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Mike Terry, Deseret News
The Sawmill River Band performs at the Orem Senior Friendship Center. The six-piece band specializes in oldies and country music for young and old.

OREM — The dance bands that play in Utah County don't do it for coins, although the money helps, especially given road expenses.

But it's the love of performing and the satisfaction that comes from entertaining people that keeps groups like the Sawmill River Band, the Dennis Miner Quartet and one-man bands like Walt Gregory and Randy Evans making music.

"Music is who I am," said Gregory. "You can't buy the fulfillment you get from something like this, bringing light into darkened lives."

"If we had to support a family on what we earn playing for dances, we couldn't do it," said Dahl Farnsworth, who sings and plays rhythm guitar in the Sawmill River Band. "It's a hobby. We love to do it. We'll always do it."

Said Dennis Miner, "If it wasn't fun, I wouldn't do it. It's not for the money."

Randy Evans has another reason. "I have Parkinson's disease, so I bought a keyboard to keep my fingers moving. I'm having a good time."

Evans builds layers of music on top of one another so that when he goes to a gig, he can simply add the piano and his voice to what sounds like a full band.

Gregory does a similar thing.

"I do just about everything, every type of music. I've been in the music business for 33 years, spent some years touring with Donny and Marie (Osmond) around the world, done the one-man band thing for the past 17 years. It's easier," he said.

"People ask me if I'm a DJ. I'm a one-man band. I'm a trumpet DJ, a guitar DJ, a song DJ."

Gregory plays all over Utah County and throughout the state at weddings, parties, special events and regular venues like the Orem Senior Friendship Center and the Murray Arts Center.

So do the Sawmill River Band, the Dennis Miner Quartet, Tony Summerhays, Joe Muscolino and Randy Evans.

"In a one-man band, you only have one personality to deal with," said Evans.

Evans has 240 songs ready to go at any given time but he likes country-western music best.

All of the bands have repertoires that include waltzes, rock 'n' roll, polkas and western music.

"Our most requested song is probably "Ghost Riders in the Sky," said Farnsworth. "We also get asked for some of the old rock 'n' roll like "Johnny Be Good."

"People really like the classic rock 'n' roll," said Gregory.

Gregory fell in love with music as a child as he sat and watched his dad direct the Utah Symphony Orchestra.

Farnsworth of Payson and Ed Carter started playing together and gathering musical equipment. Today they have a six-member band that plays all over Utah and Wyoming.

Miner retired last month from Brigham Young University's materials management department and is replacing himself so he and his wife can serve an LDS mission.

"We call ourselves DMQ, so it can stand for Dennis Miner Quartet or Quintet," said Miner. "We're self-contained. All of our members do more than one thing. I don't like them to play just one instrument."

Evans prides himself on being able to do songs from a variety of artists like Neil Diamond and Marie Osmond. He started in high school, played in college and stayed with it.

All of the bands enjoy playing and are a little concerned that Orem is cutting back from weekly dances to once-a-month events. That's a big loss for them.

Lindsey Reinarz, recreation program director for Orem, said the dances draw fairly good crowds and she doesn't expect a change in schedule.

"We won't know until the end of June," Reinarz said. "Right now, our dances are in a trial period. If the numbers do well, we'll continue. If the numbers dwindle, then we may cut back, but I would guess they would stick to once a week."

"It's hard to find places to play," said Farnsworth. "Everybody likes the karaoke stuff. I like the live bands."


E-mail: haddoc@desnews.com