Bob Riestenberg was a senior in high school in 1939 when he played his first dance job in the Bluffton Hall with Chuck Olson on accordion, Jim Mahoney on drums, Eggs Walz on banjo, Fred Weber on sax and himself on clarinet. It went so well that from there on, as he says, “I was hooked.”
In those days, Fred Lieske rode around the country on his Indian motorcycle giving music lessons. Bob states: “Eventually I worked into his band playing sax, clarinet and trumpet. Among the local greats was Mike Reed on drums who always wore white arrow shirts and a permanent smile. He was loved as a bartender in the day and musician at night. Tuck Ross from Dent played drums with us for a while and Fred would announce the band as ‘Two musicians and a drummer.’ Tuck wasn’t too skillful but he was faithful. LeRoy Atkinson helped us out on drums if we were stuck and it was refreshing to experience a new style of playing and his fellowship.”
For a number of years, Bob played in the army band touring all of Japan’s U.S. military camps.
“After that, I sort of freelanced and one of my favorite groups was the Variety Play Boys, which were Al Koplin on accordion, Gene Poser on drums, Jimmy Love guitar and myself on sax and clarinet. Jimmy Love was a great front man who could work the crowd along with Gene Poser and this developed into a following of fans.
“The most recent and seasoned trio I played with was the Bea Wisted band, which included the late Joe Thomas. All the bands were fun to play in after a hard week’s work. It was a way to relax, but still create and enjoy the fellowship of the members.”
Bob Riestenberg continues to create. His recent book, “Round Barns and Other Tales” has been published and is available locally. He will sign copies of his book at the Holiday Open House of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County in Perham on Tuesday, Dec. 11 from 3-6 p.m.
Stories by and about Bob Riestenberg are available on-line, along with many other interesting pieces of local history. Visit www.HistoryMuseumEOT.org.