After a 45 year break to study and practice family medicine, I'm back with my mates and thrilled to be making music again. Along the way, I graduated from Michigan State, Grand Valley State, University of Michigan, and Kentucky.....and pretty much any other place that would have me, but I bleed MAIZE and BLUE. I live in Grand Haven and walk the beach every morning come sun, snow, or ice. I have two wonderful non-musical/non-medical sons, Jim and Phil, of whom I'm very proud. Many thanks to my wife of 37 years, Melanie, for all of her support in this craziness. I love her and I LOVE THE BOYFRIENDS!!
For me it all began with my dad buying my first drum set in about the 6th or 7th grade. I still remember it, what a HUGE bass drum!! The first song I learned was "Sugar Shack"...I must have played that song a thousand times. I soon met three amazing people, Bob Cwiklinski, Dennis Johnson, and Carol Vrieland. We formed our very first band, "The Attitudes". Man, those were the days. All those St. Al's dances, what fun. But as all good things end, a new beginning started when in my freshman year, I met Paul Magnan. What a great musician. He was a great bass player. He played with us a bit in the Attitudes, but the sound we were playing, wasn't just right. We decided to split off and form a new band with a sound that worked for us. Now we had to find a few others to make it a band not a duo!! Rumor had it there was a fellow classmate, Gary Johnson, who played rhythm guitar. We approached him, and now there were 3!! We were almost off an running at this point! Still missing a lead guitar. Gary new a guy, Paulo Scalici, who joined in and now were were complete and formed "THE BOYFRIENDS".
With the support and help from my dad and brother Jim, we were on the road and up and running!! 1968 we added an integral part of the band when we convinced Jim Ranta and his keyboard to climb aboard THE BOYFRIEND band wagon. With Jim added, we finally had the full sound we were looking for and started climbing the ladder, being one of the better Rock and Roll bands in Western Michigan. Now all we were lacking were some additional vocals. Our manager, Mr. James Geeting, introduced us to Ronn Burke (formerly with the JuJu's), and he became a part of the band. We were now officially established as THE BOYFRIENDS. We played gigs at least 2-3 days a week for two years, becoming one of Michigan's busiest working bands.
The good news, after 45 years we're still alive and back together playing music. We're having the run of a lifetime and rekindling our friendships!! There are much larger families to get acquainted with and a whole new spectrum of old fans and new.
On a personal note, I live in Middleville, Michigan with my beautiful wife Kris, and we have nine children. How do I eat? I am self employed and part owner with my brother John of Nationwide Painting. In addition I also work at Holland Home. How do I stay happy?? Playing drums with the Boys. Check us out. We'll Rock ya!!
When I start speaking about how my musical life started, it seems so normal to me. People listening sometimes react as if all of it was unique in some way, but to me, and especially back then, I thought all families had the same experience. It was just well., normal.
My father was a musician. In fact, almost all of my brothers and sisters were musicians. Guitar, piano, bass, percussion, and vocalists, all mixed up in one house! They were a bunch of talented Magnan's that played together, separately, as duos, trios, and with other bands in a vast variety of styles. Some were part of a big 20+ piece orchestra playing dance and swing, country music combos, polkas, standards, etc. I think it was an enjoyable way to make money when times were tough for everybody.
I was the fifth child out of eight, so the gamut had been run by the four older siblings....Frank learned guitar, Vickie piano and accordion, Joe on the accordion and Peg on the piano. Accordions were big for quite sometime and if you could play some polkas, you could get some gigs. Weddings and Polka parties paid well, from what I've heard....But, somehow when it came to me, it turned out my first steps were going to be in brass. Trumpet was purchased and thrust into my hands and lessons had begun.
Another thing to note, is around this time (we had a black and white TV) the King family had their own variety show. Sometimes I think my father saw that type of act coming together for us, as it did for he and his siblings. But for us, it was not to be. No matter how many dance lessons, music lessons we marched into, fate and some youthful rebellion changed the outcome of that vision.
In the end, it was my sister Peg and I that ended up becoming professional, working musicians. Peg played in a dance band called the Royaires. There were quite popular in West Michigan for a number of years and Peg still to this day, plays and sings occasionally and is also a member of a church choir.
My path developed when I started to teach myself how to play guitar and bass on my Dad's DanElectro double neck. One neck was six string electric guitar and the other a four string bass. I spent hours in our basement teaching myself how to play. I learned the rudimentary aspects of reading music with the trumpet lessons and also singing at school, and I applied that to this new challenge. We also had a piano on our front porch. When my sister Peg was done rehearsing, I would go there and teach myself the songs I hear other bands play and what I heard on the radio, figure out how to play the chords on the piano and learn how to play the melodies. What I couldn't figure out on the guitar, I would take to the piano to solve it, and come back to the guitar to play it. It ended up being a method for solving chord progressions and melodies that I still use today. During this time, I performed a bit, but noting significant. I was the little kid that played trumpet.
The first band I was a part of included my best friend at the time, Ted Smith, Jim Stegmier (a mutual grade school friend, and Pete Agnello, who resided close by our neighborhood. Ted and Jim played guitar - I think it was a powder blue Stratocaster, I played bass (my Dad's Danelectro), and Pete played drums. Actually, they were his dad's drums from the big band days. It was a huge bass drum with a small table on top that held percussion like maracas, giros, claves, and the like, along with one cymbal, high hat and a floor tom. We were call The Revolution Kind. A name obviously derived as a result from the British music invasion influence. We had about a half dozen instruments we had taught ourselves to play. I can't recall if any of us were brave enough to sing at that time. Maybe we did, I just can't remember. If we did, it was probably Jim for a couple of tunes. We had to win a battle of the bands at Burton Elementary in order to get the job playing for the dance, repeating our short list several times. I think the four of us got paid something like $25.00. We were pretty proud of our achievement. We immediately went down to Fables in Burton Heights and bought ourselves some burgers! As we stuffed ourselves with our well deserved purchases, we proclaimed that we were now professional musicians, as were paid to provide music to an audience.
This may have been our only paying job in this band, I could be wrong. There may have been a party or something, but nothing significant as the dance we played.
I have yet to mention that my family struggled to feed eight kids, and both of my parents worked. My Dad worked during the day at American Seating and played out in clubs at night. Most of the kids were expected to have part time jobs to contribute, and now that I was beginning this musical career, the newspaper route lost its appeal.
So, I left the band so I could join one that was working. This did not set well with the other members. I lost my friend Ted in the deal, and never felt too good about it. Jim and I did not speak for quite some time, but Pete always remained friendly. And by the way, Jim went on to become a very accomplished and celebrated blues performer and goes by the name Jimmie Stagger. Jim and I were fortunate to mend fences years later. Pete played with some very popular bands in West Michigan and became a very popular drummer.
So, the band I joined was called "Cupid and the Intrepids". I was still lugging around my dad's double neck, and borrowing his Gibson bass amp. These guys came from monied families, had all the equipment needed, and were a north side band. Played a couple of gigs with them, but really never fit in to their crowd. I was a newly minted freshman at Catholic Central High and was starting to feel that this band change I made, could have been a bad decision. However, it opened up an opportunity. Someone had seen me play and it sparked some interest to work on a new band with some guy named DICK WEBSTER*. My performing life would significantly change with our meeting.
Dick and I met and it lead to bringing guitar and equipment over to an upstairs apartment on the northwest side. Dick was part of a group called the "Attitudes". Bob Cwiklinski, another classmate was there. He played the accordion. I know there were two others in this band, but they weren't there, and for some reason it was just the three of us. After going through a few songs, I found a private moment to speak with Dick. I told him that although Bob was a nice guy.....I was not interested in playing POLKAS. I told him the Beatles, Stones, and just about everybody else including Motown, did not have an "accordion" player, and a "Hard Days Night" just doesn't seem quite the same on an accordion. We needed something else. How about 2 guitarists, a bass player and drums? I'll play bass. You play drums, now we need a couple of guitar players. The hunt began.
Dick knew a guy at school he had heard played guitar. Dick approached Gary Johnson and asked him if he wanted to do something more with his guitar playing. (One down, one to go). Gary said he would give it a try, and he also knew someone else. He was taking lessons with another guy, named Paulo Scalici. Now we had a foursome. Now we had a BAND. Now we were "THE BOYFRIENDS" and I spent the next 3 1/2 years learning how to become a better musician, vocalist, entertainer and how to promote yourself in the world of entertainment, from one of the most significant mentors I would meet - Bill (Webby) Webster.
The band page covers quite a bit of our life as the BOYFRIENDS.
SO, I would like to share what happened afterwards.
Changes began in 1969 - GRADUATION, (with the exception of the young one, Jim Ranta). Life changes. We lost Dick Webster to serve in the Army (we all had the draft to worry about during this time). After that, the others in the band wanted to go in another direction with the music. I was somewhat pushed out of the band as I did not see the same direction. I went on to college, got involved in Religion, played in a Christian group and was generally - just trying to find my way in life.
I moved to Toledo, Ohio, found work and went to the University of Toledo. I started playing Rock and Roll again and formed or played in several bands. I also worked at a music store called Durdel's Music at their downtown location. I had progressed enough with my piano that I began to teach beginner and intermediate lessons, along with guitar lessons and eventually managed the downtown location.
Toledo bands included the "All Small Band", Binkley and Magnan (duo). I played guitar and piano/organ and sang in these bands. Gabriel and the All Smalls were the most popular.
In my life, I have had the honor to play with many great musicians and earned many great friends throughout.
I was first introduced to music in the 8th grade. I took guitar lessons at the old "Grinnells" at Rogers Plaza, and later at Dellonay's on Division Street. It was at Dellonay's that I first met Paulo Scalici. Paul and I practiced together and we were later recruited by drummer Dick Webster while in my freshman year at Catholic Central, Grand Rapids, Michigan. The BOYFRIENDS band developed with hard work by all, but it was so much fun no one ever complained! We were a band on the western side of Michigan, playing out every Friday and Saturday from Club Ponytail in Petoskey to Albion College. During this time, I was still attending high school, as well as working a part time job! For a short time I was with the "Hyde Park Exchange", along with BOYFRIEND members Ronn Burke and Jim Ranta, along with Tim and Rick. Military duty called and I served Honorably overseas. On my return, I settled back in my home town area of Detroit. It is a thrill to play with the Boys again and share the experience with my wife and children who have only heard stories about the band. As an old Kodak, I say the picture is developing!!
Dr. Jim Ranta
IN MY OWN WORDS: Born in 1951. Vocalist and also plays bass guitar. I have been playing and singing since the age of eight! I've worked in a number of local bands here in Michigan, including the JuJu's, Natchez Trace, etc. I've put out a few records with moderate success and traveled the country performing. My most influential bands/musicians have been James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg, Emitt Rhodes, Beatles, Badfinger, Klaatu, and Jellyfish. I released a couple of singles on my own at the beginning of my musical journey. As a singer/songwriter I have acquired quite a catalog of original material over the years and I hope to continue to write and record in the near future.