David "COLONEL" Leis
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Thomas G. Leary
President TL Technological inc. Mule Dog Records and Web and member of Wheezer Lockinger
I first met Dave at the Redwood Rumpus Room in Belvedere. We kids used to go there on weekends to see bands and hang out. Dave and the Wylie brothers were forming a band and wanted me to join as keyboard player. I joined the group and we started practicing at the Wylie’s house in Belvidere. It was during that time that Dave got the name Colonel. It was a cold winter and he needed a coat. He went to the Army Navy surplus store and picked up a soldiers coat. After decorating it a bit he was quite a site and picked up the name “The Colonel”. The name stuck.
Colonel was a unique individual. He had great charisma and was well liked by everyone who met him. His most notable feature was his incredible talent on the guitar and it would always astound people when he played. We played together in the Wheezer Lockinger band during the late 60’s early 70’s and 80’s. During our run we performed at the Stevens Point and Poynette pop festivals and backed up recording groups including Paul Butterfield, The Grateful Dead, The Rotary Connection, Fleetwood Mac and R.E.O. Speed wagon. Perhaps one of the most memorable performances was when Wheezer Lockinger opened for Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green at the Rumpus Room in Belvidere. The band toured the Midwest extensively those years performing for ecstatic audiences and critics.
When the group broke up in the early 70’s He withdrew from the concert stage, practiced from eight to twelve hours a day, and emerged as probably the greatest guitarist of his time. He fused Rock and Jazz as it never had been done before and because of his exceptional guitar work the overwhelming power and influence of his musical legacy is forever assured.
As I got to know him I found that his talent was unlimited in the arts. He played classical piano, painted in oils and constructed dioramas. He was a gentle man with a big heart and loved animals and nature. Colonel was unselfish and generous and all-around unforgettable character. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
President Gathering Wave ® LLC and former member of Wheezer Lockinger.
When you admire the people you're playing with you feel safe and "let go" - losing your ego and becoming part of the music... I had that kind of experience with Dave Lies, aka: "The Colonel"...
The first time I saw "The Colonel" was at the "Rumpus Room" in Belvedere, IL playing with Wheezer Lockinger... (late '60s?) HIs playing floored me - he was as original and fluid on the guitar as the rest of the band was at creating a completely original sound. - I was an instant fan...
There were two people who were enormously influential on me in my early years as a player and composer. Thomas Leary and Dave Leis "The Colonel"... They both shared a quality I admired and later came to understand appreciate: They were creatively unleashed. I always viewed them as two parts of a unique "whole". Different and original yet cut from the same creative cloth. I couldn't think of one without thinking of the other.
When Dave was playing he was serious and focused and provided an anchor for Tom's flights of creativity - and when Colonel took a solo we all smiled with pride that this monster player was part of our creative collective. I can honestly say that the most wonderful moments I ever had playing in a band was in Wheezer (1972-73) - we were always creating something new. I moved from Rockford, in 1975 and saw him only one more time after that...
I'm sorry that Colonel had to move-on at such a young age - but the fantasy and joy of playing with Wheezer and Colonel and Tom still plays on in my heart. Dave is alive and well and will continue to grow as a musician as our collective memories of "The Colonel" refine and improve with age...
I came to Rockford in 1967 and began looking for local bands to play in. I am a guitar player and every time I auditioned for a band or talked shop with players I was told I was almost as good as 'The Colonel". I had not yet heard him. When I finally did I was totally blown away and did some reevaluating of my own playing. He would occasionally come into Guzzzardo's and sit in my office with me and play. He was the cleanest guitar player I ever heard !
I first saw Wheezer Lockinger at the Boone County Fair back in the late sixties.
Their show was always totally dynamic. Tom Leary on vocals and keyboards led
the band in a progressive manner, and later made sure that there were recordings.
Roger Wiley on drums and vocals literally fronted the band on some of their
best songs. The bass player at that time was Steve Ungs, but later it was Dean
Reynolds, and they added Dave Hanson on keyboards and harmonica. Colonel was
simply overpowering on guitar !!
In the mid 70's there were jam sessions on Saturday afternoons at the Hideaway on East State .Johnny Bartelli on organ, Red Balderama on bass, Sam Garcia on guitar, and the consummate jazz drummer, Richard Stamps. Johnny would often call me up to sit in on organ and Sam would call up Colonel to sit in on guitar. Several times, Colonel would suffer through me leading him in my simplistic rock chords, and then I would try to keep up with him, Red, and Richard, as they flew through wild jazz changes.
Jimmy Wells, another great guitarist from Rockford, had joined up with Colonel in a jazz project that played regularly at the "Other Side" on North Main. They were called Moongerms. It was wild jazz !! Steve Smith, "Smitty" was their drummer. They always did a rendition of "Birds of Fire" by the Mahavishnu Orchestra that was a high point of their show. It was high energy, and "outside." Colonel and Jimmy Wells always went back and forth and mixed it up!
In 1989, Jimmy got me a deal on a demonstrator Korg M1 synthesizer in Madison, WI, and after he brought it home, we listened to Colonel play it. He was such a great keyboard player, and every sound on the M1 inspired him to play a bit of jazz, Caribbean, country, rock, or even sound effects. If a piano sound came up, he could zip through the Beatles' "Martha My Dear" and every orchestra sound that came up, he had some classical-sounding piece to go with it. Jimmy and I were spellbound... and we're serious students.
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