By Andrea Hall, Express Correspondent
What started as steel guitar lessons at the age of 8, later turned into a love of music and lifelong friendships for Monticello resident Steve Koob.
Most may know Koob as the owner of Koob Automotive & Towing Inc. in Monticello. What many may not know is how music changed his life forever.
Koob first picked up a steel guitar in 1958 while taking lessons at Keeney’s Guitar Studio in downtown Monticello when he was 8 years old. After about four years of lessons, Keeney’s Guitar Studio closed its doors, and Koob temporarily put down his steel guitar.
With the help of family friend and neighbor Dayton Yousse, Koob’s musical interest was rekindled. It was from Yousse’s guidance that Koob discovered his own natural talent – playing by ear.
From then on, Koob put down the sheet music and learned to play by listening to a record over and over.
Throughout time, Koob would continue to learn music by ear but also by playing alongside other musicians. Each musician had his or her own style that Koob said helped develop his own musical style.
“As you learn, it’s easier to learn more,” said Koob.
From 1962 to 1964, Koob played in his first band, appropriately titled “The Little Band.” The band was comprised of brothers Terry and Dennis Chapman, Marty Miller and Koob, all ranging from 9 to 13 years old.
Their most memorable moments were playing during intermission for Dale Chapman and The Country Ramblers, a well-known band at the time. They performed country western music at ballrooms throughout the area including Hopkinton, Prairieburg and Balltown.
At the age of 16, Koob joined the band “Dave Kramer and the Western Kings” until he graduated from high school in 1968. The country western band also performed at various dance halls and ballrooms in the area, including an occasional honky-tonk bar and anniversary party.
A little later in life, Koob expanded his musical repertoire while stationed overseas in the United States Navy. In 1972, he had the opportunity to play in a small band and to learn how to play the five-string banjo and the lead guitar.
Koob played with the band at the club on the base until his shore duty changed to ship duty in July of 1972, and he was sent out to sea.
While traveling the seas from Singapore to Turkey in less than two years, Koob passed the time by playing his banjo. “You couldn’t travel with a lot, but I had my banjo,” said Koob.
After completing his four-year term in the Navy, Koob returned back home to finish his business administration degree at North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City.
It didn’t take long before Koob was playing with a band in college from 1975 to 1976. As times changed, so did the music. The band entertained on the weekends and played top-40 country music along with ’50s and ’60s rock and roll.
After his college graduation in 1976, Koob and his wife Madonna moved to Fond du Lac, Wis. It was there that Koob had the chance to travel and play throughout the Midwest with a band named “Radio Flyer.”
Riding on their own tour bus, Radio Flyer played for one to two weeks at a time at various venues from Minnesota to Nebraska to Texas.
For Koob, it was a full-time job. The band’s earnings paid for hotel rooms and promotions, and the rest was just enough for the band members to live off of.
While 1976 was an enjoyable and unforgettable year for Koob, he left the band at the end of the year to help raise his first child. “It was a hard thing to do,” said Koob who wanted a stable environment for his young family.
Koob and his wife moved back to Monticello in 1977, where he continued his love of music. For a couple of years, he played with various local bands, including his first experience with jazz music.
Koob joined his last band in 1980 – a well-known local band that can still be heard playing in the area – Southern Comfort. “I spent as much time with those guys as I did my family,” said Koob.
He played with Southern Comfort until 1986, when he took over the family business. Between owning his own business and playing in a band, Koob said he was running out of time in the day. “It just wasn’t fun anymore,” he said.
After leaving the band, Koob continued to play music with friends throughout the year, including Sheree Doyle and Dennis Chapman, who both joined Southern Comfort shortly after he did.
He also continues to play with Miller, with whom he got his start in The Little Band, Kent Moore, and the late Mike Benedict, until he passed away last year.
If he had the chance, Koob said he would do it all over again. He met people who changed his life and his outlook on life.
“It’s a big world out there,” he said. “I learned things are different, but different isn’t wrong.”
PHOTO: Steve Koob (far left) traveled the Midwest on a tour bus for a year with county and bluegrass band Radio Flyer. Lying on the ground is Les Como. Standing from left are Koob, Brian “Smoky” Christiansen, Bob “Sleeper,” Chuck Boyd and Beezer Ferguson. (Photo submitted)