The Smoke Ring (band)

The Smoke Ring (band)

The Smoke Ring was a rock band from Norfolk, Nebraska active in the 1960s. It was formed from two previous regionally popular rock and roll groups, Little Joe & the Ramrods and The Strollers. They had strong regional success but charted only one national hit, 1969's "No, Not Much".

Little Joe & the Ramrods

"Little Joe" Hupp, (guitar, piano) founded this group in the early 1960s, and had some success playing throughout the Midwestern United States. They recorded a single in Oklahoma, "B.B. Limbo" b/w "Yogi Twist", released on Soma Records; a second recording session, in Minneapolis, yielded "Somebody Touched Me", "Hurtin' Inside", "Oop Poo Pa Doo", and "We Belong Together". [ [ Little Joe & the Ramrods] , Nebraska Music Hall of Fame. Accessed November 2, 2007.] The Ramrods split up over a disagreement, at which time discussions with members of The Strollers picked up.

The Strollers

The Strollers had originally formed in 1959 and played mostly local events into the early 1960s. [ [ the Strollers] , Nebraska Music Hall of Fame. Accessed November 2, 2007.] Among its members were Little Joe's brother, Bob Hupp. In 1965 the group lost its drummer and decided to merge with Little Joe & the Ramrods into one group, which they would rename The Smoke Ring in 1966.

The Smoke Ring

Their first national release was the single "That Girl Was My Girl" on Mala Records in 1966. Starting in 1967, they expanded their lineup to include more brass instruments, and regularly toured the Midwest, opening for Dickie Lee, Rufus Thomas, The Shangri-Las, Bobby Vee, and The Everly Brothers. Soon after meeting Thomas and Lee, they booked time at Sun Studios and recorded the single "No, Not Much", a cover of a 1950's hit by The Four Lads. The local disc (released on Goldust Records) was picked up for national distribution by Buddah Records, and the tune saw nationwide success, becoming a hit in several major metropolitan areas in the U.S. and climbing to #85 on the Billboard Hot 100 early in 1969. [ [ Chart Data] , Billboard Magazine. Accessed November 2, 2007.] A second single on Buddah, "Portrait of My Love", missed the charts, and a full-length that had been recorded was shelved; it has yet to see release. The group appeared on "American Bandstand" in 1969 following the single's success. [ [ The Smoke Ring] , Nebraska Music Hall of Fame. Accessed November 2, 2007.] Later in 1969, Certron Records released their single "High on a Rainbow" b/w "First Reaction", which also did not chart but was a regional success. During this time, the group's wardrobe consisted of tuxedos fitted with bell bottom trousers. [ [ Interview with Mike Semrad] . Accessed November 2, 2007.] They disbanded in 1972; that same year, Little Joe Hupp released a locally-produced full-length, "Heavy Metal Whale", under the name The Smoke Ring, which did not feature any of the band's previous members. Some of the members (including lead vocalist Tommy Shaw) continued under the name MSFunk in 1973, basing themselves out of Chicago. [ [ The Smoke Ring] at Accessed November 2, 2007.]

The group was inducted into the Nebraska Music Hall of Fame in 1995, and has occasionally reunited for regional concerts since then.


Smoke Ring guitarist Keith Goins put together the last version of The Smoke Ring in September of 1971. At that time, all he had left was drummer Danny Keller, so he nearly had to start from scratch. Lindy Gallaher (bass player from "The Common Few" in Kansas) was the first to arrive, along with Colin Keefe (trumpet and lead vocals) and Mike Ragatz (trombone) from another regionally-based horn band, "The Chancellors". Lindy suggested two members from his group: Robert Orr (keyboards and trombone) and Larry Stewart (trumpet, sax, and flute). The new players moved into Kings Ballroom (owned by band manager Joe Hupp) and put an entire show together in three days. Six months later, the band moved to Memphis, and not long after that changed their name to MSFunk. [ [ MSFunk] MSFunk at MySpace.] MSFunk members later became members of Toto, The Ides of March, Styx, Damn Yankees, Le Roux, and Shaw Blades.


;Little Joe & the Ramrods
*Little Joe Hupp - guitar, piano
*Doug Spiedel
*Mike Sund (1944-1985)
*Leland Grieves
*Dino Reeves
*Terry Zobel
*Larry Young
*John Schrad
*Gene Hammerlun

;The Strollers
*Chuck Asmus - drums, vocals
*Pat Wead - guitar, vocals
*Jerry Benjamin - guitar
*Bob Hupp - bass, vocals
*Jim Casey - guitar

;The Smoke Ring
*Jerry Benjamin - drums, guitar (1966-1967)
*Tom Benjamin - drums (1966-67)
*Jim Casey - saxophone, guitar ('66-'69)
*Dave Dohren - trumpet ('66-'70)
*Bob Hupp - guitar ('66-'69)
*Little Joe Hupp - keyboards ('66-'68)
*Nick Hupp - bass ('66-'70)
*John Schrad - saxophone ('66-'68)
*Chuck Asmus - drums, vocals ('66-'68)
*Roger Volk - drums ('68-'71)
*Greg "Bosco" Goodman - keyboards ('69-'71)
*Ron McClure - trumpet ('68-'69)
*Mike "Pinky" Semrad - trumpet and guitar ('68-'69)
*Steve Dahl - vocals
*Jon Hischke - saxophone
*Garth Fundis - vocals
*Keith Goins - guitar
*Colin Keefe - vocals
*Danny Keller
*Tommy Shaw - guitar, vocals
*Lindy Gallagher - bass

;Transition to MSFunk

*Keith Goins - guitar, vocals
*Danny Keller - drums
*Lindy Gallaher - bass
*Colin Keefe - lead vocals, trumpet
*Mike Ragatz - trombone ('71-'72)
*Robert Orr - keyboards, vocals, trombone
*Larry Stewart - trumpet, flute, sax, vocals
*Chaz Baker - trombone, vocals, electric piano ('72-'75)
*Tommy Shaw - guitar, vocals ('72-75)
*Fergie Frederiksen - vocals ('75 -'76)


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