Wheezer Lockinger, Belvidere, IL.


Wheezer Lockinger

Wheezer Lockinger came out of the thriving Rockford rock and roll scene of the late 60’s.  Getting their start in 1968, the group consisted of: David “Colonel” Leis (guitar), Roger Wylie (drums / vocals), Steve Ungs (bass), and Thomas G. Leary (keyboards / vocals).  Thomas first met Dave at the Redwood Rumpus Room in Belvidere, IL.  The Rumpus Room was a local venue where teens could go on weekends to see bands and hang out.  Dave and Roger Wylie, along with Roger’s older brother Ron, were forming a band and wanted Thomas to join as keyboard player. He joined the group and they started practicing at the Wylie’s house in Belvidere.  Ron would switch to become the group’s manager and Steve Ungs came in on bass.   That is the group that would become Wheezer Lockinger.  The group named themselves for the drummer’s kid nephew whose name was “Wheezer Lockinger”. (Who still, as far as anyone knows, lives in Belvidere, Illinois).

First version (from bottom): David Colonel Leis, Roger Wylie, Steve Ungs and Thomas Leary

First version (from bottom): David Colonel Leis, Roger Wylie, Steve Ungs and Thomas Leary

 It was also during this early period 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.  In the wake of some creative re-decoration of the coat Dave picked up the moniker “The Colonel” and the name stuck.  During their run they would perform at the Stevens Point and Sound Storm pop festivals in Wisconsin.  As well as, play alongside The 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 extensively during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s performing at venues all across the Midwest.  They rented a school bus and took their whole group of friends along with them to jobs up in Wisconsin, having lots of fun along the way. 

Wheezer Lockinger

Wheezer Lockinger

By 1969 they had 40 original songs under their belt and became the only group in Rockford area that was getting gigs without doing cover material.  In 1970 the band would record a single at Golden Voice. Gypsy Train b/w Through The Street I Walk Alone.  Thomas G. Leary played coronet on the B side.  The session was engineered by Jerry Milam, who talked the group into putting a rhythm guitar track on Gypsy Train with a chicka chicka kind of rhythm. The sound Jerry said was a hot new pop sound in Nashville at the time.  The guitar sound worked for the group on the record and the 45 they produced would receive local radio play.  It also won the local Ice Tea jingle contest at WROK Radio in Rockford, Il!

Ron Wylie left, Bruce Farnam top, David Leis  middle, Thomas Leary bottom and Roger Wylie right.

Ron Wylie left, Bruce Farnam top, David Leis middle, Thomas Leary bottom and Roger Wylie right.

After a four-year run, with some lineup changes and a few different managers, the Wheezer Lockinger band members went their separate ways. After the group broke up in the early 70’s, Dave withdrew from live performance and practiced from eight to twelve hours a day, emerging as what Downbeat Magazine would in 1980 call: “equal to or better than John McLaughlin and Allan Holdsworth “.   In 1974, David hooked up with Jimmy Wells and Chip Greenman to form the Moongerms. They played the Northern Illinois circuit basically playing fusion. He would go on to play free jazz with The Hal Russell NRG Ensemble.  Dave was a prodigious guitarist who could play solos with blinding speed. Wheezer Lockinger would reunite in the early 1980’s and he would put his skills to use playing over the bands new later recordings.  

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