Highland News Leader

Original line-up from staple 1970’s cover band reunite for benefit concert

The original lineup of the band EFFIC. Front row from left to right is guitarist and vocalist Dave Zobrist, lead vocalist Michael Kleinhoffer, drummer and vocalist John Kleinhoffer, and bass guitarist and vocalist Gary Gnaedinger. Back row is guitarist, keyboardist and  vocalist Steve Kannall, guitarist and vocalist Dan Scott, and audio engineer Greg Lee.
The original lineup of the band EFFIC. Front row from left to right is guitarist and vocalist Dave Zobrist, lead vocalist Michael Kleinhoffer, drummer and vocalist John Kleinhoffer, and bass guitarist and vocalist Gary Gnaedinger. Back row is guitarist, keyboardist and vocalist Steve Kannall, guitarist and vocalist Dan Scott, and audio engineer Greg Lee. mbraa@bnd.com

When the founding members of the Highland-born band EFFIC get together its all about the music. Scarcely a word is said as the players seamlessly switch between rehearsal songs.

“Let’s go with Cinnamon Girl,” said lead vocalist Michael Kleinhoffer, and a new beat is picked up.

The band’s dynamic chemistry is felt almost as electricity in the air when the basement fills with the loud — but flawless — sound of musicians who have played together for almost half a century.

Inspired by Woodstock, the original band members, Kleinhoffer, his brother John Kleinhoffer, Gary Gnaedinger, Dan Scott and Dave Zobrist, formed EFFIC in 1970 while they were in high school.

The budding instrumentalists never had any professional training, and only Scott knew how to read music. This was not a time where music could be learned with a simple click to YouTube. But luckily for them, they were growing up in one of the greatest decades of rock n’ roll.

“We were lucky to grow up in a time where this music was coming out in the 70’s,” Gnaedinger said.

And to learn the music, passion was all they would need.

“We learned everything by ear,” Zobrist said.

The band spent many hours sitting around the record player listening to vinyls, and skipping the needle back just to make out any missed notes or decipher mumbled lyrics.

The first tune they successfully played all the way through without mistakes, was Grand Funk Railroad’s “Are You Ready.” A year later, the band had its first true money-paying gig at a sock hop at St. Paul High School in Highland. They were paid a going rate of $35.

“Rolling Stones eat your heart out,” Kleinhoffer said.

The players converted an old chicken coup on the Gnaedinger’s parent’s property into a rehearsal studio — “An honest to goodness chicken coup,” Kleinhoffer said.

The band played with a certain degree of intensity and musical integrity. One mistake made was always one too many.

Scott, and Zobrist shredded guitar, Gnaedinger plugged the bass, and John Kleinhoffer picked up the drums. Each band member sang a part in the group’s complicated three- or four-part harmonies, while Michael Kleinhoffer pulled it all together, with his smooth-as-butter lead vocals.

Before long, every night 20 to 30 cars packed with groupies lined the Gnaedinger lawn. The eager passengers packed into the studio to hear EFFIC cue up their set lists again, and again.

“This is the hardest working group of musicians in Highland,” Gnaedinger said.

As word of their talent spread, the young cover band was launched into a 10-year touring career. During this time, the drinking age in Illinois was still 19, while just across the river it was raised to 21. He said young hooligans flocked to the booming night scene in the metro-east in search of a good time.

EFFIC gigs naturally progressed from prom and football games to playing in just about every city, club and college within a 150 mile radius of Highland, sometimes five nights a week.

“You saw people going somewhere, people going nowhere and a lot of people in the middle trying to figure it out,” Zobrist said.

For the band members, there was never any monkey business in music. Before and during each show they were straight as an arrow. A $65,000 personal loan helped the young musicians buy professional grade lighting and musical equipment, and a military-like discipline was needed for every three-hour setup and sound check.

“We looked like a band you would see at the Kiel Auditorium. Our set up was so sophisticated,” Kleinhoffer said.

More often than not, the band members spent the night sleeping atop their equipment on the 3 a.m. van ride home. Even more often than not, they missed first period on the next school day. It was their business. But exhaustion could not stop them. Music was the passion that kept them going back for more.

To hold off the competition, the guys were always looking to learn the next hit that was topping the charts, and they had to do it before anyone else.

“Mike was the best at getting the album as soon as it came out,” Gnaedinger said.

Besides learning the tunes, the band players said there was a secret to drawing the crowd. The songs they played had to make the girls dance, but was still rocking enough to draw in the boys.

The goal was to be efficacious—the word for which the band was named— which meant that when they took the stage everybody in the crowd was somebody, and nothing but the music mattered.

“Everybody was cool. Everybody was rocking and rolling,” Kleinhoffer said.

The score of life eventually brought many of the band members to part ways.

In the summer of 1976, the band gained Steve Kannall as a keyboard, guitarist and vocalist, and Greg Lee became their audio engineer, after Zobrist decided to return to college. The following year, Gnaediner and Scott also sought higher education.

The Kleinhoffer brothers and Kannall would continue on in what is known as the “second” EFFIC. They toured until 1980. At the end of their touring career the band knew more than 200 songs.

EFFIC still went on to make music, even after they were off the road.

The group gained Jeff Taylor as a keyboard and vocalist and worked to compose its own distinctive brand of rock n’ roll in Southern Illinois. They have released two original albums. “Don’t Pinch Me, I’m Dreaming,” came out in 2009 and “The Scenic Route” was produced in 2013.

Every so often the band has come together a handful of times to play special gigs for a charitable cause. But the original band lineup has not reunited since Kirchenfest in 2009.

Until now. On Sept. 2, the original EFFIC will perform a three-hour set at the Madison County Expo Hall to benefit.

Jeff Taylor will also join the lineup and the band’s original audio engineer Jimmy Scott will be in attendance. They will play their classic cover-style set filled with 1970’s rock hits from such artists as The Doobie Brothers, Elton John, Bad Company, ELO, Steely Dan, Paul McCartney, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Moody Blues, Eagles and many others.

All proceeds from the event will go toward the all-abilities playground project at Dennis H. Rinderer Park in Highland.

The event is sponsored by the Helvetia Sharphooters, Highland Optimist Club, Highland Jaycees, Highland Moose Lodge, Highland Chamber of Commerce, The Highland Civic Women’s Club, The Korte Company and WDLJ on 97.5 The Rock..

General admission is $15. There is also a special tailgate package for $50 that allows concertgoers 4:30 p.m. admission time, a barbeque dinner, a limited edition commemorative t-shirt and full-color poster, as well as a chance to meet the band.

Tickets are available online, at the Korte Recreation Center or at the office of Dr. John Kleinhoffer Family Eye Care in Highland.

In preparation, the original band members have come together from all over the nation on multiple occasions to rehearse for the event. The band’s last formal, and in-person rehearsal was over the weekend of Aug. 3 to 5. They said playing together is just like riding a bicycle.

“We’re all a little dusty, a little rusty. But it all comes back,” Kleinhoffer said.

For the young whippersnappers looking to get a taste at what the sound was like in the pinnacle days of classic rock, the band says this is the show for you.

“We’re older than Justin Timberlake, but we are younger than Paul McCartney,” Gnaedinger said.

For the baby boomers of the metro-east, and the band’s original fans, the band said it will be like stepping through a time-warp to the days when it was all about the music and the dancing never stopped. The guys say step right in, they are excited to see you.

“It’s like drinking a Dixie Cup full of the Fountain of Youth,” Kleinhoffer said.