Caddies Cruised Into Dance Halls

Taken from Aberdeen News site.

Myron Lee called ‘South Dakota’s father of rock ‘n’ roll music’
Taken from

A new book about South Dakota’s best known rock ‘n’ roll band and its leader, who is considered the father of rock ‘n’ roll music in the state, has been released.

Chuck Cecil of Brookings, a retired South Dakota newsman who is now writing books, has teamed with Myron Wachendorf of Sioux Falls to write “Myron Lee and the Caddies: Rockin’ ‘n Rollin’ Out of the Midwest.”

Wachendorf changed his name to Myron Lee while still in high school, after he formed the band in 1958 with several classmates. He picked “Lee” because he was a fan of popular singer Brenda Lee and “so people wouldn’t get us confused with a polka band,” he said.

“The Caddies for a band name sounded clean-cut,” Lee said. The name was also picked because members of the band had summer jobs as caddies at Sioux Falls golf courses.

First successful group

Lee’s band was the first successful rock ‘n’ roll group in South Dakota after the new sound gained in popularity following release of the movie “Blackboard Jungle” in 1955. That movie had a theme song by Bill Haley and the Comets called “Rock Around the Clock.”

Myron Lee and the Caddies entertained for the next 34 years in venues throughout North America, and especially at dance halls across the Upper Midwest.

The band got its first break in 1958 when they were hired to play at the Stardust Club in east Sioux Falls. Soon they were also playing at the Sioux Falls Cabana Club.

Played during breaks

They were soon invited to accompany a big accordion band to a dance at the Groveland Park Pavilion near Tyndall, to play when the big band members took their breaks. Buddy Knox, who wrote and recorded the No. 1 hit “Party Doll,” hired the band to accompany him on the first ever rock ‘n’ roll coast-to-coast tour of Canada by American artists.

After the Canadian tour, Fargo, N.D., singing star Bobby Vee picked Myron Lee and the Caddies to be his band on tours throughout the nation. The Sioux Falls group also caught the eye and ear of Dick Clark of “American Bandstand” fame.

Caravan of Stars

Clark hired the band to back up popular musicians on his famous Caravan of Stars that toured the nation by bus. After the initial tour in 1963, Clark hired The Caddies for a return engagement in 1965.

Myron Lee also recorded thirteen records, including one he wrote called “Rona Baby,” that climbed to No. 10 on the top forty charts.

In the book, Lee recalls some of the experiences at dance halls and pavilions in South Dakota and the Midwest, from the Hollyhock in Hatfield, Minn. to Ruskin Park near Forestburg, and dozens of other ballrooms that were Saturday night dancing destinations.

Changes in styles

The book includes over 60 photographs of Myron Lee and the Caddies performing with the big stars of the day, from the Everly Brothers to the late Conway Twitty.

Cecil said he was amazed at the name recognition of the band throughout South Dakota.

Cecil said that Myron Lee and the Caddies is probably the most well known South Dakota musical group ever.

What is unique, Cecil said, is that because of the band’s longevity, several generations danced to the music of Myron Lee and the Caddies.

Priced at $16, the book is available at Little Professor Book Center. Copies are also available at Lewis Drug Stores in Sioux Falls or Cover to Cover bookstores. Or send $16 plus $2 for mailing to Enterprise Book Company, 1036 Parkway Blvd., Brookings, SD 57006.

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