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When rock was young

By Staff | Mar 21, 2014

James Johnson listened as Jenna Hardy Pedersen, executive director of the Iowa Rock ‘n Roll Music Association, explained plans for the new Iowa Rock ‘n Roll Music Association museum. Photo by Michael Tidemann

Some people call Feb. 3, 1959, the day Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. ‘The Big Bopper’ Richardson died in a plane crash near Clear Lake, the day the music died.

It could also be the day rock was born.

The Iowa Rock ‘n Roll Music Association is dedicated to keeping the memory of rock alive, and executive director Jenna Hardy Pedersen visited Estherville Good Samaritan Society residents Thursday to tell about the association’s plans for a new museum along Highway 86 at West Okoboji.

Pedersen was invited by James Johnson, Good Sam resident who has taken on an incredible number of projects as head of the Good Sam men’s group.

Pedersen said the association’s Hall of Fame inducts musicians, ballrooms and venues every year. Eligible inductees must date from post 1930 and before 1989, have been in existence for 25 years and have a heavy focus on Iowa musicians.

Pedersen said the association has already outgrown its 850-square-foot museum and is looking to build a 12,000-square-foot complex on Highway 86 in West Okoboji. Toby Shine is donating land for a museum – a perfect fit for his Okobji Classic Car Museum just next door.

Pedersen showed design schematics of the proposed museum complex done by FEH Associates Inc. of Sioux City.

The then offered a synopsis of Iowa’s rock music history – and why having a rock ‘n roll museum and hall of fame in Iowa is so important.

Historically, Pedersen said Iowa had more ballrooms than any other state.

“Iowa’s really got this reputation for having a place for musicians to perform,” Pedersen said.

The new museum would adopt a classic airplane hangar design. Many World War II hangars were converted to ballrooms as

GIs returned home after the war.

Pedersen said the museum will have interactive music-related technology for children’s entertainment. There will also be a retail space in the lobby and a permanent gallery featuring Iowa musicians like The Velaires of Sioux City and Dee Jay and The Runaways of Spirit Lake (John Senn, museum founder, was bass player and the ‘Jay’ in The Runaways). The museum will also have second-floor storage and outdoor amphitheater. She said the association will officially start fundraising this summer for the complex expected to cost somewhat under $10 million. Hopes are to complete the project in three to five years.

Pedersen said there have been over 1,000 inductees to date, with The Everly Brothers one of the most notable recent inductees.

Johnson also called for a Ben Haigh music festival to honor legendary Estherville High School music director and Good Sam resident Ben Haigh.

Johnson said he also wants to do an oral history to preserve past stories for future generations.

“There are just so many people. We should get their stories,” Johnson said.