Myron Lee and the Caddies

Posted: Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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Whether it’s an aroma..a sight..or a sound..our senses are sometimes able to trigger a memory that’s so real it’s as if time travel was actually possible.  For many of the baby-boomer generation, all that’s needed is to hear a song from the early days of rock and roll to be transported to a ballroom somewhere.. dancing with  a pretty girl wearing a sleek black skirt who had sprayed so much Aqua Net on her hair that it stuck to your cheek on the slow ones…like Rona Baby by Myron Lee and the Caddies.
Back in the late fifties and early sixties, a lot of young guys, including me, started rock and roll bands. We had fun but none of us came remotely close to achieving the success of Myron Lee and the Caddies. (The name was chosen because they were golf caddies..not for the Cadillac automobile)Myron Lee in 1958 with his new Fender guitar. Local Rock and Roll star at just 17.
Elvis may have been the king..but in South Dakota, Myron Lee was the prince of rock and roll. He and his Caddies first took the upper Midwest by storm with their music. Then, with help of a savvy promoter and manager, wound up touring the country with the biggest rock stars of the day and coming very close to becoming big stars themselves.
Myron Wachendorf inherited the gift of music from his father, Bob who had is own band in the 30′s and 40′s. But around Christmas time 1950 when Myron was 8, Bob Wachendorf died at the age of 33. Myron had to grow up fast working odd jobs to help with money for his mom, sister and younger brother. Although he never learned to read music, Myron had his dad’s knack for playing piano by ear and often entertained his classmates at school.
After Bill Haley and the Comets hit song Rock around the Clock came out in 1955, Myron was hooked. He took up guitar, formed a band and was soon earning more money at age 17 than anyone in his family had. Musician and promoter, Jimmy Thomas convinced him to change his last name from Wachendorf to Lee and he was on his way.
 "Jimmy told me one of the first things you must do is to have everything danceable everything should be recognizable and if you get a song request more than once make sure you learn it. Above all, make sure you remember who you’re playing for. You’re not playing to satisfy yourself, you’re playing for the crowd. I never forgot that and always tried to do that 100 percent," Myron says.Myron wrote and recorded several songs many of which became regional hits but for a variety of reasons, none made it nationally. Still, he and the band had become good friends with others that had made it like Buddy Knox and Bobby Vee who hired Myron and the Caddies to be the opening act and back-up musicians on national tours in Canada and the United States, including the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars. With Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars 1963. Clark is at the microphone the bandfrom l-r..Jerry Haacke, Joel Shapiro, Fred Scott, Myron Lee, Curt Powell.On tour in Canada 1961. (l-r) Ersel Hickey, Dion, Myron, Buddy Knox and Bobby Vee.“When we were with Dick Clark on the road there were places like Ottawa and New York City where we’d get twenty thousand people,” Myron says.
But all good things must end and that happened to American rock and roll with the British invasion in the mid sixties. All the big stars, Myron Lee and the Caddies too, were out.
Myron held the band together, though, and despite the fact that they were now performing for hundreds instead of thousands, the Caddies kept going through the seventies, eighties and up until 1992 when Myron finally packed up his beautiful old black Gretch guitar  for the final time. "Still Packin’ ‘em in" early 1990′s. (l-r) Gary Swanson, Rick BurkhardtDave Sievertson, Myron. (Kneeling) Roger Reynolds..(sound…road mgr.)
When it came to deciding who would be among the first South Dakota rock and roll pioneers to be inducted into the rock and roll Hall of Fame on May 24th  there was only one unanimous choice…Myron Lee and the Caddies.
Myron will be there for the induction ceremony as will Bobby Vee, Gary Mule Deer, Sherwin Linton, The Jadesmen, Gene Carrol and the Shades, The Byrnes Brothers and The Mystics..many of them performing their “golden oldies” on the historic Arkota Ballroom stage.
Tickets are still available by calling Don Fritz at 605-362-1223..or stop by  Lewis Drug Southgate or the Shrine Mosque Downtown Sioux Falls.
For additional information on the inductees, the ceremony and the Rock and Roll Music Association, CLICK HERE.
 Do you have a favorite Myron Lee and the Caddies memory you’d care to share? Feel free to comment below.

3 Comments

  1. Greg Weeg says:

    I played with Myron for 5 years in the 60′s called him up from Canada,I was playing with the Bleach Boy’s at that time, our tour was compleded ,so thought of myron,,,the Bleach Boy’s where backing up Buddy Knox at that time…Myron said when you get back, you got a job ….Myron was a good bisness man and a real gentleman in all the years I’ve known him…..Greg Weeg (Bass Player)I worked at KELO the same time you did Doug….

  2. doug domeyer says:

    hey Myron, doug, greg and other.
    been a long time.
    sure would like to hear from any of u guys!

  3. Rachel Dunn Cure says:

    Don’t know if you have heard but Chico Hajek who was a drummer with Myron Lee for awhile in the early 1960′s, died today of bone cancer, November 19, 2014. He was from my hometown of Tyndall,SD and will always remember him from high school band and his drum solos with The Caddies.

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