The miles that separate nine band members of a rock band that emerged from Carroll in 1973 became fewer when they each traveled from across the country and arrived in Crivitz, Wisconsin to play one last gig with Peace with Grease.
“This is like my big quest one last time to put the band back together,” said Bob Berndt ’75, who recently retired from an education career after 44 years—as both a teacher and administrator—and immediately imagined and organized an outdoor concert in Crivitz. It’s here where he taught music for 28 years and hopes to raise money toward a band shell for the community.
The fundraiser is just one goal. The other is just to get together to play another night of rock and roll. So when he called, his fellow Pioneers and lifelong friends came, traveling from around Wisconsin as well as coming from Florida, Arizona, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Minnesota with one day to practice together and perform.
“If we’re part of helping out the community, it’s always a great thing,” said band member Jim Toth ’75. “Realistically our main goal is to have a really good time together.”
Toth graduated from Carroll with bachelor’s degree in art education and communication. He taught art in the South Milwaukee School District for 20 years before changing careers to become the director of exhibits for the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum for 16 years. He retired and now lives on the south side of Milwaukee, doing his own art sculpting and singing with a community choir, and working with an art education group.
Joining Bob and Jim on stage on August 3 in Crivitz will be Randy Fischer '75, John Giliberti '76, Lance Koehler '75, Gary Marquardt '73, Barry Sang '74, and Tim York '76—as they play favorite hits from the '50s and '60s. The free concert at Crivitz Community Veterans Park goes from 3:30–11:30 p.m. and will feature four bands. Peace with Grease takes the stage at 6 p.m.
“We got so close in the time we were playing as a professional group and we spent so much time together that it’s now the kind of thing that even though we don’t stay in close touch with each other over the years or get together very much at all, when we do, it immediately clicks back in place,” Toth said. “That bond is strong. It carries through without any sense of time.”
The band has gotten the word out and expect a flood of Pioneers to join them for the party.
“I think we were so proud to be coming from Carroll and we always let our fans know that,” Berndt said. “And the student body there at the time was so behind us and backing us. And still when we play, I know for a fact all the motel units up here in the area are booked. We let people know Peace with Grease is playing again. It’s like a natural bond between the kids that were there and the band. It was the thing for those years that was so great.”
Berndt came up with the idea for the 2019 reunion back in November of 2018. He sent the set list to his pals in late December and started talking about scheduling. He had plans to retire on June 30, 2019 and wasn’t going to sit idle for long. It was time to gather the band.
“Everybody is coming. It’s going to be quite the event. We’re happy we’re still all alive,” he said.
They always kick off each show with “Rock and Roll is Here to Stay” by Danny and the Juniors. Said Berndt, “It puts it all together. It’s here to stay. It gives that message.”
Back in its Carroll day, Peace with Grease developed a following at the school. It wasn’t necessarily members’ intention to take their show on the road. They just wanted to learn a few songs, play a school show, and be done. But they would go on with enough popularity to gain an agent and pick up gigs at numerous venues across southeast Wisconsin. During the school year, they were playing out two to three times per week. When the summers hit, they were performing up to six nights a week, Berndt said.
“The Carroll experience was unbelievable,” Berndt recalled. “In high school, I was very shy. Being a music major (at Carroll) and composing so many different genres of music just opened up a whole new world. It’s carried through in my life so that it’s become my passion.”
Peace with Grease played regularly until disbanding in 1977 but have had several reunions since then, including a performance at Carroll’s 2005 Homecoming weekend. Their last time together was a bar gig outside of Milwaukee in 2013.
“The most memorable or best part of performing is we still consider ourselves brothers and there’s nothing stronger than music and friendship,” Berndt said. “So, I think the music pulls us all together. Our life would be so different if we didn’t have music. With music and brotherhood, I think those memories and performances will live on forever.”