We begin our story of LUKYN SKYWYRD in the middle. For this is not the beginning of the journey, nor is it the end. It is the continuing saga of a little ol' band from southeast Wisconsin playing Northern bred Southern rock the best it knows how. Let's take a look at the current lineup:
Keith Stefanec - Lead Vocals, Lead & Rhythm Guitar
Jason Miller - Rhythm & Lead Guitar, Vocals
Bruce Kurtz - Bass Guitar, Vocals
Mike O'Krongly - Drums & Percussion
LUKYN SKYWYRD pulls no punches, delivering the best music from the Southern rock era. Music from Lynyrd Skynyrd, Allman Brothers, ZZ Top, Marshall Tucker Band, Molly Hatchet, .38 Special, Outlaws, and Blackfoot are all part of the LUKYN SKYWYRD song list. Evolving over these many years, the band has now begun to include country hits by the likes of Toby Keith, Waylon Jennings, and others.
Over the past twenty years, LUKYN SKYWYRD has played many exciting venues and events. The band has played locals bars from Antigo to Racine, Milwaukee to Madison, and all points in-between. It has outlasted many of those bars, has seen many go out of business, and has played one in particular that has changed ownership and names four times! The band always looks forward to playing new watering holes and some old favorites.
Throughout its tenure, LUKYN SKYWYRD has played some incredible gigs including: opening up for Bachman-Turner Overdrive at Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee, St. Gregory's Fair, St. Roman's Fair, St. Francis Days, St. Rita's Fair, St. Stephen's Fair, Harvest Fair, Butler Cyclefest, Summerfest on the Roadhouse Stage, Summerfest on the Sprecher Stage, 95th Harley-Davidson Reunion, West Allis 95th Reunion Welcome Roast, Butler Spring Jam, Vintage Classic Cycle Works Summer Bash, Tomahawk Bike Rally. The band has opened for Edgar Winter and Foghat at the annual ABATE of WI Summer Hummer motorcycle rally and opened for the Marshall Tucker Band at the Milwaukee Rally. Also, the band played many events for the 100th Harley-Davidson Reunion, including three days at Club Hog XX, Rally End in Racine, the Shriners Temple Rally, Water Street Block Party, and opened for Molly Hatchet and Paul Rodgers of Bad Company at the Milwaukee Mile. Throughout the years, the band has played the 105th Harley Davidson Reunion, many dates at the Major Goolsby's stage at the Wisconsin State Fair, and have opened for many bands at Bubba's Big Party in Tomahawk, including The Outlaws, Blackhawk, Pat Travers, Great White, and Sammy Kershaw. The band has become a favorite at private parties and organizations like the Sud City Vanner's Club and the Veterans of American Motorcycle Club.
LUKYN SKYWYRD has opened for the following bands:
Jimmy Van Zant Band
Marshall Tucker Band
Paul Rodgers of Bad Company
Los Lonely Boys
Black Oak Arkansas
Lead Vocals & Lead Guitar
Rhythm Guitar & Vocals
Bass Guitar & Vocals
Drums & Percussion
To be honest, I did not know when this band would return after its implosion in the mid-2000's and subsequent two year hiatus. No matter to what show or concert I would go, someone would eventually come up to me and ask, "Hey, what's up with LUKYN SKYWYRD? Are you guys ever gonna get back together?" "Well," I would say, "we'll see what happens. I'll only do it if the right people come together at the right time." Well, guess what?
While working at a new home construction site, a chance encounter resulted in my meeting Jason Miller. Working in close quarters, small talk quickly turned to music. After learning we shared the same musical tastes, I discovered he was a frustrated guitar player just waiting for a shot to play in a real band. I suggested we get together and jam. After a successful jam session, Jason was excited to put the band back together. I was still reserved, knowing that the process can have a lot of bumps along the way. I said if he can find some players, I would check it out. Long story short, he found a couple of guys that didn't work out. I said to keep practicing and keep me posted if you find anybody else.
Fast forward nine months later and I get a call. "I think I got some people," he says. We give them a short list of songs and get together to play. Halfway through playing, I feel it. There is just a certain feeling you get when you play with certain people. It is hard to describe but you know it when you feel it. Here we go again, just when I thought I was out, they just pull me back in...
So, just who is this Jason Miller guy? Jason has dabbled on and off with guitar for the last 20 years. He played trumpet for seven years and even played with the high school jazz band. For the last 15 years, Jason's goal has been to be on stage with a real band by his 40th birthday. After three years of false starts, it looks like he's made it. Jason cites Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, and .38 Special as major influences on his playing. Between playing in the band and spending time with his three daughters, Hannah, Maddie, and Ella, Jason says he's having the time of his life.
Now, what about those guys Jason brought into the fold? Bill Burki had been out of the music scene for 15 years. He and his wife, Pam, were busy raising their three boys, Billy, Mitch, and Ben. Back in the early 80's, Bill played guitar in the Top 40 band, Mischief, and then switched to bass guitar when he joined the blues band, Lights Out. Now that his oldest is starting his first year in college, Bill knew it was now time to return to music. Discovering the band was in need of a bass player, Bill jumped at the chance.
Complementing Bill's solid bass, Matt Liesman and his drums were just what the band needed to get back into the music scene. He was the perfect guy at the time and for a year, helped get the chops up for the rest of us members. Unfortunately, due to mounting work and family pressures, Matt was unable to stay with the band. He did make a brief return for a couple months until we were able to replace our next drummer, Chad Stein.
That leads us to Mike O'Krongly, our hard kickin', Thunderfoot behind the drum kit. Mike came to us just at the right time, looking for a home after bouncing between a bunch of bands that included Crossfire and Liquid Crush. A solid staple on the Milwaukee music scene, Mike has been playing for ...., well, never mind, lets just say, he's a seasoned veteran! When Mike heard that Lukyn Skywyrd needed a drummer, he replied, "I'm the man." He was right, and he will be for long time to come!
In what can only be described as fate, Tony Vohs appeared at our doorstep. An email containing available local musicians ended up in my email mailbox and I almost didn't open it. At the top of the list was Tony looking for a band doing classic/Southern rock. I took the chance and signed up for the service so I could get in contact with him. Well, it turns out, that was his first day signing up and really hadn't had much response yet! What an incredible find! We got him down to practice, heard him play two songs, and asked if he wanted the job. Two weeks later, he was playing his first gig with us. Wow!
In 2016, both Tony and Bill left the band due to work related time constraints, with Tony moving to La Crosse and Bill spending more time with his family. Bruce Kurtz appeared on our doorstep with bass in hand. His solid bass lines and vocal capabilities brought a newfound energy to the band. On stage, wearing his Leon Wilkerson style top hat, he is a infectious showman to watch!
Finally, there's me, Keith Stefanec, band architect, benevolent dictator, lead singer, lead guitar player, keeper of the flame, song-writer, and survivor. This whole thing started long ago but seems like yesterday. After seeing bands like the 48th Street Rockers and D.S. Jukin, I knew what kind of band I wanted. What became LUKYN SKYWYRD started out in the late 80's as a rag-tag bunch of guys who really didn't know what kind of band they were in. But there was always the vision of what it could be. Numerous personnel changes happened but none really made the difference. After a couple of different line-ups, I put the name on hold and tried playing with a more established band, the Automatix. It lasted one gig.
At the exact same time, the 48th Street Rockers were coming to an end. Don Mueller, leader of the Rockers, asked me at their final Halloween party, if I would like to help put together a new project, Southern Spirit. How could I say no?!? Although not the perfect band, it gave me much experience. For the first time, I got to play Summerfest, Steny's Block Party, and Butler Cyclefest. I also made many contacts and learned the many aspects of behind the scenes like promotion, a well-maintained mailing list, and everything it takes to put together a decent product. After two years, Southern Spirit ran its course. In late 1995, LUKYN SKYWYRD returned.
For ten years, LUKYN SKYWYRD played some phenomenal gigs. Personnel changes happened but always for the better. By the end of that run, the band was getting better gigs and notoriety but there was a dark undercurrent that I didn't see coming. I was blindsided after a gig one night and the band said they were planning on going a different direction that didn't include me. I cancelled the remaining gigs, hung up my guitar, and didn't pick it up for a year and a half. I really couldn't even look at it.
And so, we fast-forward to the present, LUKYN SKYWYRD rose again for a third time like the phoenix rises from the ashes. Celebrating 26 years, the band keeps on keeping on. On this never-ending highway, many people have entered and exited through the swinging door. So many, I've lost count! But, I guess that's the only way we can end up from there to here. The fire's still burning. Hang on, People, its gonna be one helleva ride!!