The Metro St. Louis Live Music

Historical Society




The Creepers

Granite City, IL 1967-68




Larry Austin /Guitar, Vocals

Tom Wilkinson /Guitar, Vocals

Randy Veissman /Guitar

Dean Johnson /Drums, Vocals

Gary Vandivere /Guitar

Bill Struberg /Bass, Vocals

Don Kelly /Drums, Vocals

Jim Smothers /Guitar, Vocals

Larry Beadle /Guitar

Vince Kwiatkowski /Keys

Gary Portell /Drums

Larry Barnhart /Bass, Vocals

Del Lewis /Drums

Darrell Orender /Bass, Vocals







Here is The Creepers history as told by Larry Austin:

Tom Wilkinson and Larry Austin originally got together in the summer of 1963.  Tom's dad had a tool shed attached to his garage that Tom cleaned out for living quarters.  It did double duty as a practice studio.  Everyone they knew that played any instrument (mostly guitars) would come over to jam just about every weekend.  Their first and only unpaid gig was at the Diamond Inn located on route 203 at Maryville Rd.  Players were Tom Wilkinson, Randy Viessman, Larry Austin and Dean Johnson.  They had to plug all guitars into a single 2 channel Fender Champ amplifier using Y jacks and used the house PA. 

Late in 1963, Jug Harrison opened the "Jugs Club" on route 203 at Morrison Rd between Granite City and Mitchell.  While waiting on his liquor license, Jug opened his club to local teens. He had a black R&B band (don't remember their name) there every Sunday afternoon. That were the first live band to which Tom and Larry had ever been exposed and they were hooked. 

Practice was moved to Larry's dad's basement. Randy dropped out and Bill Strubberg and Gary Vandever joined the group.  They practiced for a couple of months and when ready, began playing (still unpaid) at the Madison Teen Town every so often. Gary dropped out to form The Invaders and Dean quit to join a working band. Don Kelly joined the group and The Creepers was born.

Bill was about 10 years older than the rest of the crew and was able to visit local bars in search of a gig.  Through the summer of 1964 they played a paying gig at the Ketchakan Resort at the Lake of the Ozarks every Friday and Saturday night.  Players were Bill Strubberg, Don Kelly, Tom Wilkinson and Larry Austin. They earned union scale ($60 for the group) but, got a couple of free cabins and use of the resort boat every weekend.  That winter they played at several local teen towns and competed in the KXOK battle of the bands.  Occasionally, they would rent a hall and produce their own show for whatever they could get at the door. Throughout 1965 and the summer of 1966 they worked at the Forkeyville Lounge in Alton and eventually became the house band playing Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights. Tom dropped out of the group.  Larry Beadle filled in for a couple of weeks but they needed a 4th vocalist to fill the void left by Tom.  Jim Smothers, was added as Tom's permanent replacement.  They cut a record late that summer - Elizabeth and the flip side, Look at Me. Both were a first effort written in a couple of hours one weekend as should be quite evident to any listener.

In late 1966. Jim and Larry were drafted into the Army within a month of each other. When they returned home in the fall of 1968, Don Kelly had joined the Navy.  They joined up with Gary Portel and Larry Barnhart.  They practiced in the basement for a couple of months and played a few gigs at local teen towns and bars. Gary dropped out of the group and was replaced by Del Lewis.  They also picked up Vince Kwaitkowski.  Before the new group ever booked a gig, Larry Barnhart was drafted into the Army and was replaced by Darrel Orander.  Vince then dropped out of the group.  They played local bars for the next year or so then Larry dropped out to join 3rd Street Exit and that was the end of The Creepers.





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