Governor Tim Walz has declared Friday, April 26, Del Counts Band Day, as the band celebrate with a 58th anniversary show. The Del Counts, who have been performing since 1961 and are widely considered the longest-running rock group in the state, continue to play shows decades later to nostalgic followers.
The Del Counts were started by Charles Schoen, who was inspired to start a career in music after learning to play the guitar while he recovered from a serious injury.
“When I was nine,” said Schoen, “I was hit by a car and I was laid up for a year and a half. A tutor would come to the house and give me homework for the week. I did it all on Mondays after she left. I had nothing else to do. My father and uncle used to play and I would watch where my dad would put his fingers on the guitar. When no one was around, I would get out of bed, into my wheelchair, and over to the guitar and practice.”
Soon after Schoen’s father realized his son had an interest in playing guitar, he entered him into a talent show. After getting past the initial audition, Schoen started to perform shows. “When I saw that people liked what I did, that’s when I got the bug,” said Schoen.
The band’s breakout song, “Let the Good Times Roll,” was released in 1964 and immediately caught the attention of listeners. When the song was first released, it became an cue for local gangs to start brawling on the dance floor when the chorus began. According to a short video documentary, the band realized that they may need to hide behind their equipment while performing the song to avoid injury.
The band eventually started touring with other well-known performers — often opening for them in different cities. Artists like the Moody Blues, Wilson Pickett, the Hollies, the Young Rascals, Sonny and Cher, and Three Dog Night, helped the Del Counts gain popularity nationally as well as develop a growing fan base.
Other well-known songs like “What is the Reason,” climbed the KDWB charts in 1964, eventually leading them to a number four spot.
The band have played at several familiar venues around the Twin Cities including First Avenue, the former Met Center, and the Medina Ballroom. The band even played at a Prince afterparty at Coffman Memorial Union, according to Schoen.
The band have no plans to stop performing and will continue to play for their fans. What keeps them going?
“It’s the people who keep rejuvenating the atmosphere of performing,” said Schoen. “To play in the Twin Cities area and in the Upper Midwest after 58 years, there’s a reason for it. I get choked up thinking about it because most bands don’t last a year. For some reason, this one just keeps going.”
The band’s 58th anniversary show will be held at the John P. Murzyn Hall in Columbia Heights on Friday, April 26 and includes a panel of past and present members of the band, a performance by the Del Counts, and a jam with present and former alumni of the band. More information about tickets and the show here.
Marla Khan-Schwartz is a writer who loves music, deep conversations, and a bold glass of red wine.