The conception of Spider and the Crabs took place in 1964 in the Sigma Chi house at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. Two active members, Steve “Spider” Smith and Mike Sollenberger, got together in the frat house, playing guitar and bass guitar. Together, along with a second guitar player and drummer, they formed a four-piece group called “Crabs”. Once, while playing a four city Kansas tour, a playbill listed the group as “Spider and the Crabs”. Perhaps someone knew Steve Smith’s nickname and it stuck.
After the original fraternity band made a limited city tour in Kansas, Spider began recruiting a more professional group. As the group continued and increased to six members, adding Bob Hanna on the B-3 Hammond organ, Charlie Shoemaker on sax, trumpet and keyboard, Mike Berlau on drums, and Michael “Spanky” Landes as lead singer. Most of these members were still in college. They became the original touring band, performing throughout the Midwest and beyond. Through their advertising on the 50 thousand watt radio station KOMA in Oklahoma City, attendance at performances grew, as did the band’s reputation.
While the new band was being formed, John Brown and Mike Murfen, owners of the Red Dog Inn, a dance venue located in Lawrence, became interested in the new group. The two also established Mid-Continent Entertainment, the main function of which was to book bands throughout the Midwest and Spider & The Crabs was signed. The agency booked the band and several others from that era. It was this agency that booked Spider & The Crabs as the lead-in band for the Righteous Brothers on tour in the 60’s.
With the addition of Michael “Spanky” Landes, the band migrated to a Rhythm and Blues style and was often thought of as a Soul Band. Music sets were interspersed with current and popular Top 40 hits heard on local radio stations. The band quickly gained a reputation as a Show Band with Spanky singing soul and current R & B hits and band members exhibiting showmanship on stage.
Several members of the group left the band in 1967, ending the original band run. Mid-Continent then hired bands to continue touring under the S & C name until sold in 1970. As many as five different versions of Spider & The Crabs toured between 1968 and 1975, some adding additional horn players while giving fans new and old, a memorable experience. All of the many members of Spider and the Crabs are extremely honored to be inducted into the South Dakota Rock and Roll Music Association Hall of Fame.