The following early career history was supplied by Al Bischoff:
“My first professional playing job was with Harry and Lucille Williams at the Eagles for $7.00 in 1961 (I am not absolutely certain about this date, but it is close.) Later that year I joined the Eschelons. I played with Ron Beatty on guitar, Dick Beatty on drums, Jack Hazewinkel on bass, with Vic Hill And Jim Van Putten on vocals. Gil King was also in that band for a short time on keys.
Al Bischoff is located at the center of the bottom row in this late 1961 or 1962 picture of the Eschelons
Two years later, I left the Eschelons and joined the Metros with Mario Duron, Karl Kostecki on drums and Tom Gomez on bass. During the next few months we played mostly in Muskegon (at Club 61) and in Grand Haven (at Denton’s restaurant.) Our next stop was the Canopy Lounge in Grand Rapids in 1963. During the Canopy years there was about a six month period that the band left to go on the road and I stayed behind. At that time I filled in for Ken Huizeman on sax at Gussy Wussy’s Lounge at 937 Division while Ken was on active guard duty.
In 1964, Ted Ballanger replaced Mario on guitar and Lonnie Ackerman became our new drummer. For the next 3 years, Ted, Lonnie and I were the core of the band. To keep the sound fresh, we changed bass players several times, most notably Bill Ridly and Micky Holliday. The Canopy gig ended in late 1966.
During the next four years I played with many musicians and bands all around the Grand Rapids area. Some of the musicians include:
(This is not a complete list.)
From 1970 to 1973 I played at Lena Lou’s in Ada. In 1970 or 1971 I went to work at Lena Lou’s in Ada with Bill Drake on violin, Johnny Fifer (nick name) on guitar, and Mark Wygmans on drums.
During that same year, Mark and I left Lena Lou’s and joined Jerry Iser (on keys) and Jeanny Corbet, on vocals. We played the Yellow Jacket on M-45 for a couple of months then went back to Lena Lou’s where I stayed for the next couple of years. Some of the guys I played with at Lena Lou’s were Mario Duron, Denny Gramza on guitar, Joe Thompson on bass, and Wayne Williams on keyboard.
Later in the 1970s I helped create a new band called JC and Company with Tom Corbet on bass and Jeany Corbet on vocals, Rod Bowman on guitar, and Jim Barnaby on drums. Most of our gigs were at the Creston Post on Monroe and at Daisy Mae’s in Gun Lake.
In the late 1970s and lasting into the 1980s Rod Bowman and I put together a ‘family’ band (Rod was my brother in law), with my son Tom on drums and wife Pat on bass. We called it Good Company. Guitarist Gregg Bent was also in this band for awhile. Within this same time period I also did a two year stint at the Harvey Golden Eagle restaurant at the Kent County airport with Bill Drake, Pete Chesbro on Guitar, and Chester Lee on drums.
In the mid 1990s I played for a year with the Ron Keely Blues Band. I went from there to join the Gordon Thayer Band (also called Justin’ Time) for four years, leaving in the early 2000s. Band members were Dwayne Noom on pedal steel guitar, Mike Simpson on drums, and Doug Slocum on guitar and bass.
In 2005 the Eschelons were reunited and that brings us to the present time. We’re still going strong! Members of this band are Ron Beatty, guitar and arranger, Rob Beatty on drums, Jack Hazenwinkel on bass, Warren Beatty on keys, and Jim Vanputen and Vic Hill on vocals. Jim also fills in on sax. My son Tommy played drums with us last night (August 4, 2012) at the Boat and Canoe club and did a great job.”
- The Eschelons,
- The Galaxies
- The Metros
- JC and Company
- Gordon Thayer
- Good Company
- Don Henke
- Hot Rocks
The Eschelons Album:
Al Bischoff’s Album: