NEBRASKA PEFORMING ARTS

Hall of fame inductee

The Wheezetones are honored to announce that we will be inducted into the Nebraska Performing Arts Hall of Fame on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022. Tickets and information are available below.

Great Fun! Great Friends! Great History!

When three guitar playing friends got together to perform a few songs back in 1991, little did they know their trio would evolve into something much bigger. 30+ years later John Ballew, Paul Burner, and Doug Dickeson are still making music. And, along with the addition of Bob Creager (drums), Kevin Moore (bass), and Ted Larson (sax/keyboards), The Wheezetones have definitely won the hearts of Lincoln, Nebraska – being voted Lincoln’s #1 Cover Band in the Lincoln Journal-Star’s Music Madness contest (2011) and inducted into the Nebraska Performing Arts Hall of Fame (2022).

Wheezetones Circle Icon

From an impromtu jam, to becoming a band in 1992, the wheezetones are still rocking 30 years later

The Wheezetones (formerly Johnny & the Wheezetones) had its beginnings at the Lincoln (NE) East High 20-year reunion. Following an impromptu jam with other fellow musicians from the class of ’71, founding members John Ballew, Paul Burner and Doug Dickeson stepped up to the microphones and, without any preparation or practice, sang “Amie” by Pure Prairie League.  The blend of the three voices made a lasting impression on Ballew, who a year later booked a Foundation Garden concert before the group had actually taken form or practiced.  During several months of intense practices in Dickeson’s basement, the three realized that they had something special as they created strong three-part harmonies and acoustic arrangements of their favorite songs by Crosby Still & Nash, The Beatles, The Eagles and groups as wide-ranging as Vanilla Fudge, Commander Cody and Grand Funk Railroad. Lacking a name before their first performance, Burner came up with “Johnny & The Wheezetones” in recognition of the fact that he and Ballew have asthma.

MUSICAL DNA

We call it musical DNA.  It’s the term we use for a song we just instinctively know the first time we play it. We know instantly that it is a song we were meant to do.

30+ Years of music

We started this adventure in 1992 as 3 guys on acoustic guitars.  We’re now a 6-piece dance band with more equipment than talent.  One night a week – one gig a month. After 30+ years you sorta end up as brothers.  Let the sibling fighting begin!

EARLY SHOWS FOR OLD MEN!

We start early – 6:30PM or 7:30PM.  We’re old and we want to get home before midnight, but that doesn’t stop us from rockin’ the house as hard as we want.

The lineup

JOHN BALLEW
Guitars & Vocals

PAUL BURNER
Guitars & Vocals

DOUG DICKESON
Guitars & Vocals

BOB CREAGER
Drums & Percussion

TED LARSON
Keyboards & Sax

KEVIN MOORE
Bass & Vocals

Upcoming Events

Nov 18
2022

Hall of fame night

Come join us along with our friends, The Fabtones, Doug Fenton, Dave Steen, Mary Pipher, Ted Kooser and Bill Kloefkorn as are inducted into the Nebraska Performing Arts Hall of Fame.

TBD
2023

Roca Tavern

Watch this space for an announcement for some future events at the Roca Tavern.

Our Story

The Wheezetones (formerly Johnny & the Wheezetones) had its beginnings at the East High 20-year reunion. Following an impromptu jam with other fellow musicians from the class of ’71, founding members John Ballew, Paul Burner and Doug Dickeson stepped up to the microphones and, without any preparation or practice, sang “Amie” by Pure Prairie League.  The blend of the three voices made a lasting impression on Ballew, who a year later booked a Foundation Garden concert before the group had actually taken form or practiced.  During several months of intense practices in Dickeson’s basement, the three realized that they had something special as they created strong three-part harmonies and acoustic arrangements of their favorite songs by Crosby Still & Nash, The Beatles, The Eagles and groups as wide-ranging as Vanilla Fudge, Commander Cody and Grand Funk Railroad. Lacking a name before their first performance, Burner came up with “Johnny & The Wheezetones” in recognition of the fact that he and Ballew have asthma.

All of the original members had played in Lincoln bands in the 60’s and 70’s but had never played together.  Dickeson had continued playing in several popular bands well into the 80’s while Ballew and Burner had developed solo acts after their band days.   All three brought diverse musical influences to the band: Ballew is a die-hard Beach Boys/Beatles fan and Burner loved Peter Paul & Mary, Dan Fogelberg and Motown. Dickeson was (and still is to this day) a Jimi Hendrix disciple, along with artists ranging from Bach to The Alan Parsons Project.

What started out as a one-shot performance in September of 1992 ended up turning into a popular 3-piece acoustic group that played at locations ranging from pastures and local bars, to London, England and Breckenridge, CO. They even played on a cruise ship for several hundred British insurance executives.  They have been the opening act for Little River Band, Brewer & Shipley and Firefall. Along the way the three original members decided a drummer was necessary and since Bob Creager had played with Ballew in their college band they didn’t have to look far. Bob has one of the most elaborate electronic drum kits known to man. Shortly thereafter they decided that swapping bass-playing duties made no sense and Keith Cornelius was brought in on bass and vocals. Keith had one of the most varied and extensive musical backgrounds of anyone in the Midwest and had played in many bands, including the backup band for 60’s singer Bobby Vee. The group recorded their first CD in 1996 and released the second one (“Live and Under Cover”) in 2002. For their 20thAnniversary concert at the Rococo Theatre in Lincoln they released what they consider to be their best live CD with some great arrangements of lesser-known songs like Springsteen’s“Rosalita” and the Allman Brothers’ “Revival”.

In 2009 the band expanded further by adding Ted Larson on saxophone and keyboards. Ted is a well-known and highly respected musician in Lincoln and Omaha music circles and his inclusion expanded and changed the musical direction of the band somewhat. Ted seamlessly worked both keyboards and sax into existing arrangements and made them sparkle and there was new material to be learned. Suddenly the band could play the Doobie Brothers’ “Takin It to the Streets”, “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen and “Smoke From a Distant Fire” by the Sanford Townsend Band. In 2011 they were voted Lincoln’s favorite cover band in a Lincoln Journal Star contest, beating out 63 other groups.

Sadly, Keith Cornelius passed away in 2015. He is missed and thought of often during practices and on stage. One of his signature red jackets hangs in the band’s practice room at Bob Creager’s home. Following Keith’s death, the band re-grouped and was lucky to have Ted’s bandmate in the popular funk band Soul Dawg, Kevin Moore, join The Wheezetones on bass and vocals. Kevin can sing any part, play anything on bass and is adept at arranging new material.

After Reeling in the Years for over a quarter of a century, the band announced in January 2019 it would be scaling down the schedule of regular public performances after their annual NYE celebration with Soul Dawg. They were concerned that a Wheezetone fan might break a hip dancing or one of them might get injured loading equipment. All kidding aside, these guys have had a lot of fun playing the music they love and grew up with. They are and always will be eternally grateful that year after year thousands of people have, and continue to, show up to dance and sing along.

JOHN BALLEW - Guitars & Vocals

Like Paul Burner and Doug Dickeson, John grew up in the Eastridge neighborhood in Lincoln. It was the perfect neighborhood in which to be a kid growing up during the 60s. As it turned out, it was also filled with aspiring musicians and bands which started forming almost the day after the Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Nobody’s Children, The 6-Pac (which included Ballew and Ted Larson), The Burgeguards, The Modds, The Sound Expedition, The Chancellors, Music and many others. Every week there was an endless supply of new songs and sounds on the radio from The Beatles, The Dave Clark 5, The Beach Boys, The Stones, Cream, The Rascals, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, The Temptations, Jimi Hendrix, etc. And thanks to the R&B groups, The Grass Roots, The Flippers, Chicago and Sly and the Family Stone, you could play trumpet or sax and be in a band. It seemed like every week there were new garage bands forming and re-forming. If you weren’t on your toes and getting better on your instrument you could discover you had been kicked out of a band without even knowing it!  

During college John sang and played guitar in a group with Bob Creager called Last Chance. They were regulars once a month at the Royal Grove from 1972-1974. Uriah Heep, Deep Purple and the Allman Brothers Band were big. Those 70’s were some exciting times. And loud. A folkie at heart, during law school he also played acoustic guitar and sang at clubs around Lincoln. 

In 1991 John and his family moved back to Lincoln from Scottsbluff and he transitioned to a new law firm. At that time many artists began reimagining and rearranging their material in an unplugged format which gained great momentum with Eric Clapton’s unplugged version of “Layla”. Following an impromptu acoustic version of “Amie” with Burner and Dickeson at their 20th East High School Reunion the three started practicing and arranging material in an acoustic format. Because he is admittedly a huge Beach Boys fan, vocal harmonies were always important and thanks to some great vocal arrangements by Dickeson and Burner, their voices really clicked. Armed with 11 songs they played at the Lincoln Foundation Gardens on September 25, 1992. The rest, as they say, is history. The band is still Reelin In the Years. 

When not playing in the Wheezetones, John formed a duo with Ed Wyatt called “Acoustic Crossing” playing smaller venues like Wilderness Ridge or the Roca Tavern 

John considers himself very lucky to have been part of this band and the level of musicianship within it. It is greater than the sum of its parts and there is a synergy that occurs between the band and the crowd when they step up to the mics and Creager counts out a tempo.

PAUL BURNER - Guitars & Vocals

Paul’s singing began on top of a coffee table in his parents; living room at the age of 5. He hasn’t stopped singing since. Growing up in the Eastridge neighborhood of Lincoln in the early 60s had him surrounded by a plethora of musical talent. It was in that neighborhood and through his friends that he discovered music like Peter, Paul & Mary, Dave Clark Five, The Association, Sam and Dave, and The Temptations. He learned to play guitar just good enough so he could sing and accompany himself. His older sister’s boyfriend Craig Batten and dear family friend Steve Slaikeu were instrumental in helping Paul learn the basics guitar chords – even the dreaded F bar chord.
 
During his 20s Paul, cut his teeth as a solo act at The Open Latch which led to singing at venues like Boars Head, Reubens, The Apartment Lounge, and many others. During that era Paul loved the music of Dan Fogelberg and he was seen playing a lot of Fmaj7 chords throughout a night’s performance. 
 
“Hey, I booked us for a gig.” As Paul says, “I could not have imagined the pending fun and adventures when I said yes to John Ballew back in 1992. Being able to continue to sing, and do it with great friends, has been one of the greatest joys of my life (setlist arguments aside). I am honored to share the stage with some great guys and play some of the best music ever written.”
 
Bands include: The Good Gnus (1976), Fragile (1976-1978), BD Roads (1982-1983), The Wheezetones (1992 to present).
 

Paul has been married to his best friend Debbie since 1980 and loves the retirement life with her. He plans to spend time continuing to building custom acoustic guitars with his son Kyle in Lincoln (burnerguitars.com), visiting his daughter Jamie and her family in Missouri as often as possible, and scuba diving as long as life allows.

DOUG DICKESON - Guitars & Vocals

Doug’s interest in music started at a very young age, listening to Classical and Jazz music on his parent’s hi-fi. He’d sit there for hours, enthralled in Tchaikovsky, Dave Brubeck, and others. At night, he’d dream that he’d grow up to be a famous concert violinist. Then, on a cold night in February  1964, Doug’s interest in music styles took a sharp turn, as did about a million other boys his age. He begged and pleaded his parents for guitar lessons, and they finally gave in. Doug started learning guitar in 1965 along with a lot of his friends at Keith Frank’s Guitar Studios, and after about a year and a half of being taught some old country western songs, he quit lessons and began to teach himself, as did many others.

Several neighborhood combos ensued, but one of them started to develop enough skill to actually play gigs and make some money. In 1969, that combo, “The Sound Expedition”, was featured on national television and that pretty well made up Doug’s mind that this guitar thing was worth the effort.

Several bands followed, along with a career in recording. At one point, he was a full time musician, playing in a travelling band and teaching guitar. Eventually Doug found that being involved with technology was a more stable livelihood, but he never stopped playing guitar, always in one band or another. Most of these bands would last about five years.

Doug got married in 1984, and along with his lovely wife Linda, became involved with a band that was very popular in the 80’s called “Sirius”. As Sirius began to wind down, Doug and Linda formed a MIDI duo called “Double Take”, and shortly after that group started playing, Doug met up with his two old grade school buddies Paul Burner and John Ballew. They formed another group called “Johnny and The Wheeze-tones”, fully expecting to play just one gig.

Over thirty years later, The Wheezetones are still going strong, having added and lost members along the way. It’s a joy for Doug to stand alongside friends that he’s known for over fifty years, singing some great Classic Rock.

The entire list of bands that Doug has performed with runs at about forty, but here’s a truncated list of the former ones: The Sound Expedition, DDT, Randy, Rachael & Doug, Foot Mustard, Ta-Da!!, Get High, The Sweet Potato Band, The Hiballs, The Sidetrack Band, Daddy Warbucks, Scanner, Sirius, and Double Take.

Current bands include: Doug & Jon, The Pinkertones, Creation Praise Band, The Gears, and The Wheezetones.

Doug has retired from the technology field, and is happily employed as a full time musician again.

BOB CREAGER - Drums & Percussion

Bob Creager took his first drum lesson in the seventh grade in Lexington, MA. Inspired by the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show , Bob and three of his friends’ donned wigs and with broomsticks for guitars and wash tubs for drums they lip synched to “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on stage at a school assembly. He was hooked.

Growing up around Boston, and the “dirty Charles River”, everyone was in some garage band. At that time, Tommy James and the Shondells and the Kingsmen were local garage bands that made it big. So, Bob purchased real drums – a 1965 silver sparkle Gretsch kit- and formed a band. However, the band was short lived. Bob moved to Lincoln Nebraska before the band had a name.

Bob wound up at East High School where he joined up with some other “transplants” from Texas and Georgia and formed a band first named Proscenium. That band later became The 25th Hour, which then morphed into Last Chance. In the late 60’s early 70’s, Last Chance was popular in the University of Nebraska music scene, and the local bars including the Royal Grove. Last Chance included current bandmate John Ballew. That band continued until Bob went to law school in 1974.

From 1974 until running into the Johnnie and Wheezetones circa 1993 doing a local three-man vocal act, Bob had his 1965 silver sparkle Gretsch drum set in storage. However, it sparked the old flame. Bob would be a regular at the Wheezetones’ shows. He first joined the band by playing “drums” with swizzle sticks on bar glasses to whatever song the band was playing. One time at the Spaghetti Works, Paul had congas on the stage for fun. Bob could not resist. He hopped up on stage and became the conga player.

Bob’s first official gig with the Wheezetones is a distant memory. But he reminds the band that he went to the wrong bar and showed up just as the band started the first set. But he only had two congas to set up and he was ready to go in no time.

Bob moved from the congas to an early version of Roland V-drums with little rubber pads. Quiet drumming was the key to keeping the band from being too loud. But eventually Bob converted his 1965 silver sparkle Gretsch acoustic set to an electronic Roland kit. Although they look like acoustic drums they are all digital sounds that can be turned up or down no matter how hard Bob hits the skins. When asked if he is the drummer in the band, he says with a smile, no I am just the midi note activator.

Playing songs from the seventies, in his seventies, is something Bob never saw coming at that first drum lesson.

TED LARSON - Keyboards & Sax

Ted Larson comes from a very musical family, thanks to his mother.  Taking piano lessons was pretty much an expectation for Ted and his brother and sister – and piano lesson began about the same time as kindergarten.

Ted’s first experience with a rock band came when he was around 14 years of age.   At the time, being in a “garage band” was pretty common, and Ted was asked to play organ in a band that some of the guys at his school were putting together.   One of those guys was John Ballew.  The band’s first gig was a kids Halloween party.  The band was paid with one dozen donuts. 

Ted’s sax playing began during his high school years.  This put Ted’s music on a different path – as a saxophonist.  Ted has never had a sax lesson, but was – and still is – heavily influenced by funk sax players and bands such as Lenny Pickett, Tom Scott, Michael Brecker, Maceo Parker, Earth, Wind and Fire, Tower of Power, and of course, James Brown.  The keyboard was put on the back burner until the 1980’s, when Ted picked it up again to play keys in Finest Hour.

As a sax player Ted has had opportunities to work with Brandford Marsalis, The Russ Morgan Orchestra, The Al Pierson Orchestra,  Lawrence Welk Orchestra, Red Skelton, Liberace, Jay McShann, Nebraska Jazz Orchestra, Bobby Layne, Lincoln Municipal Band, and The Dennis Wesley Orchestra. He has also done studio work playing on TV and radio commercials. 

Although Ted played sax with The Wheezetones on several occasions, he felt honored when he was asked to officially join the band and play with some great friends from high school.  Bands that Ted has played with include:  The Tyrants, which eventually became The 6-Pac, The Collections, The Chancellors, Doctor Feelgood, Steele Avenue, Skyliner, Timberwolf, Pinky Black and the Excessives, Bossphilly, Nebraska Jazz Orchestra, Third World, Fabtones Big Band, Tunafish Jones, Finest Hour, Orion, One More Time, Shur Thing, Mr. Peabody, Version 3, Creation Praise Band, Larson Brothers Band, and Soul Dawg.  Ted and brother Tom at one point had a wedding band they called The Larson Brothers – later, Shirley’s Boys – named for the person responsible for their musical beginnings.

Today you can find Ted living on his small farm near Martell, with assorted animals and musical instruments.

KEVIN MOORE - Bass & Vocals

A life long Lincolnite, Kevin Scott Moore started guitar lessons at the age of 8 at Franks Guitar studio. After three years, he put the guitar away only to bring it back out at age 13 out of boredom while living in a apartment while the new family home was being built.

In 1971 while on a trip to California he and his family had the chance to see Up With People perform in San Francisco and told his dad that he had interest in the Bass guitar after the show. Within weeks his father showed up the a Bass and Amp and told him to figure it out.

Kevin has been playing Bass ever since, and that silly wooden instrument with 4 strings has taken him over the United States and Europe.

Some local bands and touring bands include: Starbird, Fragile, BD Roads, Keystone, Finest Hour, Pud Brothers, Mr. Peabody, Version 3, Soul Dawg, The Wheezetones, The Gears.

Traveled and played Bass in the international tour of Up With People.

These days, along with playing in three bands, he spends time in his studio writing, playing, singing and mastering music. With 2 albums, (The Orion Project, and TWO) that is currently released on most streaming services and sold on iTunes.He is now in the middle of writing and recording his third unnamed project. As well as recording and producing other artists along the way.