Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: Plains Folk |

Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: Plains Folk

About fourteen years ago I had a problem with my Santa Cruz guitar. It had a buzz on one string I couldn’t get rid of. I took it to a friend who was more experienced than I in solving string problems, and during the conversation about the guitar, I made a comment about wishing there was a group of musicians that would like to play old gospel and folk music. The gem of an idea took hold and within a few weeks we were putting a group of acoustic musicians together to sing and play gospel, folk, bluegrass and later, cowboy music.

After a couple of years of hitting and missing with the mixture in the group, we came together with voices that fit and gave us a special sound, one that fit the music and was unique enough to create a following locally.

Twelve plus years together as a band is unusual, and we members realize and appreciate the fact that we have in many ways become a family. Our backgrounds in music and life are all different, and we wonder if that difference isn’t a glue that holds us together. We have a retired insurance salesman, (me), an auto mechanic (Gene Lumby), a chiropractor (Merlin Bennet), a civil engineer (Steve Van Mullem), an assistant to the attorney general (Jamie Reed), and a commercial quilter/instructor (Patti Heintz). Each of us brings a varied musical background to the group, folk, country/western, bluegrass, hard rock, and old and new gospel. Our musical sets are always varied, and we are never able to identify the group by any one style. Harmony is the key to our songs and that is what we enjoy creating.

We have played music all over the state, including jaunts into North Dakota and several appearances at Old West Days in Valentine, Nebraska, once as their main entertainment. Regular performances in Sioux Falls at the Old County Courthouse, several freedom stage gigs at the Corn Palace, shows with Sherwin Linton, gigs at the State Fair, shows in the Black Hills, county fairs, church Christmas parties, and many summer community events have filled our calendars for many years, and have only been interrupted by personal crisis, illness and covid. My cancer halted our Christmas season a few years back, then Gene had rotator cuff surgery, followed with Merlin having the same surgery six months later. Covid dried up many gigs we would normally play throughout the year. We didn’t have practice because of covid. Plains Folk had come to a standstill. It wasn’t until late this spring that we finally got together and started working on music again.

My family had a reunion a few weeks ago, and Plains Folk decided to have a practice at my home so the family could hear and see the band. We hadn’t had but a few practices prior to that night, but it all was coming back quickly, the rhythm, the playing, the harmony. Getting back to playing was good medicine. We went through our current set of music with hardly a misstep, and felt good performing again, even if for a “crowd” of fifteen people. I found out later the crowd was affected by some of the songs that seemed to have personal meaning or import to them. That made me feel good, too.

Plains Folk is my second family. We look out for each other, try to make each other better musicians, share in each other’s joy and sorrows. Everyone has a special friend or group of friends in their lives. I am blessed to say I have two families in mine, and one of those causes me to be happy by lifting me up with music and song. Thanks, Plains Folk.



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