NEW BUFFALO — The final Wednesday night concert in New Buffalo Township’s Memorial Park proved to be a perfect tune-up for the 1968 Reunion Band.

The Sept. 5 “open mic” show opened with the host band “Smith Guitar Works” (Mark Smith, two of his sons — Jason and Nathan — and drummer Jim Sima) playing a request from Alice Little — “Wagon Wheel.”

“If you know Alice you know she can be persuasive,” Mark Smith said.

Later in the evening Mark Smith was joined on stage by three fellow members of the New Buffalo High School Class of 1968 — Gary Collins, Gene Callahan, Alan Blazek (and Class of 1970 grad Sima — “We let him play with us anyway,” Smith said) — a group dubbed the 1968 Reunion Band.

Smith said the group was formed to be part of a 50-year class reunion scheduled for Sept. 22 at Skip’s Restaurant in New Buffalo.

“Those of you from New Buffalo know the class sizes were pretty small and there are still four of us that are…” (an audience member interjected ‘Alive’ to laughter)  before Smith continued “still have our hands in the music.”

“We had one practice before this event,” Smith said before the band began its initial set. An encore performance took place later in the evening ahead of a jam-session finale incorporating those who had performed earlier.

Collins, who said he currently plays with Red Deluxe, said the reunion band will be getting in a few more practice sessions before the reunion.

Blazek (who recently moved back to the area from Nevada) said he and Callahan were in local bands starting when they were just 11 years old. One of the earliest was a New Buffalo group called The Herd.

Callahan said he and Blazek were both members of the Chantells (which also included Jerry Price and Ron Dabbs, both now passed away). During the 1968 Reunion Band’s encore performance they played Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” (which Blazek and Callahan said was the Chantell’s first single in the early 1960s).

“We were stars!” Callahan quipped. “We made 500 copies. If you want one I’ve got 500 of then out in the truck.”

Also performing on the Memorial Park stage Sept. 5 were: The Time Travelers; Dan Moster and Pete Nye; Mike Kenny; Bob Bowen; and Leigha Vinson. Ken Dudiak joined the encore ensemble to belt out the final tune — “Gloria.”

“It’s a nice way to end the summer!” concluded Mark Smith, who gave credit to New Buffalo Township (singling out Parks Director Patrick Donnelly) and The Pokagon Fund for making the Wednesday NIght in the Park concerts possible. One of the shows earlier in the summer featured Generation Gap — the full Smith family band. They (and Red Deluxe) also are slated to perform during the Sept. 22 Wurstfest in downtown Three Oaks.

“All of us played in high school,” Smith said of himself and his fellow 1968 Reunion Band members. “I was in and out of bands for a few years. When my boys got old enough I got them involved in music — the family band doesn’t break up.”

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