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Auction continues through Sunday
Taken from an article posted in the Great Falls Tribune online by Erin Madison. Original publish date Feb. 10, 2010. Original article can be seen by clicking here.
About 30 years ago, a honky-tonk piano player in the Ringling area encouraged some ranchers who dabbled in music to start playing together.
The piano player left the group long ago. "She ran out of patience," said Ken Arthun. Those she left behind now call themselves the Ringling 5, even though the band has seven members.
The group plays about 50 shows a year, said Larry Lovely, who plays the 12-string mandolin and doubles as the band's booking agent. They write most of their music and add in plenty of what they call "rural humor."
"That's what we find funny," Lovely said.
In one song the band sings about how much they love their cow herd. Another song is about a rainy spring, sung to the tune of "Rawhide." The band members all have roots in Ringling, a small town in southern Meagher County, but some have spread out. A few live in Clyde Park and Wilsall, or what they refer to as the Twin Cities. One is in Bozeman. In one song they describe themselves as "baby-boomer cowboys."
When the band first started playing together, it was mostly just for fun. "We didn't expect to ever get paid," Lovely said. The band recorded its first album in 1988. It was mostly covers, but the band had one original signature song. "We wrote it that day," he said.
Their first gig was a twins' convention in Bozeman. God only knows how convention organizers found the band, Ron Arthun said. The Ringling 5 made $50 on the show, but spent $120 on beer and pizza afterward. Little by little their name became better-known. "It just started to grow from there," Lovely said. "Next thing you know we've got four CDs and a video."
Things really started to get going for the band when they started writing their own songs. That and their humor is what sets them apart from other acts, band member Ken Arthun said. Most of their music has a bluegrass/country bend. Although the band does dabble in rap, which they joke is in hopes of getting some air time on the radio. Most of their gigs are for conventions and the like.
"You won't believe how diverse our audiences have been," Ken Arthun said. You might say the band has hit the big time for a group coming from rural Montana. Once getting off a plane in New York, someone recognized the group, and said "Hey, you're the Ringling 5."
Their biggest gig of the year is the Norsk Hostfest, an annual Scandinavian festival in Minot, N.D. Some 130,000 to 140,000 people pass through the festival. "We're on a main stage there," Lovely said. "That's a huge event for us." The Ringling 5 mainly has relied on word of mouth to grow their popularity. They got into Hostfest after playing a judges' convention. One of the judges liked them so much he lobbied to get them into the Scandinavian festival. The band doesn't rehearse for their performances. They might decide in advance the first couple songs they plan to sing and just wing it from there. "We don't know what's going to happen when we get up there (on stage)," Lovely said.
Despite being busy with ranch work and other obligations, the band members make time for their Ringling 5 commitments. "Sometimes in the middle of haying we just leave," Lovely said. That usually means extra work when they get back. "We make it work," he said. Having understanding wives helps too, said Don Scott, the band's drummer.
Despite their fame elsewhere, the band members aren't treated any differently in Ringling. "You're never a star in your hometown," Ken Arthun joked. "The only ones who are happy to see us when we get home are the dogs."
For more information on the Ringling 5, check out their Web site, www.ringling5.com, or to book a show, call Larry Lovely at 406-686-4466.
Tickets for this event go on sale March 1st and can be purchased at Hoglunds, Kaufmans downtown, or at Wild Out West in the Holiday Village Mall.