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Pursuing the dream

With the phenomenal success of televised talent competitions like "American Idol" and "Nashville Star," it's sometimes easy to forget that, for most struggling musicians, forging a successful music career is a process that takes years, and involves many ups and downs.

Such has been the case for 32-year-old Detroit Lakes native Terry Mackner, who graduated from DL High School in 1992. Since then, he's worked with a couple of different bands as well as going solo on occasion. He's performed on stage at both the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and at DL's own WE Fest. He sang the national anthem at a televised Minnesota Twins baseball game in 2003, as well as at a few motorcross and rodeo events.

Singing at the Twins game was a truly memorable moment for Mackner.

"I felt like a star for a day," he said. Another memorable moment was his solo performance at the Grand Ole Opry in 1999.

His current band, Silverado, which was formed in 2000, has opened for a total of 25 national recording acts, including everyone from Toby Keith to the Beach Boys.

Silverado currently includes Mackner, who sings lead vocals and plays bass guitar; Bryan Aamold, steel guitar and fiddle; Jason Wika, vocals and lead guitar; Charles Woodardson, drums and vocals; and Rodell Ottum, vocals and guitar. Mackner, Aamold and Wika are the group's founding members.

So where did they get their name?

"We didn't have a name when we played our first show," Mackner said. "When we were walking through the parking lot after the show, our lead guitarist looked at the back of a truck and saw the name Silverado. That's where it came from -- pretty simple."

As for the group's style, Mackner said, "We're 80 percent country, 20 percent rock."

Silverado was at the height of its popularity when it received an invitation from WE Fest to perform on the main concert stage as a featured regional act.

Since then, the group has continued to perform regularly in the Fargo-Moorhead area, where Mackner has lived since 1993, as well as other locations throughout the lakes region. Their next gig, in fact, is a performance at the Eagles Club in Park Rapids on Saturday, April 1, at 9 p.m.

And Mackner is continuing to pursue his dreams as a solo artist.

"I'm working on a new CD with a producer from Nashville," he said. But without a contract with a recording label, Mackner is attempting to raise funds for the project on his own.

"The producer has put up three-fourths of the money," he said. "I have to raise the other $4,000 (to finish the project). I'm looking for backers right now."

Mackner has tried his luck in Nashville two or three other times over the years, recording a couple of demonstration ("demo") discs and even a demo video. Shortly after his Grand Ole Opry appearance, he was offered a recording contract with an independent label, but turned it down.

Though Mackner has had a fair measure of success as a musician, he's also had his share of setbacks.

Shortly after moving to Fargo in 1993, he auditioned for a band that told him he "couldn't sing or play guitar very well."

He laughed when he recalled getting kicked out of the school choir in eighth grade, by vocal instructor Kathy Larson, and subsequently earning a spot in the choir the following year.

But he was a bit more somber when discussing his father, Dennis Mackner, who died in 1997. Dennis, who was also a longtime musician and played with the legendary Bobby Vee during his high school years.

Dennis was diagnosed with cancer in 1997, and given approximately six months to live. In order to give his ailing father a chance to see him perform with his new band, Southbound (a Fargo garage band that Mackner had joined earlier that year), the group booked a gig at nearby Shorewood Pub.

"By the time it happened, he was too sick to go," Terry said. "He never got to see me perform live." But Terry still keeps his father close to his heart whenever he takes the stage.

"His favorite song was Dwight Yoakum's 'Fast as You,'" Mackner said. "I open every show with that song."

Mackner is proud to note that Silverado has only had to cancel one show in nine years -- a benefit concert that they couldn't get to because of bad weather.

Though Mackner will be the first to admit that playing regular music gigs is "good money," he also has a family to support -- a family that includes wife Tara, four-year-old daughter Ashley and son Peyton Riley, now six months old. He does that by driving an armored truck for Dunbar in Fargo.

In his spare time, he continues to write music and work on his CD project. Though he has played a wide variety of music, "I like country more than anything," Mackner said.

And, of course, he continues to tour with his band whenever possible. Besides the April 1 performance, other upcoming gigs for Silverado include the Otter Supper Club in Ottertail, April 28-29; the Long Haul Saloon, Grand Forks, N.D., May 12-13; another appearance at the Park Rapids Eagles Club, June 3; and the Windbreak Saloon in Fargo, June 16-17.

Their biggest dates on the schedule this summer will be a performance at the Colgate Country Music Showdown in Deer River, Minn., on July 9, and a stint at the Dakota Magic Casino in Hankinson, N.D., Aug. 11-12. A complete schedule of their upcoming performances, as well as biographies, booking information, photographs and more, is available at the web site,

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454