2023 marks the 50th anniversary of Starchild bursting upon the Sioux Falls music scene. The seeds of Starchild were sown in March of 1973 when Mark Olson (drums) and Bob Wratz (guitar, lead vocals, songwriter) attended a David Bowie concert in Long Beach, California. Upon returning to Sioux Falls that summer, they hooked up with Chuck Salisbury (bass, vocals) and formed Starchild as a three piece band in October of 1973. Initially, Starchild introduced the area to artists such as Bowie, REO Speedwagon, early Fleetwood Mac, Wishbone Ash, and with the addition of a fourth and fifth member brought on Queen, Led Zeppelin, Foreigner, Tommy Bolin's James Gang, Montrose, and others. So the musical range of the band was greatly enhanced with the addition of the outstanding vocal talents of Allen Hanson, taking over the majority of the lead vocals, and guitar craftsman Don Lerdal. When Don left the band, Clint Kennedy (guitar, vocals, songwriter) came on board and with his guitar artistry helped usher in the most productive period of the band. After Clint left he was replaced by guitarist extraordinaire Keith Myhre, aka, Monostrophy. All along the way they were well served by the talents of sound men Tom O'Dea, Mick Jensen, and John Bunker, and a hard-working, reliable road crew.
Starchild was given its start in Sioux Falls at Turk's J&M club (the only venue available in Sioux Falls at the time for their brand of rock), facilitating its transition from a country rock club to a kick-ass rock and roll club, and they remained a staple there throughout their career. They rocked high schools, colleges, clubs, and ballrooms throughout the Midwest for six years, utilizing fog machines, fire, and flash pots as a key part of their show. Starchild didn't follow the typical band route by playing top 40 rock in order to gain popularity and make money. They were in their own world playing off the wall music by artists who were relatively unknown at that time in their rockin' corner of the Midwest. It was an ambitious and memorable six year ride that had them holding on to the edge of their respective seats (in the Green Gherkin bus!) from beginning to end.
More about the boys in the band:
Mark Olson, a Sioux Falls native, began playing drums in 7th grade. After taking a couple of drum lessons from Greg Olson, a local great jazz drummer, Mark worked on developing his own style. He played with a few local bands early after high school, but his first real band experience was with Starchild. After playing with Starchild from 1973-1978, Mark went on to play Christian music at Central Baptist & Celebrate churches as well as other popular groups such as - Night People (w/ Rod Jerke & Bobby Vee), SKITZ, Thunder Bay, Hard Knocks, Shadow Mountain, On The Air, RoadTrip, Wake Up Call, 280Fifth, and currently working with Danica Michaels.
Robert Wratz, from the start of his career with Starchild, possessed a passionate interest in sussing out new sounds, new songs, and new artists to be brought in under the band's umbrella, in addition to writing original material for the band. Post-Starchild, he played guitar and shared lead vocals for a season with the SD/MN band City Wheel. Hereleased two albums of his own music as a solo artist in 2005 and 2007, and between 2017-2019 published three books of poetry and short stories.
Charles “Chuck” Salisbury died November 3, 2022 in Sioux Falls, SD. Chuck played bass guitar in several local bands, most notably Starchild, Chuckie Can’t Dance, and Wakefield. He was later inducted into the SD Music Hall of Fame as a member of Wakefield. To those of us who knew him and played music with him, he will always be a rock star. From all your band-mates, Chuck:
“Dear Chuck, we began our mutual musical pilgrimage with Let Me Ride, Time Was, Jewel-Eyed Judy and ended it with Brighton Rock, Life in the Fast Lane, and Carry On My Wayward Son. And there you were laying down the bass line as good as anyone the whole time, pink jump suit and all! Not only have we been missing your precision playing but also your loyal friendliness and wry sense of humor. You were a good man, Chuck. A good man. So now you have stepped through that crowning, glorious door that is revealed to us all sooner or later, and we will miss you, old friend. God be with you. We know He is.”
Clinton Kennedy, guitarist, singer songwriter, arranger, studio session musician and storyteller. It was at a concert at the Waikiki Shell when young Clinton howled like a wolf between songs … Mr. Jimi stared him right in his young eyes, then his energy field doubled and his love for musical frequencies grew red hot. His guitar playing and songwriting journey unfolded into many groups, with strong influences from Clapton, Hendrix, Blackmore and Allman. Playing in rock bands from Hawaii to Michigan to Florida, then finally South Dakota as guitarist for Starchild in 1974. Later a founding member of the Sioux Falls band Flat Cat and Watertown’s Neighborhood Jammers and The Change, and now 100 Watt Shine.
Keith Myhre, aka "Menostrofy", started his professional career with the 3 piece group Brotherhood, first formed in Fairmont, MN, then moving to Bismarck and regrouping with new bass player Rick Berge. The band broke up for a couple of years and Keith and Rick Berge moved to Minneapolis and formed the group Toast. Brotherhood reformed and moved to the Back Hills of South Dakota and then back to southern Minnesota, which lasted through 1976 with the release of a 45 record "Money Can't Buy/Wonder.” After the group disbanded, Keith wound up in Minneapolis for a short period before ending up in Sioux Falls and joining what would be the last version of Starchild. After Starchild disbanded, Keith and Starchild bass player Chuck Salisbury joined the Sioux Falls group Icarus for a short period before Keith ended up back in Bismarck joining up with former Brotherhood bandmate Rick Berge in Nitelife. Keith finally ended up in Colorado, playing with Starchild drummer Mark Olson, forming the band Hard Knocks. Eventually, Keith headed back to southern Minnesota in the early 1990's and played with a Mankato group before forming a 4 piece R&R group The Heaters. Currently Keith makes his residence in Iowa where he moved in 2002.
Tom O'Dea started running special effects at age 17 for the band Conspiracy and soon after for Zeus. He became a main part of Starchild, running lights and sound. Tom also worked with Cody and Mighty Mouse before getting a call from Ivory. He traveled with Ivory for the next 12 years. Johnny Holm hired Tom after his stint with Ivory. Tom traveled with the Johnny Holm Band for the next 16 years.
Returning to his hometown, Tom now works nearly every major show in the Sioux Falls area. During his career, he has worked with Sir Paul McCartney, Roy Orbison, Three Dog Night, Garth Brooks, and dozens more. Tom was the first production crew HOF inductee in 2018.
Mick Jensen worked for a number of bands from the ‘70s through the ‘80s and early ‘90s: King Kong, The Fabulous Apostles, Starchild, Flat Cat, Wired and Art vs. Money, to name a few. In the mid 70’s Mickey worked at UA Recording for Bill Van Dusen, for Sioux Sound, and in the later ‘70s into the ‘80s, for Gourley’s Pro Audio. From 2006 to 2010 he was the audio director for Central Baptist Church and freelanced for Absolute Productions. Mick was inducted into the HOF for production crew in 2019.
A Special Thank You toRaine Jerke on vocals and Scott Walters on bass guitar for bringing their talents to bear in putting together Starchild 2023!