Masai – [pronounced, Mass-Eye] – Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1971 – 1975
We rented a Warehouse at: 201 Front Street NW, Grand Rapids, Michigan, [Where The Ford Museum is now], for practice sessions. We were located on the 4th floor. Original members were: Rich Tonning, [Bass], Jeff Crooks, [Lead], Greg Hulst, [Drums], Dave Tonning, [Rhythm Guitar], Kathy MaGuire, [Keyboards], and Danny Broyhill, Mgr.
Dennis Joppe replaced Jeff Crooks, & later, Kathy Maguire left the band. Steve Owczarzak, [From: Orange & Fried Fish], eventually replaced Dennis Joppe on lead guitar. Billy Cates came on as Bass player, to free up Rich for Vocals and Tambourine. Billy was eventually replaced by Jim Round, [from: Mentzer Reed Band & of the Hammered Dulcimer, Round family], and lastly, Jim Sharum [from: ‘Milt & The Milton Men], replaced Greg on the drums.
L.C. Carpenter [Bouncer – Roadie – Friend], and Dan Zeeff, [Roadie, Lights, & Sound], completed the group with their many services, and of course the Local and Holland, Michigan, costal fans, are what kept the band around for the many years we rocked. Masai’s music consisted of origional material, as well as Progressive Rock, Hard Rock, & top 40 cover songs from the 60’s and 70’s.
Most of the musicians in Masai were from our previous band during high school days called, ‘Only The Young’ – Rich Tonning, [Vocals], Greg Hulst, [Drums], Jeff Crooks, [Lead Guitar], and Jim Westveer, [Rhythm Guitar]. [1967/68].
We played mostly at schools/colleges/battle of the bands, & dance hall venues. We played for ‘Ferris State College’ fraternities, in Big Rapids, Michigan, many times. We were continuously called back to repeat our successful gigs there.
‘OTY’ band broke up because of the draft and other reasons. After everyone returned home, we were all excited to regroup and refresh the band with some new faces, new music, and a new name, ‘Masai’…
The name ‘Masai’ was chosen by our drummer, Greg, after watching a movie about the famous American Indian,
Massai (also known as: Massa, Massi, Masai, Wasse or Massey; c.1847-1906, He was a brave Apache warrior, and lone renegade who fought the US Army. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massai.
‘Masai’ played school dances at first to get established and eventually we sponsored our own dances at the ‘Holland Civic Center’, where we gained a huge West Michigan following. Many of those fans even came to Grand Rapids and supported us when we started playing the local clubs such as, ‘Putt Putts’, ‘The Shamrock, ‘Brass Monkey’, ‘Thunder Chicken’ , Russo’s, and many more local venues. We eventually joined the union and picked up gigs throughout Michigan and Wisconsin.