Meet The Hippys?

November 2nd, 2008 by Jim E. in Remembering When..., The Band

I came from Colorado to Michigan for a couple weeks over Christmas 1980. One of the first things I did was look up Tom. He was living on the corner of Pennsylvania and North Grand River in a house that had belonged to his Grandmother. It was known for years as “Hippy House” – “Hippy Plaza” – “Hippy Headquarters”, and I don’t know what else. Man, we had had some party’s there!

But anyway, the somewhat newly formed Last Hippy Band was playing at Ricks American Cafe (aka Rick’s Underground) in East Lansing, Michigan, and that was the first time I heard the band. That night the members were:

Tom – rhythm guitar

Kenny Grabow & Tim Schwartz – took turns on lead guitar

Rick Crump – bass guitar

Klauss – drums

Lee “Maggot” Sugnut – keyboards

BooBoo – lights

I remember Tom telling me they originally had a guy named Rueben Fuentes on drums, but the first time I saw them it was Klauss on drums.

They had a packed house that night. There were a lot of stage props, for example, everyone one had made giant paper mache masks, there were American flags, Army helmets, and lot’s of lighting effects. The thing I remember most though, was while during a Jimi Hendrix song, Kenny jumped up on these peoples table – kicked their drinks off on to the floor, and ripped a kick ass solo (in a highly theatrical fashion to say the least!) and the crowd went absolutely wild.

After the show we went to Hippy Plaza and partied till the sun came up.

I only saw Tom maybe twice over the following three years. I was busy gigging five nights a week with my band “Qubes” in Colorado. But in August of 1983 I moved back to Michigan in my 1967 VW Micro-bus. Tom was still living at Hippy House, but the Hippy Band wasn’t together at that time.

Tom still had PA & lights, so it was just a matter of getting personnel for a new Last Hippy Band. Tom wrote up some little flyers to find band members and we hopped in the vdub bus and went around to the music stores and pawn shops to post them.

The crew we ended up with was:

Tom – rhythm guitar

Tim Schwartz – lead guitar

Me – keyboards

Al Chamberlain – bass

Dave Bjornsen – drums

Bulldog – lights

We practiced at the Hippy House, which by the way was really cool inside. One night when Tom had a party, well every night was a party, but anyway, he passed out cans of poster paints and brushes and everyone painted all the walls with groovy murals.

The day came when we finally played our first gig – I think it was a party at the Dewitt Sportsman’s Club, I’m not sure. But between the summer of 1983 until the fall of 1985 we played a lot of gig’s, and the Hippy Band legend began to grow.

We mostly played private parties, but we did play in some local and out of town bars as well. I never kept any records, and as that was over 25 years ago, well! we had a lot of fun anyway.

But in the late summer of 1985 for some unremembered reason Tom and I decided to relocate the band to the East coast. In order to finance the move we decided to have a giant party extravaganza, and sell beer. I rented out the Dewitt Memorial building and got a cabaret permit from the city of Dewitt so we could legally sell beer. Tom found another local band to play as well as us, I think it was Chuck Greens band. My little sister worked for a beer distributor, and I bought 12 kegs of cheap Gobles beer for $15.00 a keg, and one keg of Michelob from her. I remember the kegs filled up my entire vdub bus!

Tom wanted the keg of Michelob delivered to the Hippy House for an after the party, party. After we rolled it inside he took off the little cap that said Michelob and put it in his pocket. Then he took all the caps off the kegs of Gobles and threw them away. That night every time a new keg was brought out Tom had Animal put the Michelob cap on it first, then Animal would put the cap in his pocket to be used for the next keg that was rolled out. Everyone was walking around all night saying how great the beer was, YEA!! Michelob!! I still laugh to this day about that. Sorry people. We charged, I think, $5 a beer, and made a few thousand dollars after expenses. The party was a huge success, and a great time was had by all.

A few days later we packed all the band gear into my bus and hit the road. Tim Schwartz was the only one brave enough to go with us. Hmm! to make a long story short, things didn’t go so well for us on the east coast. We just plain couldn’t get things going. After about a month Tim and I came back to Lansing, and Tom got a job as a bellboy in a fancy hotel in Washington DC.

In the spring on 1986 Tom came back to visit me (in Michigan) and was driving a Cadillac and doing well. Please don’t hold me to these dates, but I think it was the spring of 1987 when he Gave up on DC and moved back to Lansing, and we once again got the Hippy Band going.


4 Responses to “Meet The Hippys?”

    animal Says:




    Hello , Jim . I hope all is well on your front . I’m glad to read your comments on here . I did’nt know you knew Tom way back then . The 80’s was a wild time . I remember when we went to farwell mich. and they thought we were a country band . ha ha . And the trip to lake michigan You , Tom , Tom Steel and I had . We almost crashed that night on that sharp corner . But to me the light trails was what I saw . Tom Steel was passed out on the floor of your vw bus and never spilled a drop of the full beer he had on his chest . Man I tripped hard that weekend . Messed up my knee coming out from the upstairs and fell down the stairs . I sat alone across from the bar swinging on the swings that sunday morning still seeing trails and shit from the street lights and when cars drove by . I’m not sure if it was Tom or not but remember catching frogs cut their legs off and cooked them on the beach .Then we made little crutchs for them and had them lined up towards the little puddle we found them in . Those were good times . I met Tom in saint johns when I went with Bird and frog at that time they were in northwind . Tom was sitting in with them . But that was just that night I met him . That was 1979 . I didn’t see Tom again till 1982 when I went with Boo-Boo to a party at the Hippy house on penn. and grandriver I think I was there for a week before I went home . I was just to high to walk to my house . Anyway That’s when I first started working for The Last Hippy Band . And as you know it was on and off for 26 years + . And I wouldn’t change a thing . I respected Tom and tried to help when I could . I played drums for the hippys because Tom opened that door for me . And I really did like being part of band and learned alot of things some sound to lights and setup and teardown . I can’t think of anyone I disliked in the band . And I’ am sorry for telling you keyboards weren’t instruments . It was just a moment in time . Well I hope to see some comments on my reflections spot .

    Jim E. Says:




    I remember the Farwell gig quite well. when we got there Tom and I walked in, and Tom walked up to the bartender and said “Hi, Tom Burke, Last Hippy Band”, and the bartender said “I sure as hell hope you’re the last goddamn one!”. We played one set and the owner offered to pay us for the whole weekend if we could be packed up and gone in one hour. That’s the only gig we ever got fired from!

    Boy howdy, we sure did almost crash the VW bus, I don’t know how we kept from rolling it!

    I remember the frog legs too. That was Schwartzie with us.

    Ya, I forgot about the keyboards not instruments thing! lol!

    Really enjoyed your comments and post Animal –


    angelessance Says:




    hey you are sonicsanity on myspace lol i wasnt sure who i was adding but noticed you were friends with medicane crow as well so i thought “well if medicane crow thinks they are ok well then i do to” rofl! it is so good to see you here and contributing, are you back in colarado now? my email address is

    Bjornson Says:




    Oh yea. the Farwell gig.
    I’m going to sit back with a large cup of joe, sharpen my pencil, and get my reflection on. Get ready… 🙂