GREAT PLAINS HISTORY: As remembered by me (Jack Sundrud)

Great Plains began forming in '87 or '88, when myself, Russ Pahl and Michael Young (along with John Mattick on keyboards) were all working as Michael Johnson's backing band. At that time, Brent Maher was producing Michael Johnson. Brent was looking around for a band to produce, and he liked the sound of Michael's band. I was playing bass at the time and obviously not singing any lead vocals with Michael's band, so Brent asked Austin Cunningham to join us in the studio to do some experimentation. We recorded a few tracks, mostly Austin's songs, with Austin on lead vocals. It was Austin - acoustic guitar/lead vocals, Me - bass/vocals, Russ Pahl - lead guitar/steel guitar/vocals and Michael Young - drums. After recording a few sessions, Austin decided that he wanted to pursue a solo career. I played some of my songs for Brent and his daughter Dianna (she ran and still runs Brent's publishing company, Moraine Music). They liked the songs and signed me to their publishing company as a writer. We then recorded some more tracks, doing some of my material and with me on lead vocals.

We showcased for RCA, and they passed. It was around this time that we decided to get a regular bassist in the band and move me to acoustic guitar/lead vocals. I'm fuzzy on dates, but it must've been '89 by the time we got Denny Bixby to join the band on bass and vocals. I met Denny when he was recording with Wild Choir, Gail Davies band. My first road gig in Nashville in '82 was with Gail's band.The recording of the first record was slow and piece-meal since we all had other gigs and needed income. Russ was working with Don Williams, Denny with Wild Choir and Gail Davies, and Michael had a growing custom-car building business. We worked when we could through '89. Then in early '90, I was asked to join Poco for the Legacy tour, which started with the original band (Rusty Young, Jim Messina, Randy Meisner, Richie Furay, George Grantham). Richie had left the band (again) after the first 3 weeks of the tour. I did the tour, which put off the finishing of the Great Plains project by a year. In '91, we finished the record, showcased for Sony/Columbia and got a record deal. I don't recall the release date of the CD, but it was sometime in '91. The CD was produced by Brent Maher and Don Potter, assisted by Brian Maher. The first single, "A Picture of You" did respectably well, reaching, I think 48 on the charts. "Faster Gun" (both of these songs were written by myself and Gary Burr) did better. It got to 25 on the charts. A bonified minor-hit! Also, both of these had videos. The 3rd single, "Iola" (written by myself, Sue Braswell {my wife} and Keith Miles) again languished in the 40s for a bit and died a miserable death. We were managed by Bob Doyle and Pam Lewis, who were behind much of Garth Brooks' success, but we just couldn't make it happen.

After the first record went nowhere, Russ Pahl and Michael Young left the band. They needed to make a living. Denny and I, using studio musicians to round out the band, recorded most of a second album, but during the time we were working on it, Sony had a changing of the guard and we lost our allies at the label. They dropped us in, I think '93.

It was around this time that Brent Maher became involved with what would become Magnatone Records. It was an independent label funded by Roy Speer, who founded the Home Shopping Network. Other artists included; Shelby Lynne, Billy Montana, Rich McReady, Caryl Mack Parker.

Denny and I decided to make Great Plains a band again and brought multi-instrumentalist/singer Lex Browning on board. We scrapped what we had been working on and started over, with Brent Maher and Don Potter producing again. The result was '96s "Homeland". We released 3 singles from that CD, all of which died in the 40s. "Dancin' With The Wind" (written by myself and Craig Bickhardt), "Healin' Hands" (written by myself and Chuck Cannon) and "Wolverton Mountain", the old standard written by Claude King and Merle Killgore. There were videos produced on all three singles. By the time all of this played itself out, it was '96, I believe. Brent left Magnatone around then, and the label had a major shake-up. We tried something different and recorded a couple of songs with my old friend, producer Michael Clute (Diamond Rio). Magnatone released a single, "There's More Where That Came From", (written by myself and Tia Sillers) and dropped us the day after the single was released. We played some priorly committed dates for a few months and disbanded in '96.

I'm remain very proud and grateful for my time with Great Plains, how we sounded, the people I worked with and the successes we had. We had a shot, we gave it our all and we had a few moments in the spotlight. I couldn't ask for more..