Gregg Hall
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Gregg Hall

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Deece Productions will turn its attention to the work of Tom Petty at its next show, set for Saturday, Feb. 23, at The Muse Theatre in La Crosse.

The show will feature all the songs from 1989’s “Full Moon Fever” and 1994’s “Wildflowers,” Petty’s first and second solo albums.

The band will feature Gregg “Cheech” Hall, Laun Braithwaite, Brian Beard, “Butcher” Taylor, Eddie "Hondo" Juntunen, Matt Pudas, and Javier Trejo.

Tickets are on sale now at Deaf Ear Records.
- Randy Erickson, LaCrosse Tribune


The sounds of the ’70s (and ’60s) will echo on La Crosse’s North Side this weekend, with tribute shows Saturday and Sunday featuring Neil Young and Otis Redding, respectively.

The Saturday Neil Young show is the latest production by Gregg “Cheech” Hall, and it’s the third time he’s tapped Young as the recipient of a tribute. Previous shows featured Young’s work from “Rust Never Sleeps,” “Harvest” and “Zuma,” while this weekend’s show at The Muse Theatre will pull it’s first set from Young’s third solo album, “After the Gold Rush.”

Billy Hembd stood in for Young in the two previous shows, but he was unavailable this time around so Hall is taking on the lead vocal chores as well as playing guitar. “I hope people aren’t going to be too disappointed,” Hall said.

Hall will be backed by bassist Tim Powers and keyboardist Eddie “Hondo” Juntunen from the White Iron Band, which Hall also plays in. In addition, former White Iron Band guitarist Javier Trejo and drummer Eric Gerke will round out the band.

“We’re going to have a killer band,” Hall said. “It’s going to be a good show.”

“After the Gold Rush” was released in August 1970 on the heels of the huge success of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s “Déjà Vu.” Most of “After the Gold Rush” mines the country-folk vein so prevalent on Young’s huge 1972 hit, “Harvest.”

The album does, however, feature “Southern Man,” a rocker that inspired Lynyrd Skynrd to dedicate a verse of “Sweet Home Alabama” to taking a poke at Young.

“After the Gold Rush” had two singles, “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” and “When You Dance I Can Really Love,” the former a top 40 hit. But the songs that have endured in the classic rock play list are “Southern Man” and the title song.

The album was recorded with Crazy Horse and Stephen Stills, and was noteworthy as the introduction to the big time for an 18-year-old Nils Lofgren, now a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.

Lofgren played piano on the album, something he had little experience with, being much more adept at guitar. Hall also will try his hand at piano during the Muse Theatre show, the second half of which will feature a galaxy of Young’s many other greats.

People who buy tickets for Saturday’s Neil Young show can get half-price admission to the Sunday afternoon tribute to legendary soul singer Otis Redding put on by a Milwaukee-based band led by singer Craig Baumann.

Redding lost his life at age 26 when the plane in which he was flying crashed into Madison’s Lake Monona on Dec. 10, 1967.
- Randy Erickson, LaCrosseTribune


Aaron Huntington wore his worries on his face. It was just a few weeks before he was to stand in for singer Ronnie Van Zant in a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute show, and it seemed as if the whole thing was destined to crash and burn.

Gathered on a Wednesday evening in the basement of Jimbo Zill’s guitar shop in La Crosse, Huntington and his musical mates were struggling. New drummer Eric Gerke was sitting in for the first time, one of the guitarists didn’t show up for the rehearsal, and the other two guitarists occasionally couldn’t remember who was supposed to play which part.

Huntington was tabbed to sing for the Skynyrd show because of his well-known love of the band and because of his proven skills as a frontman as singer, guitarist and “alpha hog” for Sowbelly Bitchhog.

He describes his band thusly: “If Skynyrd and (Black) Sabbath had a baby, it’d be us.”

A 1997 graduate of Logan High School who now lives in Onalaska, Huntington wasn’t even born when a plane crash on Oct. 20, 1977, claimed the lives of Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, backup singer Cassie Gaines and three others. But if he had been alive, he’d have mourned the loss deeply, and he takes the upcoming tribute to one of his favorite bands very seriously.

“It’s going to be about rockin’ these songs out and doing them justice,” Huntington said.

“One More From the Road” — named for the band’s September 1976 double live album — is the sixth musical salute put together by Gregg “Cheech” Hall.

If Huntington had been involved in any of the previous tribute shows, he would have known he didn’t need to worry. Hall is very selective about the people he recruits, and they have always done whatever it took to get the band tightened up in time.

“Everybody comes together in a pinch,” said Hall, one of three guitarists involved in the project and a big fan of Skynyrd himself. “It’s going to be fun. We’re not going to suck.”

Bassist Tim Powers, who has performed in most of Hall’s tribute shows, echoed Hall’s confidence. “It’s always this way,” he said. “A week or two before the show, things begin to coalesce.”

Befitting a show dedicated to the music of Skynyrd, the band includes guitarists of the highest caliber. In addition to Hall and Zill, the band includes Paul Matushek of Moon Boot Posse.

Gerke, who plays with Zill and Mike Von Muchow in Actual Size and Skeleton Crew (Irene Keenan’s recently formed backing band), is filling in on drums for Ryan Torgerson, also of Moon Boot Posse. Torgerson discovered he had advanced in a prestigious drumming competition that is scheduled for the same weekend as the Skynyrd show.

Rounding out the Skynyrd band on keyboards will be Nancy Stoll, a teacher at Onalaska’s Irving Pertzsch Elementary who had Hall as a student when she first started her teaching career.

Putting together a band is a process that takes months, but Hall is so plugged into the local music scene that he has a knack for picking people motivated enough and skilled enough to shorten that process to a matter of weeks.

Part of the reason Hall can do that is the musicians he picks love the artists they’re saluting — and they love the idea of doing a show at The Muse Theatre, where they will have the audience’s full attention.

“It’s not like a bar, where people are getting drunk and stupid. They’re there to listen to the music,” Hall said. “That’s part of the reason every person I’ve ever asked (to play a tribute show) has said ‘yes.’”

The band will do most if not all of the songs on “One More From the Road,” and might throw in some other favorites, such as “The Ballad of Curtis Loew.”
- Geri Perlin, LaCrosse Tribune


Gregg “Cheech” Hall of Deece Productions is back with another couple of themed shows, once again choosing artists and particular albums to re-create with area musicians.

First up is the Tribute to Pearl Jam’s “Ten” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 8, at The Muse Theatre, 1353 Avon St.

“I will be playing Eddie Vedder, and Moon Boot Posse will be backing me up,” Hall said.

“I chose Pearl Jam because I want to reach a different demographic than I usually hit,” he said. “All the other shows have been from the ’70s — my classic rock. Now Pearl Jam is in the classic rock category, but it is what I grew up on,” Hall said.

“‘Ten’ is one of the soundtracks to my high school and adolescent years. I know I share that same connection with others,” Hall said. “Hopefully, I am correct on that.”

The second show is a tribute to Neil Young’s “Harvest” and “Zuma,” and will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 9, also at the Muse. This show will feature Billy Hembd as Neil Young, backed by Hall, Amy Hembd, Mike Stidolph and Cody Appel.

“I chose to do a Neil show because it seems to draw the most people,” Hall said.

“Billy Hembd is the best Neil Young you could ever ask for. We chose ‘Harvest’ because that has got to be one of the most popular Neil albums,” Hall said. “We decided to do ‘Zuma’ for the second set because it has a lot of

B-side tunes you don’t hear on the radio, thank God. It is a great album to be aware of if you’re a Neil fan.”

Hall said he planned the two shows for the same weekend because that’s when the Bandit County Fair in De Soto usually is.

“We decided to take a year off of the Bandit County Fair, so I wanted to do something different and cool that weekend to make up for that.”

Tickets are $20 and are available only at Deaf Ear Records.
- Geri Perlin, LaCrosse Tribune


If you’re getting too old for the late-night music scene that doesn’t really get going downtown until 10 p.m., don’t fret. Gregg “Cheech” Hall is thinking of you.

He is starting a series of matinee shows at The Root Note, 115 S. Fourth St., in February that are aimed at people who don’t want to or can’t stay out until all hours.

These shows will be from 6 to 9 p.m. on the first Fridays of the month and will feature Cheech and some of his musical pals.

“I wanted to try and grab an audience that can’t make the nighttime gigs,” Cheech said. “I have a feeling there are a lot of people who would love to come watch me play at night but can’t due to jobs, etc.”

Here’s the lineup:
•Feb. 3: Cheech and the Feelin’
•March 2: Cheech and Javier Trejo
•April 6: Cheech and Billy Hembd, performing an all Neil Young show
•May 4: Cheeba, with Cheech and Chubba from Smokin’ Bandits

Cheech said each show will have a $4 cover charge.
- Geri Perlin, LaCrosse Tribune


Deece Productions is back at work putting together musical events. The next one will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 7, at the Muse, 1353 Avon St., and will be a tribute to "The Allman Brothers Band: Live at the Fillmore East," featuring Nick "the Feelin" Mrozinski, Matt Mahlum, Tim Powers, Gregg "Cheech" Hall, Jimbo Zill, Cody Appel and Ryan Torgerson.

Deece Productions will also present "The Last Waltz" on May 20 and 21 and "Rust Never Sleeps" on Sept. 2 and 3.

"These shows are really turning into something special," said producer Hall. "The fans and community are really supportive."

Tickets cost $20 and are available at Deaf Ear Records or by calling (608) 519-1647.
- Geri Perlin, LaCrosse Tribune


Once he got a taste of music and movies mixed together, Gregg “Cheech” Hall just couldn’t get enough. So now with a couple of successful productions of “The Last Waltz” underneath his guitar strings, he’s moving on to Neil Young’s film “Rust Never Sleeps.”

Hall has formed Deece Productions to produce the shows, and he wants to continue putting local musicians together with famous moments of musical history.

While “The Last Waltz” was a grand production featuring about 30 musicians, “Rust Never Sleeps” requires just five.

Hall tagged Billy Hembd to play Neil Young.

“He is the absolute perfect fit for Neil,” Hall said. “He plays Neil better than Neil.”

Joining Hembd in the production will be Matt Mahlum on drums, Cody Appel on piano and organ, Tim Powers on bass, and Hall on guitar.

“I’ve got a bunch of other ideas we’re going to try out,” he said, based on the success of “The Last Waltz.”

Like “The Last Waltz,” “Rust Never Sleeps” will be staged at The Muse, 1353 Avon St. The church-turned-theater is the perfect venue, Hall said.

“My Aunt Patty helps out over there, and I’ve kind of got some North Side roots, anyway. The place is so cool, and the acoustics are awesome. I was just kind of blown away.”

But he didn’t want to keep repeating the same show, Hall said, and it was difficult finding open dates for that many musicians.

For “Rust Never Sleeps,” a bit of the movie will be played before the local musicians take over. And that’s when the fun begins.

“Everybody’s there to have a good time.”
- Geri Perlin, LaCrosse Tribune


Legendary concert movie "The Last Waltz" will be given a local flavor when La Crosse area musicians recreate the movie for one live performance at 7:30 p.m. Friday at The Muse Theater, 1353 Avon St.

A large cast of veteran area musicians will perform with clips from the original film interwoven into the performances.

Organizer and local man about music Gregg "Cheech" Hall said he has wanted to do this for a long time.

"I am a big fan of The Band and ‘The Last Waltz.' I threw around the idea to some musician friends and we decided to do it. Everyone who is involved is doing a really awesome job," he said, and he had no trouble finding the right musicians.

"It was actually pretty easy. I got Brownie (Brent Brown) to be Dylan because he plays a lot of Dylan. Billy (Hembd) plays lots of Neil Young," he said, so that was also an easy choice. "I chose who I thought would be a good fit."

And then he went looking for a venue and found The Muse.

"The Muse is a beautiful place and the setting and atmosphere are perfect. I wanted to do it somewhere different than a smoky bar because it's more like a performance concert than a gig. And Vicki (Elwood) is really cool, and she's really easy to work with. It is going to be a special night. There are so many good musicians in the cast. The music is some of the most influential and legendary tunes of all time, in my opinion anyway."

Playing the parts of The Band and the other musicians are:
•Robbie Robertson - Cheech Hall
•Rick Danko - Tim Powers
•Levon Helm - Frank Utecht
•Garth Hudson - The Feelin'
•Richard Manuel - Rick Weeth
•Ronnie Hawkins - Brian Beard
•Dr. John - The Feelin'
•Neil Young - Billy Hembd
•Neil Diamond - Adam Palm
•Joni Mitchell - Nancy Caucutt
•Paul Butterfield - Shawn Virock
•Muddy Waters - Mark Grundhoefer
•Eric Clapton - Cody Appel
•Emmylou Harris - Fayme Rochelle
•Van Morrison - Mike Caucutt
•Bob Dylan - Brent Brown
•Mystery Guitar Player - Jimbo Zill.
•Guest bands: Mr. Blink, The Smokin' Bandits, Stumpwater and Burnt Brownies.

Tickets are $20 and are available at Del's Bar, The Root Note, Dave's Guitar Shop, Deaf Ear and Instrument Repair of La Crosse.
- Geri Perlin, LaCrosse Tribune


If you ever played in a band with Randy Hembd, jammed with him, or just sat in the audience and enjoyed his music, it’s time to give back a little.

Hembd, who died seven years ago, didn’t have good life insurance, said his son, Luke. “He served in the Navy, and they did donate a real small thing (headstone),” Luke said, but if you’re searching for it in French Island Cemetery, good luck finding it.

So Luke Hembd dreamed up Headstone Jam, a concert to raise money for a headstone for his dad’s grave.

“I always wanted to do this,” he said, and Friday, Feb. 5, seemed the right time because that would have been Randy’s 55th birthday.

The music starts about 7 p.m. at the Popcorn Tavern, and a $5 donation is requested. Music will be provided by Gravel Road Band, The Smokin’ Bandits, Clock, Dan Berger and friends.

Gregg “Cheech” Hall, one of the musicians who will be performing, said he is happy to do it for the man who was one of his biggest musical influences.

“Randy was loved by everyone. He never had anything bad to say about anyone and was all about helping area musicians make a name for themselves,” Hall said. “There was no one else that influenced me and all area musicians more than him. He wasn’t just a really good friend, he was a blues mentor for me. He could have taught a class on musician etiquette. Even to this day we all still tell stories about his kindness, his charisma, his love for his friends and family, and his amazing ability of playing and feeling the music that flowed so gracefully through him no matter what. He is missed by every soul he touched — that’s a lot of souls.”

Luke Hembd said the goal is to raise $699 to buy the headstone. If they raise more, maybe he’ll get something a little nicer, he said.
- Geri Perlin, LaCrosse Tribune


Sons of a Peach, Which One’s Pink and Penny Sack are playing at the Summer Kickoff Campout Party on Saturday at Romance Tavern in Romance, Wis. Music starts at 9 p.m.

Gregg “Cheech” Hall, who plays in Sons of a Peach, says he and band member Jimbo Zill talked for years about starting an Allman Brothers tribute band. “I would always go into Dave’s Guitar Shop where he worked and jam on guitars and stuff. I always looked up to him, and he was one of my earliest influences on the blues. I used to sneak into places just to watch him and his bands play,” Hall said. “We always talked for years about starting an Allman Brothers tribute band and we finally found the right people, and it has been one of my highlights as a musician. It is so nice that I have the privilege of playing in a band with so many outstanding musicians.”

Romance Store is located on Hwy. 56, four miles east of Genoa, Wis. Camping for the night is $5. For more information, call (608) 689-2706.

Contributed photo: Sons of a Peach are, seated from left, Greg “Cheech” Hall and Jimbo Zill; and in back from left, Frank Utecht and Mike Von Muchow.
- Geri Perlin, LaCrosse Tribune


You’re probably used to seeing Gregg “Cheech” Hall in one of the bars on Third Street, but for a CD release party with The Feelin’ Band, he’s moving a couple blocks closer to the Mississippi River. Advertisement

They will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 10, at the Pump House, 119 King St. Hall will be releasing “Acoustic Tracks,” and The Feelin’ Band will be releasing “The Sacred Play of Life.” Tickets are $10 plus tax in advance and $13 at the door and are available at the Pump House.

Hall is a familiar presence on the local music scene, playing with the Smokin’ Bandits, the Peacheaters (Allman Brothers Tribute), Mitgee Evers, Clock and the Super Deece Band. Hall and the Bandits will host their fourth annual Bandit County Fair (www.myspace.com/banditcountyfair), featuring more than 20 bands, June 13-15.

The Feelin Band, through energetic live shows, has been making strong connections with thousands of fans. The band consists of Nicholas Mrozinski, (songwriting, vocals and keys), Sammy Weyandt (guitar) of The White Iron Band, Jeffery Engholm (bass) of George Maurer Jazz and Collective Unconscious, and Paul Grill (drums) of The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank.

Driven by Mrozinski’s vocals and flowing piano, the four-piece soul-rockers sound like a combination of Van Morrison, John Legend, Blind Melon and Dr. John.

For more information or tickets, call the Pump House at (608) 785-1434.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: CD release party by Greg “Cheech” Hall and The Feelin’ Band

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 10

WHERE: The Pump House, 119 King St.


COST: Tickets $10 plus tax in advance, $13 at the door, available at the Pump House.

- Geri Perlin, LaCrosse tribune


Though no one’s life can be told in five songs, they can give you a bit of a glimpse about who they are and where they’ve been. Advertisement

Gregg “Cheech” Hall is one of the hardest working musicians in the area. If you haven’t seen the La Crosse musician perform, it’s not because you haven’t had the opportunity. The guy loves to play, and play he does — often. You can see him perform this Saturday at 9 p.m. with Mark Grundhoefer of the Twin Cities band Down Lo at the Trempealeau Hotel, 150 Main St., Trempealeau, Wis., (608) 534-6898.

Hall’s band, The Smokin’ Bandits, will also host the fourth annual Bandit County Fair June 13-14 in Romance, Wis. Joining the Bandits are Fat Maw Rooney, Houses In Motion, Joe and Vicki Price, Stealin’ Strings, Shoeless Revolution, Super Deece and the Confectionary Treats, TUGG, Chuff, Ginger Presley and more to be announced. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/thesmokinbandits or www.thesmokinbandits.net.

Here is Cheech’s life in five songs:

“Everybody Knows This is Nowhere” by Neil Young. This song is my favorite of all time. It symbolizes, to me, my life growing up in the Coulee Region and how so many of my friends had to move to Colorado or out to the coasts after high school to get out of this “small/boring” town. I just think that a lot of folks I know/knew take the natural beauty of the Midwest for granted. They are trying so hard to look for something they thought they needed to find when it was here all along. The funny thing is, I have been to these places and I love this area the best of all.

“Liberty St.” by Gregg “Cheech” Hall and co-written with the late, great Randy Hembd. Randy was one of my best friends in the world. He passed away five years ago. He taught me the blues and how to play slide guitar. He also got me started in the local scene. But he would always write down little sayings he would hear people say or that he would just come up with throughout the day. He’d write them on Post-It notes and keep them in his wallet. I bet he had 50 little yellow pieces of paper in that wallet. But one day he showed me one that read “Liberty St., where people run away to and crazy people meet.” Liberty Street is located deep in the heart of historic North Side La Crosse, where we lived. So I took that note and built a true story song around it. I wrote it as a memorial for my best friend whom I think about and miss every single hour of every day.

“Statesboro Blues” by the Allman Brothers Band. The first time I heard it, I was blown away. The slide guitar was something I was always amazed by. Duane Allman, being one of my biggest influences, was one of the best. A lot of people don’t know this, but Duane was a studio guitarist for a lot of famous artists such as Eric Clapton, Wilson Pickett, Derek and the Dominos, Clarence Carter, Delaney and Bonnie, King Curtis, Aretha Franklin — he’d pretty much play with anyone that was willing to let him, and everyone did. When I hear that opening riff, it just gives me the chills every time and makes me want to grab my guitar and play along with him.

“Helplessly Hoping” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. If there’s anything I love more than the blues and slide guitar, it’s four-part harmony, and no one does it better than Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. It’s amazing how these four individuals can blend so beautifully after almost 40 years. Also the amazing talents of all of them individually are so different and the product that comes out when those styles collaborate is just simply breathtaking.

“Homegrown” by Neil Young. I grew up on an organic hobby farm, so it reminds me of planting potatoes, picking raspberries and strawberries in my dad’s ginormous garden. Running barefoot all summer through the woods and the creek. Growing up in the country and living off the land.


- Kari Knutson, Winona Daily News


Trempealeau Hotel to host the third annual Bandit County Fair

By KARI KNUTSON | Lee Newspapers

.
TREMPEALEAU, Wis. — Gregg “Cheech” Hall has been going to the Trempealeau Hotel since he was just a kid.

“It’s been my favorite place since I was little,” Hall said.

His parents would drop him off for its annual Blues Bash and Reggae Fests. Hall would absorb the music and the atmosphere.

“It’s a hidden treasure — a little piece of paradise,” Hall said.

That’s why he says it’s the perfect setting for the third annual Bandit County Fair, named after his La Crosse band the Smokin’ Bandits. Also performing are world music band Down Lo and outlaw country The White Iron Band, both from the Minneapolis area. The first two fairs were held at a big barn.

“It was mostly word-of-mouth,” Hall said.

The fair also serves as the Bandits’ release party for its second CD, “In the Grain.”

It was recorded at Natural Recording Studio in La Crosse.

The Smokin’ Bandits celebrated their fourth anniversary last week and will tour this summer, making stops at the 10,000 Lakes Festival in Detroit Lakes, Minn., and Dogstock Festival in Kansas in July at the Feel Good Festival in Amherst, Wis., in August.
- Kari Knutson, Winona Daily News


As a member of the Smokin’ Bandits and as a well-known solo player around town, Gregg “Cheech” Hall has made the round of venues, whether it’s a jam at Del’s or playing with a full band at The Joint.

“La Crosse is a gem as far as musicians go. There are so many talented individuals in this town, it’s sick,” Hall said.



He grew up in La Crosse “watching musicians like Jimbo Zill, Randy and Billy Hembd, Jeff Sherin, Dave Rogers and many others. When I turned 18, the Hembds (Billy, Randy and Lucas) took me under their wing, and I started playing out at local establishments. Through them, we all just kept playing and playing and playing.

“Now I am hosting open jams at Del’s Bar on Mondays and the Animal House on Tuesdays. I have played with just about every musician in town and consider all of them good friends.”

Hall recommends open mikes as the best way to get started and to meet other musicians.

“From there, you’ll find people who want to play and collaborate with your style. Then just practice and practice.”

Smokin’ Bandits will host its fourth annual Bandit County Fair on June 13-14 in Romance, Wis.

“Smokin’ Bandits has accomplished more than I ever thought possible. We’ve played at such festivals as 10,000 Lakes, Hookahville, Campout Roots, Log Jam, Harvest Fest and countless others. We’ve done tours in Connecticut, Arkansas, Ohio, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Michigan and Illinois.”

But like many musicians before him, Hall finally accepted a full-time job. He works in the Cashton Distribution Center at Organic Valley Farms and, yes, he will have health insurance.

“I was working at Leithold Music, but I quit to pursue my music in the summer of 2007. So from May 2007 until February 2008, my steady income was music and CD sales,” he said.

“I took this job (at Organic Valley) because I knew it was a fantastic place to work. I could have kept playing full time, but it was time for a break. But it took almost a decade to get established enough to make an OK living. Now, with my job, I can pick and choose gigs a little more, which is nice.”
- Geri Perlin, LaCrosse Tribune


Bandits hit the road for ‘Smokin gigs out West

By Kari Knutson | live! wire

Colorado is a long way to go to play music, but for the members of La Crosse band The Smokin’ Bandits, it’s well worth the 14-plus-hour trip. ADVERTISEMENT

This month, the band heads to the Centennial State for its third tour there. The Colorado gigs came with a little brotherly help. Smokin’ rhythm acoustic guitarist Christian Staebly’s brother is in Boulder, Colo., band Great American Taxi and helped set up some gigs.

The band was surprised how many folks from back home are living out there.

“You’d be amazed,” Smokin’ lap steel guitarist Gregg “Cheech” Hall said. “The crowds are always good.”

Each trek there, the band makes more Smokin’ friends and fans. The band is even playing a friend’s wedding in Colorado on this tour.

“We have a good following out there,” Hall said. “Everyone is overly friendly.”

Hall says Staebly does most of the driving. “He’s the father figure of the band,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hall, lead guitarist Pat Ferguson, drummer Matt Mahlum and bassist Nic Lanzel kill some time in the Ford Excursion van playing video games and watching movies. “Almost Famous” and “The Blues Brothers” are a couple of favorites, although they also try to get in a few horror flicks and Pink Floyd and Grateful Dead videos.

Hall says the Smokin’ Bandits are heading in a more rock ‘n’ roll blues edge direction but are still keeping in touch with their bluegrass roots. “The next album isn’t going to sound anything like the first one,” Hall said. “It’s definitely going to rock a lot harder.”

The band will play much closer to home from 7 to 11 p.m. this Saturday at the Trempealeau Hotel’s 20th anniversary party in Trempealeau, Wis. There will also be a raffle with proceeds going to the Trempealeau Library and the Craig Brommerich Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Hall has been to plenty of shows at the hotel.

“I love that place — I’ll pretty much go see anyone there,” Hall said.

If you can’t make that show, or don’t feel like driving 14 hours to Colorado, check out www.thesmokin bandits.net. The band is playing plenty of smokin’ shows, although it will take a short break in December and January. Hall is getting ready to become a dad in mid-December. “The support team is huge,” Hall said. “I’m ready for it.”

You can also mark your calendar for Dec. 31, when The Smokin’ Bandits play with Winona’s Northwoods Band for a New Year’s Eve show at the Vibe in La Crosse - Kari Knutson, Winona Daily News


As a member of the Smokin’ Bandits and as a well-known solo player around town, Gregg “Cheech” Hall has made the round of venues, whether it’s a jam at Del’s or playing with a full band at The Joint.

“La Crosse is a gem as far as musicians go. There are so many talented individuals in this town, it’s sick,” Hall said.



He grew up in La Crosse “watching musicians like Jimbo Zill, Randy and Billy Hembd, Jeff Sherin, Dave Rogers and many others. When I turned 18, the Hembds (Billy, Randy and Lucas) took me under their wing, and I started playing out at local establishments. Through them, we all just kept playing and playing and playing.

“Now I am hosting open jams at Del’s Bar on Mondays and the Animal House on Tuesdays. I have played with just about every musician in town and consider all of them good friends.”

Hall recommends open mikes as the best way to get started and to meet other musicians.

“From there, you’ll find people who want to play and collaborate with your style. Then just practice and practice.”

Smokin’ Bandits will host its fourth annual Bandit County Fair on June 13-14 in Romance, Wis.

“Smokin’ Bandits has accomplished more than I ever thought possible. We’ve played at such festivals as 10,000 Lakes, Hookahville, Campout Roots, Log Jam, Harvest Fest and countless others. We’ve done tours in Connecticut, Arkansas, Ohio, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Michigan and Illinois.”

But like many musicians before him, Hall finally accepted a full-time job. He works in the Cashton Distribution Center at Organic Valley Farms and, yes, he will have health insurance.

“I was working at Leithold Music, but I quit to pursue my music in the summer of 2007. So from May 2007 until February 2008, my steady income was music and CD sales,” he said.

“I took this job (at Organic Valley) because I knew it was a fantastic place to work. I could have kept playing full time, but it was time for a break. But it took almost a decade to get established enough to make an OK living. Now, with my job, I can pick and choose gigs a little more, which is nice.”
- Geri Perlin, LaCrosse Tribune


The Smokin' Bandits will have a CD release party at 9 p.m. Wednesday , Nov. 23, at 324 live, 324 Jay st.
The band's new CD, "Walkin' Thru," features Reggae Billy Grass and blues n' roll music and is available at Deaf Ear records. for $10.
The band members are Christian Staehly, PAt Ferguson, Dan Buddazewski, Nick Lanzel, and Gregg "Cheech" Hall.
For more information see www.thesmokinbandits.net. - Kari Knutson, Winona Daily News


Gregg "Cheech" Hall doesn't really remember the first time he played at Riverfest.
He was only 8.
Luckily, his parents have a picture of him performing as Elvis Presley that appeared on the front page of the LaCrosse Tribune to remind him.
The next year he performed as, Garth Brooks at "Puttin' on the Lips," a lip-sync competition he took pretty seriously. So seriously he tried to con his mom into buying one of those cool looking headset microphones like Garth had.
It didn't work. Mom made him get creative with a hanger instead.
Hall's musical tastes have changed greatly since then, but his love for performing hasn't.
"It's the only thing I've ever been really good at," Hall said. "It's just what I do.
Hall will perform with Super Deece at Riverfest from 2-4 p.m. and then with the Smokin' Bandits from 5-7p.m. Monday July 4 at Riverfest in LaCrosse.
Later this summer, the Smokin' Bandits will play at the 10,000 Lakes Festival in Detroit Lakes, MN.
Hall, 24, often plays as many as 20 gigs a month. At 10 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, you'll find him hosting weekly open jams at Del's bar in LaCrosse.
"Country, bluegrass, heavy tune, blues, sappy ballads- I try to mix it up," Hall said.
Hall has seen the jam grow in the three years he has been doing it, with many musicians coming from out of town. He once played at the jam after driving all the way back from Colorado the same day.
"It was fun," Hall said.
He grew up listening to lots of classic country and moved onto the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead when he was thirteen.
Hall bought his first guitar for $80 at a pawn shop. He preferred the Fender Stratacastor to the trumpet he played in middle school.
The decision to become a musician was almost immediate. When he was at Aquinas High School in LaCrosse, he started writing songs, looking to musician Neil Young for inspiration.
When Hall isn't playing gigs, he's busy studying marketing at Western Wisconsin Technical College. He has been warned he's going to burn himself out from being so busy, but Hall isn't worried.
"This is part of my life that's never going to change," Hall said. "I love playing. There's nothing in the world I'd rather do."

Kari Knutson can be reached at kknutson@winonadailynews.com - Kari Knutson, Winona Daily News


Discography

2001- Mitgee Evers: Where the Greenest Grass Grows
2004- Smokin' Bandits: Walkin' thru
2006- Gregg Hall: ...down on Liberty St. -a collection of work
2007- Gregg Hall-Acoustic Tracks
2007- Smokin' Bandits-In the Grain
2010- Down Sweet Home
2012-White Iron Band-Damn the Nighttime

Photos

Bio

Gregg Hall was born on December 30, 1980 to Kathy & Mike Hall. He was raised in La Crosse, WI in a place called Smith Valley. He came from very large family of musicians, actors, and artists. Gregg attended the University of Wisconsin, Stout. It was here, where he got his first weekly gig, at the Acoustic Cafe in downtown Menominie. After his freshman year at Stout, he moved back to La Crosse, and started playing with a longtime friend, Lucas Hembd. They performed as a duo, and occasionally with a bassist and drummer. Gregg also played with Luke’s father, the late, great, Randy Hembd and his uncle, Billy Hembd; what became Gregg’s earliest, and most significant influences. With their help, he became a common face in the local music scene. In the summer of 2000, Gregg Hall joined a local band called “Mitgee Evers”. This was an improv/jam band, which recorded an 8 track LP in the spring of 2001, at the University of New York/Fredonia.

Gregg’s next project was called “Mr. T & The General Lee”. This band was a power trio who recorded 13 songs at The Natural Recording Company in La Crosse, in the spring and fall of 2004. This provided Gregg with an opportunity to perform fulltime and tour with the perennial powerhouse jam band, that is “The Smokin’ Bandits”, which (10 years and 3 albums later) he continues to this day. Smokin' Bandits have toured a good chunk of the United States. They have been on mulitple tours in CO, MN, WI, MI, OH, IA, NB, ND, IN, SD, and WY. They did a short mini tour in the spring of 2006 at Rummrunner's in Anchorage, AK. In addition, he currently shares lead and slide guitar with the infamous Minneapolis regional outlaw country group, “The White Iron Band”(whiteironband.com). They are recently touring their new album “Damn the Nighttime” which just shot their first video of the single “Working Man”, youtube it if you get the chance.