SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Last month South Dakota lost one of its true rock legends. Randall Zwart died April 10th of cancer at the age of 57.
KELOLAND News pays tribute to the singer, songwriter and the rock band he called, Zwarte.
While many long haired local rock ‘n’ roll bands seemed to fade after the 80’s, Zwarte, with its lead singer Randall Zwart, was just getting rolling.
“In ’88 that’s when we first went out and played our first real show,” drummer Bob Zwart said.
Bob Zwart is Randall’s younger brother and played drums for Zwarte in the early years.
“We loved it, we just didn’t know we weren’t very good and that’s the truth, we just hadn’t crafted our skill yet, but that didn’t stop us,” Bob said.
Bob says Randall was very talented and determined.
He says the early years were tough, living paycheck to paycheck, sometimes sleeping in vehicles night after night on the open road.
But slowly the band began grabbing people’s attention.
“Randall just kept writing music, kept writing music and he told stories people wanted to hear and he grabbed people, he did phenomenal,” Bob said.
“Just about everything he wrote was something he had seen on the road or experienced,” Eddie Filareki said.
Eddie Filareki was lead guitarist for Zwarte.
He and Bob both say Randall was a natural songwriter who wrote music almost effortlessly; songs like ‘Lucy’ and ‘Ride to Sturgis’ that’s when life started to change.
“Where the light switched changed is when, we used to let other people sing those songs he had written, but when he started singing his own songs that was the light that switched on right there it was really apparent, people were coming out to the shows to hear the originals, we weren’t just a cover band anymore,” Bob said.
In 1992, Zwarte released its first of many albums.
“All of a sudden no matter where we went, there were big crowds, more cases than not, there were lines to get in,” Bob said.
They began playing all over the upper Midwest, from Fargo to Sioux Falls to Kansas City.
“We were a Midwest band, we did do shows out in Michigan and Illinois, they were a little bit later on, but we were always Midwest and we would take some shows west coast-east coast, but our base without a doubt was the Midwest,” Bob said.
Bob eventually left Zwarte to start his own band and that’s when Randall reached out to another drummer, Bruce Knapp of Nebraska.
“There’s really no way to replace Bob, his brother, who was a drummer, because if you really listen to the 13 cds they have, if you really want to get a real feeling what Zwarte was about, it’s the two brothers, it’s Bob and Randall’s voices harmonizing together, it was magic,” Knapp said.
“There was no other voice in the country like his and it kind of caught the name ‘story rock’ because his voice was almost talking but yet singing, it was just such a unique voice and everybody gravitated toward that,” Filareki said.
His voice, his stories, his lyrics.
“We would be performing in front of five to 10 thousand people sometimes and before the show he’d be playing the guitar, some little guitar rif and he might mumble some words to it and he’d just keep repeating that stuff and we’d be right in the middle of a performance and he’d start playing that, even if it was just a few measures, but come to find out later he was writing a song, right there on stage” Knapp said.
“They are going to remember him for his stories, he was really good at it, if you listen to the songs that deal works, I think that’s what they’ll remember more than anything,” Bob said.
“Everybody who met Randall, he was such a personable guy, he was such a likeable guy, his music will stand the test of time, because it’s just unbelievable what he wrote, his lyrics and how big of a gift it was,” Knapp said.
A gift so many fans are missing right now.
“You spend that much time with somebody it really hits homes it hurts a lot, I guess I’m going to appreciate all the times I did have with and remember all the great stuff,” Filareki said.
“Randall had an amazing wife, amazing kids and he was a heckuva family man and dad, they miss him just as much as we do, if not more,” Bob said.
Randall Zwart may be gone, but his music will live on forever and so will the memories.
“It was not only the highlight of my career, it was probably the best time of my life,” Knapp said.
Randall Zwart is survived by his wife and four children and three grandchildren. He was 57.