a milk stool milking cows and listening to Elvis on the radio. That’s when he decided to trade in his accordion for a guitar.
Inspired by Elvis, John put together his first band the Rhythm Tones in 1960. John then went on to lead the Chevelle’s. He then partnered with Denny Storey and became the Jay of Dee Jay & the Runaways. They hit the top of the charts in 1966 with Peter Rabbit. This success led to a performance on Dick Clark’s “Where the Action Is” TV show and touring across the US and Canada. DJ & the Runaways were also inducted in the South Dakota Hall of fame in 2012. He then went on to perform with and lead many other bands.
During this time period bands were springing up in every neighborhood with the dream of cutting their own 45, so John co-founded the Iowa Great Lakes Recording Studio in Milford, IA. Many musicians traveled there to lay down their tracks and he encouraged them in many ways. The recording studio was honored with South Dakota Hall of Fame recognition in 2010.
Not only did he live the dream of music, he realized the passion in people and dreamed of ways to help capture, preserve and share their stories. John co-founded the Iowa Rock n Roll Music Association in 1997. Throughout the years many musicians, ballrooms, radio stations and countless others have been inducted. Once IRRMA built its first museum in Arnolds Park, IA, John encouraged many bands to make the trip to the Iowa Great Lakes Region, as well as local bands, to perform at Rock the Roofs. He took great pride in the annual IRRMA Labor Day weekend induction ceremonies, watching others as they would receive honor for the part they played in music history. His main mission was always to Retain the Legacy of Rock n Roll. In 2019 the door opened to current museum, which was dedicated to John.
The founders of the South Dakota Rock and Roll Music Association consulted with John as they began their plans for the organization that continues to honor the South Dakota music industry. He enthusiastically helped advise in any way he could as he firmly believed that such organizations would help insure that rock and roll will never die.
From 1960 when he first performed on a stage, until his death in July 2019, John Senn provided a background for musicians, performed thousands of times himself, encouraged fellow musicians to record their talents, and provided a venue to insure all musicians and support staff in the music industry will not be forgotten. It is through not only his music but his support of other’s music that his spirit will live on forever. He was truly a legend, pioneer and champion of Rock n Roll in the Midwest.
2022Spirit of the Music Award