A Look Back At A Life In Music With Billy Peiffer Of Lynn Allen
Lynn Allen will perform a special reunion gig at 5 p.m. Saturday at Kavanaugh’s Hilltop, 1228 30th St., Rock Island. The following article is from an interview I did with the band in 2016 when they were inducted into the Iowa Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
It’s midnight somewhere on a Wednesday night in a near-empty downtown Rock Island bar and Billy Peiffer is celebrating the induction of Lynn Allen into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, having a beer and attempting to talk Spanish to the bartender.
“Was that right, was that even close?” he says, as she shrugs and nods. He laughs heartily. “Don’t worry, I’ll keep tryin’, I’ll get it right eventually!”
That attitude of dogged perseverance and good humor has been the engine that’s driven the Quad-Cities band since its inception in 1982. The group – then consisting of Peiffer on guitar and vocals, Bob Boyd on drums, Tim Compton on guitar, Tim Murphy on bass and Dale Fisher on keyboards – was born in the heyday of vinyl records, aqua net fueled hair and enough spandex to clothe a nation of Jane Fonda impersonators, and through five presidents, countless musical trends and many band members, Peiffer and his group has soldiered on, playing and producing hits year after year.
This weekend that success will be duly recognized and rewarded as the band is inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Peiffer says, candidly, that he wasn’t even aware the band had been previously nominated “four or five times” but was finally aware when he was notified last October they’d gotten in.
“I love it!” Peiffer, 54, says with characteristic zeal. “It’s the coolest thing in the world to me. For 35 years we’ve been doing this and it’s a big deal to us. Anytime anyone wants to honor me with anything I’ll accept it, especially when they’re going to honor you for your life’s work.
“Really, there are other people who are lot more deserving of an award – school teachers, firemen, honest politicians, people like that, and really this award is shared with the people of the Illinois and Iowa Quad-Cities, because without them, we never would’ve lasted this long,” Peiffer said. “But still, it’s pretty cool, and we’ll take it!”
The members who will accompany Peiffer into the hall, during the Labor Day ceremony at the venue in Arnold’s Park, Iowa, include original members Compton, Boyd and Murphy as well as later members John Williamson, Mark DeKalb and Kevin Sampson. Longevity and accomplishment within the group were the determining factors on which of the more than 30 members over the decades would be in, Peiffer said.
As for why he thinks the band’s music has endured?
“I’ve just always tried to write catchy songs that people like,” Peiffer said. “I want people to be able to put the windows down in the summer and crank the radio up and enjoy it.”
One of Peiffer’s most indelible memories from a musical life of them was hearing a song of his on the radio for the first time.
“It was ‘Leave Me Alone’ on 97X in 1982, and it was just like, ‘we made it,’ we couldn’t believe it,” he said. “Then our stuff started getting played on stations across the state and the country and then before you knew it somebody in Texas knew somebody in London and we were going over there and that was just the coolest thing.”
That led into the band’s ‘80s heyday, which was followed by membership changes and declining interests as the ‘90s slumped on, until Peiffer announced the band was going to be retiring around 2000. “And then all of the sudden, everyone started coming out to see us again,” he said, “and they all remembered how fun it was, and we remembered how fun it was, and we’ve been going ever since.”
The band continues to gig around the area and just released its 10th album, “Streetlight,” on AOR Boulevard Records, in 2015. There are no plans on “retiring” again, Peiffer said.
“Nah, it’s weird to look back on it, on your career, at one point I wanted fame and fortune, but then you just want to have fun and do what you enjoy and have people like it,” Peiffer said, before adding with a laugh, “and then if enough people like it for long enough, they put you in the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I guess!”
Listen to my conversation with Billy on Episode 110 of my podcast QCUncut Here.