For about six years in the mid to late 1970s, Detroit Lakes was home to a band with a unique sound that they defined as a combination of country rock and electric bluegrass.
"We were ahead of our time ... kind of a novelty," said Dana Tomlinson of Detroit Lakes, who helped form the group with brothers Mike and Calvin To
linson back in 1973.
Known as Sagebrush, the group will be reuniting to perform together for the first time in 35 years this Saturday, July 24 at the Soo Pass Ranch south of Detroit Lakes. The concert will be a benefit for the Family Needs Ministry, Inc. (FNMI)
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, eventually relocating to Breckenridge, Colo.
"We were legends in our own minds," Tomlinson laughed, noting that the group disbanded when they finally realized they weren't going to be the "next big thing."
Dana eventually ended up back in Detroit Lakes, where he started a construction business. He had the opportunity to work with WE Fest founder Jeff Krueger again in the late 1990s, when he became involved as a worship leader for the Christian music festival known as Spirit Fest.
He and his brother Mike, along with their sons Jeremy, Jesse, Jackson, Austin and Lucas Tomlinson, started playing together as a group a few years ago, and recorded a CD at Bobby Vee's studio in St. Cloud.
"The boys said we should get the original Sagebrush back together -- that's what turned the light bulb on," Dana Tomlinson said.
He mentioned the idea to Krueger, and they came up with the concept of doing a Sagebrush reunion concert at the Soo Pass Ranch (home of WE Fest).
The concert would be part reunion, and part fund-raiser. Back when Spirit Fest began in 1998, the organizers formed the Family Needs Ministry, Inc., a non-profit, tax-exempt charitable organization "designed and dedicated to assist in meeting of the crisis and circumstantial needs of families," according to its informational brochure.
"For the six years we held Spirit Fest, we (FNMI) raised money to help local families in need," said Krueger. "That's how it got started."
The money raised by FNMI at Spirit Fest went directly to benefit local families and family assistance programming at the Lakes Crisis and Resource Center, Lakes Area Vineyard Church and First Lutheran Church, among others.
"We give anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500 to the individual or entity that applies (for funding)," Krueger said.
Since 1998, FNMI has distributed over $76,000 in grants serving families in need and supporting area youth events and programming.
"It's really been a blessing," Krueger added.
Though the group hasn't held any major fund-raisers for a while, Krueger and Tomlinson decided the Sagebrush reunion would be a perfect opportunity to do so.
"It's 'Great Music for a Great Cause,'" said Krueger, quoting the slogan that has been used to advertise the upcoming event.
The concert, which starts at 9 p.m., will be preceded by a barbecue from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Soo Pass Ranchhouse.
Though there is no admission fee to attend the July 24 event, a free will offering will be taken, and all money raised from the barbecue and beverages sold will go toward the benefit fund.
There will even be commemorative t-shirts and artwork on sale, created specially for the event, and the group will have CDs on sale as well.
In addition to the charitable aspect, the event will also be a "family reunion" of sorts for the band, Tomlinson noted.
"We've got guys coming from Colorado, Nashville, all over," he said, noting that several of the band's former members have continued to make their living as professional musicians for many years.
The three Tomlinson brothers who founded the band, Mike, Dana and Calvin, will all be there, along with their brother Phil, who joined the group later on, and Mike and Dana's sons.
Also attending from the Detroit Lakes area will be former band members Brad Krueger and Bruce Williams, as well as Doug Berglund, Paul Rasmussen, Maurice Skogen, Mark Arneson, Glen Kube, Mike Fauth, Steve Byam, Craig Larsen, Tom Wosika, Rick Larson and Jim Wiedewitsch.
"They'll all be there -- they're pretty excited," Tomlinson added, noting that many of them will be returning to the DL area for the first time since the 1970s.
"We were like brothers, traveling around in a bus together for 360 days a year ... we have a lot of memories and ties and bonds, and we'll be rekindling those connections," he said.
Group members from the early years all the way up to the present will be part of the performance, and they will be performing some of the band's original music.
"We'll do this big jam at the end with everybody -- it's going to be a fun night," Tomlinson said.
For more information about the Family Needs Ministry, or the benefit, contact 218-847-1681, Donations may also be sent to Family Needs Ministry, Inc., P.O. Box 885, Detroit Lakes MN 56502.