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Detroit Lakes brothers Dana, Mike and Calvin Tomlinson were part of the original Sagebrush lineup when the group was formed in 1973. During its 11-year heyday, more than 20 different musicians played with the group, many of whom will be present for a reunion concert set this Saturday, July 27, in the DL Pavilion. At one point during the 11 years before they disbanded, Sagebrush relocated from Detroit Lakes to the mountains of Breckenridge, Colo. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Sagebrush plays Pavilion Saturday

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A couple of years ago, a benefit for the Detroit Lakes-based Family Needs Fund, Inc. (FNFI) brought about the reunion of a trio of brothers — Dana, Mike and Calvin Tomlinson — who formed the local band Sagebrush back in the 1970s, along with several other original band members, and their children.

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The reunion concert was so successful, said FNFI founder Jeff Krueger, that they decided to do it again.

“The Return of Sagebrush” is set to take place this Saturday, July 27 — but this time, rather than holding it inside the saloon at the Soo Pass Ranch (site of WE Fest) they decided to hold the concert at The Pavilion — where there’s “plenty of room to dance,” Krueger said.

The music starts at 8 p.m., and continues until 1 a.m. Tickets for the concert are $10 each at the door, and the proceeds will once again benefit FNFI, a charitable ministry which was created by Krueger back in 1998 as an offshoot of Spirit Fest (now defunct) and WE Fest, of which he was also a co-founder.

“The concept was to raise money for the fund through concerts,” Krueger said, noting that besides WE Fest and Spirit Fest, the FNFI also hosted a Go Fish concert and a performance of the musical “Child of the Promise” as benefits for the cause.

What makes FNFI such a unique charity, Krueger said, is the fact that the fund is governed by a small board of directors that makes decisions on applications with a turnaround time of as little as two weeks.

The families that FNFI helps apply for the funds through referrals from Lakes Crisis & Resource Center, Becker County Human Services, Lakes Area Young Life and other community organizations geared toward helping families and children in need.

Rather than just presenting the families with a check for $2,500 — the maximum amount available per grant — or less, the FNFI gives the money directly to the billing agency or company in payment of the beneficiary’s rent, utility bill, medical bills, or other services for which the grant was sought.

“It discourages a lot of fraud,” Krueger noted.

“We can help anywhere from 10 to 25 people at a time, depending on the amount they’re asking for,” he added.

Eligible families or individuals are those living within a 100-mile radius of Detroit Lakes, who have a demonstrable need, particularly those for which there are “no other means of support or supply,” according to FNMI’s informational brochure.

What makes Sagebrush such an appropriate provider of the entertainment for this benefit is the fact that the band is family-oriented.

“It was started by three brothers, and now it includes their sons, extended family and friends,” Krueger said.

At the first Sagebrush reunion concert two years ago, there were 25 different musicians participating, and there are at least that many expected to return.

“It was absolutely the greatest concert,” Krueger said, noting that as soon as it was over, “we all thought, let’s do this again.”

The band’s sound is a unique blend of “country rock and electric bluegrass” — “but it’s very danceable,” Krueger said, which is why they decided to hold the concert in a venue with a bigger dance floor.

Besides the music, there will also be a full cash bar available, as well as posters and t-shirts that will be auctioned off as part of the benefit.

“It’s great music for a great cause,” Krueger said. “People are donating their time to do this — not only to have a great time, but we’re also raising some money to directly help families in need.”

Sagebrush history

Back in 1973, Detroit Lakes brothers Dana, Mike and Calvin Tomlinson formed a band with a unique sound.

“We were ahead of our time … kind of a novelty,” recalled Dana Tomlinson.

Sagebrush’s music has often been compared to fellow ’70s rockers The Eagles as well as more contemporary country artists like Keith Urban.

“We were very young,” said Tomlinson, adding, “I was 16 and 17 years old, playing high school dances.”

Before too long, however, the Tomlinson brothers and their bandmates were traveling throughout a six-state area of the Midwest, touring with bands like Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Alabama, The Bellamy Brothers, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Asleep at the Wheel, New Riders of the Purple Sage and Sons of the Pioneers as well as solo musicians like Michael Murphy and Jerry Jeff Walker.               

“We played at the first WE Fest with Alabama and The Bellamy Brothers, in 1973,” Tomlinson said, adding, “We had a great local following, and many faithful fans from the Detroit Lakes and Fargo-Moorhead area.”

The group continued to tour and play together professionally for about 11 years before disbanding.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

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