In 1961, fifteen-year-old Randy Meisner was a founding member of the Scottsbluff, Nebraska band, The Dynamics (aka The Drivin’ Dynamics). Over the next five years, they would become a very popular band with teenage audiences, playing dances almost every weekend in and around Scottsbluff. It was during this time that Randy developed his talent as a performer. As his mother Emilie told the Star-Herald in 1998, it was evident in those days that he was destined for something great:
“I always knew he was bound for something big. You could see it when he played with The Dynamics. You could see he was thinking about making it and he did.”
Below we will take a closer look at some of their gigs. My sincere thanks to former Dynamics keyboardist, Steve Cassells, and former roadie and doorman, Mark Anderson, for their help in putting the pieces together and sharing their stories.
To set the mood, here’s Randy singing “Kansas City” with The Dynamics in 1962:
December 9th, 1961
Little Moon Lake
On December 9th, 1961, the band played their first paid gig at Little Moon Lake,* which was located about 30 miles northwest of Scottsbluff on the Nebraska-Wyoming state line.
Guitarist Larry Soto recalled the excitement of that first dance at Little Moon:
“That concert went so fast it was like it was over in a split second. The excitement level was incredible as the people were screaming and hollering and wanted to dance. Dances at Little Moon were big.” (Gering Courier, July 25, 1991)
This dance was the start of what became a regular job, in which the band performed at least two weekends a month. Twenty years later, Randy remembered how his parents drove him to the dances:
“Our first regular job was playing at this dance club that was about 30 miles away. I think we earned about $12.50 a night. My mom and dad would drive me out there, sit through the entire dance, and then take me home.” (Teen magazine, February 1981)
It was at Little Moon Lake that the band developed as performers, especially Randy.
“The dances at Little Moon Lake were responsible for us learning to play as a group and also as individuals. Randy and I had a hard time playing our guitars and singing at the same time. I was very shy, afraid of playing in front of a crowd. Randy, on the other hand, was a pure showman, playing in front of people made him perform better. He had the knack of feeding off the crowd. He was always on a different level than we were, which later on, helped him with his career.” (Larry Soto,The Drivin’ Dynamics: A Rock And Roll Retrospect Of The Early Years, 1996)
Although Steve Cassells, who joined the band in 1964, never played Little Moon Lake with the Dynamics, he did perform there with his previous band, The Continentals (which also featured future Dynamics guitarist, David Margheim) & remembers the bumpy dirt road that would “jar your teeth”:
“We would drive up Highway 26, cross the state line, immediately turn left on a dirt road that was very much a ‘corduroy road’ that would jar your teeth as you drove over it. We used to joke it was left that way to wake up the drunks when they drove home.”
The stage where the bands played had a quonset hut ceiling, covered with wood, which you can see in this newly-discovered photo of the Dynamics, performing at Little Moon Lake in 1961:
You can see a clearer photo of the stage in these photos of The Continentals:
Little Moon Lake also had “Hooks”:
“They had a big burly bouncer (a middle-aged local farmer) everyone called ‘Hooks’ because he had lost both hands in a corn harvester accident and had two shiny metal hooks jutting out of his sleeves. He used those two prosthetics to his advantage in controlling bad behavior in the parking lot.” (Steve Cassells)
October 26, 1963
Terry’s Arena was located in Terrytown, a small incorporated area of Scottsbluff, named after local politician and entrepreneur, Terry Carpenter. Hap Ellis was a local promoter for the arena and booked not only local acts, but also major recording artists like Johnny Cash, Fats Domino, and the Smothers Brothers. In 1963, The Dynamics were booked for their own show, which was advertised in the Scottsbluff newspaper for a week with an ad that included a photo of the band.
December 31, 1964
1,500 people attended this New Year’s Eve dance by the Dynamics.
“The largest dance I remember working was New Year’s Eve at Terry’s Arena in Terrytown, just across the North Platte River, between Scottsbluff and Gering. There were two of us taking money at the door, Steve West, a good friend of Randy’s, and myself. (Mark Anderson)
The poster below mentions KOMA, a powerful 50,000 watt radio station out of Oklahoma City, who played ads for the band, which helped increase their popularity.
By 1963, the band was branching out playing areas outside of Scottsbluff. They discovered that a lot of young people in smaller towns were starved for rock and roll music, since most local dances featured only country & western music.
“Playing out of town was fun because everything was new. A new dance hall, staying overnight, going to the local music stores and meeting new friends. After setting up at the dance hall we would cruise up and down the main drag, as Randy would say and ‘get the looks.'” (Larry Soto, 1996)
The band was also getting better, but there was a certain member who seemed to attract the most attention:
“That Fall (1963) we were playing almost every Friday and Saturday night and as a band we were getting better all the time. Randy was getting super with his singing, playing and showmanship. He was the most noticeable of us four because of his stage presence and he had the good looks. The girls really liked Randy.” (Larry Soto)
“Our first dance out of town was the VFW in Ogallala. We had to get a little trailer to haul our equipment. We took Paul’s car, an old Comet, and off to Ogallala we went.” (Larry Soto)
The Dynamics’ performance at the cotillion on December 14th, 1963 was reviewed by students and teachers in the local newspaper, The Sidney Telegraph. Students thought the band was “real sharp,” if not “a little fast at times.” One teacher thought they were “a little loud.” Another had “no comment.”
North Platte, NE
“Our dances at the Crescent Ballroom in Grant were very well-promoted by the manager-owner. Grant was like Little Moon except you could get 1,000 people inside the ballroom.” (Larry Soto, 1996)
Ads for other area dances
For more dates and ads for The Dynamics, please visit our Randy Meisner Concert Archive. With nearly 80 verified dates, it is the largest archive of the band’s performance history online.
Steve Cassells (former keyboardist):
“The Dynamics toured all over Nebraska, Kansas, eastern Wyoming and western South Dakota, playing to large crowds and lining our pockets with money. We were a ‘KOMA Band,’ advertising late at night on the powerful signal coming out of Oklahoma that reached small towns all over the Great plains. A ticket to the dance cost only a dollar or two, but even so when we would divide the take at the end of the night, we made anywhere from $50 on the low end to more than $200–almost all in one-dollar bills. That was in the mid 1960s when gas was $0.19 and everything else was cheap too, so we felt we were loaded. In fact, I bought my 1948 Woodie station wagon after a Friday night gig in Laramie, Wyoming, and paid for it with 95 one-dollar bills I had brought home in a paper lunch bag.”
“Perhaps the biggest nights we had anywhere were at Frontier Park in Cheyenne, Wyoming. We always advertised the dance on the local station, KRAE, and did interviews on that station the days of the gig with one of their popular young rock jocks, Dave Capps, who later hit the big time in Denver. We were literally able to draw thousands of kids to that venue creating traffic jams leading into the park in the process. It was there we made the most money and felt the most like stars. We met a lot of girls at the Cheyenne gigs which when you come down to it, was why many of us joined a band in the first place.”
“We had played a gig at the auditorium in Alliance, NE, and then stopped afterwards at a small truck stop on the edge of town to grab a bite to eat before heading home. There were a couple of drunk ranchers there who took exception with the length of our hair (very short by today’s standards) and they began harassing us. We tried to ignore them, and then when we finished, we got in our cars and headed down the highway. They began chasing us and eventually got us to stop (can’t remember how they stopped us, but no cars were dented). At any rate, we got out and listened to them scream at us. One of them had a gun and fired it off in the air. We all were ducking for cover. Surprisingly enough, they eventually became friendly and backed off. Very strange night (the power of alcohol), and fortunately the only time something like that happened to us.”
Larry Soto (former guitarist):
“Bobby Soto and Randy were real pranksters and Paul Asmus and I were usually the victims. One trick they would pull on Paul while he was driving, was to sit in the back of the car and swing back and forth so Paul would think something was wrong with the tires or shocks of his car. When he got out to check out the tires, they would turn the radio, wipers, heater and everything they could, full blast, so when Paul would start the car, the radio was loud, wipers going, heater on. Another was when we stopped for gas, Randy would check the oil, and remove a couple of plug wires. Paul, with the car missing, would pull over and check it out. Randy would honk the horn and that would scare him.”
“One time the guys entered a tournament on a Friday. We had a job at the Kearney Armory and they couldn’t leave until after the tournament about 5:30, so Steve, Paul, Bobby, and I headed for Kearney and Randy & Dave flew down to Kearney. Our ticket taker and buddy, Steve West, had his dad fly them down. To say the least, they were serious about slot car racing.”
Mark Anderson (former roadie):
“Regarding Randy, he was upbeat and joking, poking fun, and enjoyed being on stage. I’ve read this is one of the aspects of his personality the Eagles wanted less of on stage. I bought my first car (a 1955 Chevy) from Randy in 1965. He hired a local bodyman, Ed Sumner, to work on it and paint it. It had racing slicks on the back when I bought it that protruded from the radiused wheel wells of the two-door 210 sedan. 105 louvers in the hood, black vinyl interior, 3 on the floor and a Sun Tach on the dash. You can imagine the feeling of kinship I felt with him and the memories when ‘Ol’ 55′ came out on the album On the Border, not to mention his ‘Take It To The Limit’ on One of These Nights!”
Correspondence with Steve Cassells & Mark Anderson
The Drivin’ Dynamics: A Rock And Roll Retrospect Of The Early Years by Larry Soto, 1996
Scottsbluff in ’62: A Rock ‘N’ Roll Retrospective by Steven J. Rothenberger, 2018
Scottsbluff Star-Herald, January 11, 1998
Gering Courier, October 24, 2014