The boys are back
High school buddies reunite band
Craig — At last year’s Moffat County High School class of 1976 reunion, Jerry Schaeffer couldn’t forget about the band in which he, Russel Moore and David Van Wagoner used to play. More than a quarter century has passed since the band, Steal’n, had rocked anyone.
“The last time we played was in 1979, and it started me thinking,” Schaeffer said. “If we could get the band back together, this would be the perfect place to do it.”
The perfect place Schaeffer mentioned was the 30-year reunion of the class of 1977, held during the weekend in Craig.
Just as it occurred those many years ago, the rafters of the fairgrounds pavilion shook with tunes from the past played by an MCHS band.
Moore, MCHS class of 1977, came the furthest, from Missoula, Mont., for the performance. He is a sales manager and fishing guide in Montana, and plays drums in the band.
“One time, on New Year’s Eve, we played a whole set of Kiss songs with full make-up on,” Moore said. “It took us a week to get the mascara out of our eyes.”
Schaeffer, MCHS class of 1973, learned to love fishing from Moore and is the owner of a fishing store in Grand Junction.
In the band he plays bass and keyboards.
“We played all over western Colorado,” Schaeffer said. “A lot of high school gigs and a concert in City Park in 1979. This is like our home, coming back to the pavilion here.”
Van Wagoner, MCHS class of 1976, also calls Grand Junction home, working as a supervisor for the city’s public works department. The guitar and keyboards are his specialty in the band, and he writes music as well.
“It was at my reunion last year we talked about the band,” he said. “One thing led to another.”
The band plays what is now considered “classic rock,” although they said at the time it was current rock.
Songs from Bob Seger, Bad Company and Led Zeppelin fill their repertoire. Even the band’s name, Steal’n, comes from a classic Uriah Heep song of the same name.
“Tonight, we’ll play hits from the ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s,” Schaeffer said. “We want to duplicate what we did back then.”
Growing up in Craig 30 years ago also holds many good memories for the trio.
Moore, who left town in 1981, said he has anticipated returning.
“Craig makes us feel very good,” he said. “You remember things differently. The trees look bigger, and the houses smaller. It’s neat coming home.”
Van Wagoner reflects on leaving basketball practice at MCHS in the winter with hair still wet from the showers.
“We would snap each other’s hair off in the freezing cold,” he said. “The next day we all had bad hair.”
Schaeffer appreciates the way classes intermingled at the high school, the same way that many graduating classes attended the reunion events during the weekend.
“Going to Moffat County High School, everybody was friends,” he said. “The classes of 1973 and 1974 hung out together. Times were simpler then.”
Eventually, music became the important thing in their lives.
Practicing in garages wasn’t as bad as some options.
“After we were asked to leave some basements and garages, we actually played in a chicken-coop,” Moore said. “That was definitely the most memorable practice location.”
From the band’s beginnings in 1974 until they went their separate ways in 1979, Schaeffer estimates they played at least two-dozen times in the fairgrounds pavilion.
Part of the weekend performance was dedicated to Stuart Fishencord, an original guitar player in the band who passed away.
The three members of the band all worked at the power plant after high school, and working soon replaced music in importance.
That doesn’t mean they lost their passion for music.
“My son is 21, and he listens to classic rock,” Schaeffer said. “My wife bought me a guitar, and now I practice every week.”
For Moore, growing up doesn’t mean growing old.
“It’s the music,” he said. “I’ll always listen to the old stuff. And now we finally have the money to upgrade our equipment.”
The band played their hits for all the classes of MCHS that showed up at the pavilion on Friday and Saturday evenings.
People danced, and cheers followed each hit from the past.
Perhaps the most memorable moment for band members came with their signature song, which they saved for the encore.
The song was aptly titled “The boys are back in town.”
Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext.207, or firstname.lastname@example.org
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