SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Rock & Rollers Hall of Fame got its start in 2009, welcoming the likes of Bobby Vee, The Mystics, and Myron Lee and The Caddies.
250 bands, promoters, disc jockeys, radio stations, ballrooms, and businesses currently reside in the Hall of Fame, which is located on the second floor of the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls.
Kory and the Fireflies has been part of the local music scene since 1994, but lead singer Kory Van Sickle’s musical journey began years earlier with a band named Children, followed by a stint in London.
“They put a band together for me to play and record over there, so it was awesome,” Kory and the Fireflies lead singer Kory Van Sickle said.
“They” is Levi’s jeans, as Van Sickle was modeling and performing.
“I mean it’s strange but it’s true, Levi’s had put together a band, like a 12-piece band and I performed and recorded over there and then when I came back that’s when I thought I should do another band,” Van Sickle said.
The band turned out to be the original version of Kory and the Fireflies, as Van Sickle connected with Arthur Wallace, Dave Sundem, and Will Nevious.
“They were playing down at the Pomp Room and I went down and saw those guys and they were kind of looking to do something different, so that was the first set of Fireflies, those three guys, and it’s run for awhile now,” Van Sickle said.
The group has seen members come and go, but there’s also been no shortage of longevity.
“Al Berven on drums has been 21 years, Chris Beyer on guitar 25 years, obviously I’ve been in the whole time, and then we had a bass player, Jason Vetos, that was in for 18 years, so that core band was together for a long stretch of it,” Van Sickle said.
“There was an opening in the band, Chris Beyer let me know about it, I auditioned and got the gig,” Kory and the Fireflies drummer Al Berven said.
Al Berven started playing professionally at age 15. He enjoys big crowds and the group’s original music.
“I’m the third drummer, so I play songs they each came up with and I think I’ve made them my own now, but there’s some cool stuff going on, but I’m on ‘She’s Comin’ Back Again’ and that album,” Berven said.
Kory and the Fireflies has shared the stage with about 80 national artists, but for Van Sickle it always comes back to one.
“My all-time favorite is U2 and most people that know me, know that and they were the band that inspired me to do what I do and I’ve gotten to travel all over Africa and Australia, Europe, the States, Canada with them on the plane, the whole bit, so those experiences were some of the best of my life,” Van Sickle said.
“We went to so many places, met so many good musicians, and just a fun thing, for sure,” former Kory and the Fireflies keyboardist Gary Widmann said.
Gary Widmann joined the band in the late 90’s, playing keyboard for 15 years.
“One time he asked me to come down and play on one song, I think it was at the Pomp Room, and from there it just, I loved it so much, it was just so much fun and so rewarding that he let me join the band pretty much, yeah,” Widmann said.
He also had a bit of a connection.
“Well, Kory kind of ended up marrying my daughter,” Widmann said.
So, is Kory a better musician or son-in-law?
“Pretty hard to say, he’s good at both, very good at both,” Widmann said.
On the music side of things, Van Sickle says it’s an honor to be one of this year’s inductees into the South Dakota Rock & Rollers Hall of Fame.
“I guess we’ve been here for awhile and we’ve seen a lot of other great bands and people that we know go in and we’re proud of it and humbled to be going in, for sure,” Van Sickle said.
13 members, past and present, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday, but ten will perform as part of a six or seven song set.
“Well, it’s going to be really cool to play with all these past Fireflies. I think that’s going to be a lot of fun, we’re going to have a ton of family and friends and fans in The Alliance,” Van Sickle said.
“I haven’t played for eight years, but we’re kind of ready and it’s going to be a fun night. Most of my family, a lot of friends will be here,” Widmann said.
It’s that combination of music and people that motivates Van Sickle.
“Music is special to me, making the connection with people is special to me, the power of music and how it can unite people is special to me,” Van Sickle said.
Kory hopes the group’s legacy is one of giving.
“Throughout the band’s history, we’ve tried to find creative ways to do good with the CDs and the shows, and now that’s grown into another level with the guitar program that I started and the band, Fireflies were always at those events, too,” Van Sickle said.
“I guess I don’t really think about legacy that much because to me that’s something that somebody else puts on us, so I never really thought about it that much, but his answer was really nice (laugh),” Berven said.
An induction into the Hall doesn’t spell the end. Kory says he’d still like to do another record, but is thrilled with his first 30 years behind the mic.
“I’m really happy and thankful for where the band is and what we’ve done and what we have achieved and where we’ve taken it. I’m thankful for that,” Van Sickle said.
“Guys are still playing, which is pretty special. He’s been going forever. I think he’ll be like Jagger, he’ll keep on a going,” Widmann said.
Kory and the Fireflies and 14 others will enter the Hall of Fame on Saturday at The Alliance in Sioux Falls. An autograph session is set for 3:00 p.m., followed by the induction ceremony at 6:00.