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Midwest returnees help 
form Copper Creek

The Copper Creek Band practices in Franklin Grove. They are Jim Wolber, 49 (left), Jack Kelley, 71, Karen and Dave Gauer, 64.
The Copper Creek Band practices in Franklin Grove. They are Jim Wolber, 49 (left), Jack Kelley, 71, Karen and Dave Gauer, 64.

FRANKLIN GROVE – Music has kept their love strong for more than four decades.

Karen and Dave Gauer of Franklin Grove met about 42 years ago in Earlville. Karen’s business manager introduced them. She needed a steel guitar player for her band.

It wasn’t long before the singer fell head over heels for more than his musical talents.

“She chased me around a few times,” Dave said, smiling at his wife.

Laughing, Karen said, “Yeah, but you kept falling, so you were pretty easy to catch.”

Together, they’ve played a lot of gigs over the years. When Karen’s asthma took a turn for the worse, “we headed out to Arizona, and I didn’t have anymore problems.”

They spent the majority of their careers touring throughout the Southwest. In 1971, a song Karen wrote, “Take My Hand, Take My Heart,” hit 43 on the Nashville charts.

They decided to move back to Lee County to get away from the cutthroat music scene Arizona offered them, but soon found themselves submerged boot-deep again.

Soon after settling into their new home in Amboy, they saw an ad for a band playing in Franklin Grove. They went out just to listen.

“And the rest, as they say, is history,” Karen said with a laugh. “It’s funny, because we left there and already decided we were done with the music business.”

Looking at her Copper Creek Band mates, Jack Kelley and Jim Wolber, she added, “And then we came to see these guys play, and that was it.”

“We just clicked,” Dave said.

They’ve been playing together for almost a year. The four singers and four guitar players practice weekly at the H.I. Lincoln Building in Franklin Grove, and perform at many area festivals and events.

Karen’s the lead singer; Dave plays lead guitar and bass.

They play country, rock and blues from the ’50s and ’60s – high-class hillbilly, they call it.

“We like to call ourselves Hill-Williams,” Dave said with a chuckle.

Kelley, 71, of Franklin Grove, is a late bloomer when it comes to music. He’s been playing only 30 years. Wolber, 49, also of Franklin Grove, has 42 years under his belt – he’s been playing since he was 7.

The two have played together since 1985.

During a recent jam session, they were joking around on stage, taking turns trying to throw each other off the beat by getting each other to laugh while trying to sing a ballad.

Making faces or goofy dance moves – like funky chicken neck moves – often does the trick.

It’s one of the many ways they entertain each other while their music is entertaining their audience. And it’s one of the things they say they enjoy about playing together.

Most of the time they aren’t following a song sheet. One will say, “I got one.” As they strum out a few notes, the others join right in.

Each plays by ear, which is one of the reasons they work so well together. “We can watch what he’s doing and just follow along,” Dave said.

Catch them in Dixon

The Copper Creek Band will perform from 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 23 at Books on First, 202 W. First St. The show is free; the hat will be passed for donations.

Call 815-285-2665 for more information.

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