They call themselves the "Sleighriders," and they are 40 of the best musicians around! On Monday night, December 16th, they're coming together for a big charity show at Shank Hall in what's become a Milwaukee tradition.
Monday night's show will benefit Children's Variety of Wisconsin.
It was conceived as a sort of Christmas party. John Ertl, now president of the local entertainment consultancy SwimTeam Inc., thought it would be fun if some local musicians got together to play a holiday show for charity. And so 30 years ago, a Milwaukee holiday institution, the Sleighriders, was born.
About a dozen musicians played that initial show at Shank Hall, back when it was called Teddy's.
The Sleighriders who'll be on display at 7 p.m. Monday at Shank Hall will be more polished. Randall Hogan, best known by his stage name Xeno (the initial singer for Cheap Trick and frontman for local rock group Bad Boy), took the reins about 10 years ago. Given the complications of everyone's schedule, there was only one rehearsal, on Sunday!
The band today includes some of the most recognizable names in the local music scene, including guitar maestro Greg Koch, jack-of-all-trades Sigmund Snopek and cover band king Eddie Butts.
And that's just three of about 40 musicians who'll participate in Monday's Sleighriders show, which will include string and horn sections and a guest appearance by former BoDean Sam Llanas.
This year, the set will introduce the band's first takes of the Wilson Pickett soul staple "634-5789" and "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher," made famous by Jackie Wilson, and is likely to span more than three hours, Xeno said.
There'll also be an auction Monday, featuring sports memorabilia, an autographed guitar, restaurant certificates, vacation packages and more.
Proceeds from the auction, as well as admission costs and sponsor donations, will go toward Variety of Wisconsin, a Milwaukee charity that provides resources for Wisconsin children challenged by physical disabilities.