Mike Glieden and the Rhythm Kings

Early rock band from Arlington, Minnesota





Donald Michael Glieden (pronounced Gleeden) was born on June 20, 1940 in Marshall, Minnesota and grew up in Arlington, Minnesota, a small town located southwest of the Twin Cities. Starting in the fifth grade, he played horns in various school bands, all the way up to graduation in 1958.  During his senior year, while spending some time at his sister’s place in Bellflower California, he witnessed a friend of his sister’s playing a guitar and headed to Los Angeles where he found a pawn shop and traded in his trumpet for a flat-top guitar.

The first rock band he saw play live was Mike Waggoner and the Bops, who played a job at the Arlington Community Hall. Mike also became a fan of Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly and many other early rock-n rollers.

Right after high school, Mike put together his first band, called The Rhythm Kings with Mike on guitar and vocals, Don Bembeneck on guitar and vocals and Stuart Perry on drums. Mike now played a Gibson electric guitar run through a Magnatone Amp.  After five or six rehearsals, held in the garage of Mike’s brother, the trio got their very first job thanks to his wife’s cousin, who owned a 3.2 beer joint in Arlington called Burt’s Bar. For their first job, each member received five dollars and all the beer they could drink (although all three were under the legal drinking age of 21). The band continued to play at bars in Arlington and the surrounding area.  They eventually added a bass player to the lineup, Gary Bonderson from St. Peter, Minnesota. The band wore a variety of matching outfits when they played live.

Now a four-piece band, in 1960, they decided to record a 45 at Kay Bank Studio in Minneapolis and paid for the session themselves.  On the A-side was an original song called “Baby, You Don’t Care” written by Mike with Mike doing the lead vocals and on the B-side was an instrumental called “The Bash” perhaps a nod to the A-side of the first Mike Waggoner and the Bops 45 called “Basher #5” an instrumental written by Mike’s brother Collie. The 45 was released on the Soma label, the largest and most powerful record label in town at that time. The record label had Mike’s last name spelled as “Gliden.” The record did receive some airplay in the Southern Minnesota market area including Saint Peter and Hutchinson. Somewhere between 500 and 800 45’s were pressed and the band would sell them at gigs for a dollar each.

With a record out, the band began playing jobs in the Twin Cities area, now booked by Jimmy Thomas out of Luverne, Minnesota. Jimmy also owned the Showboat Ballroom in Lake Benton, located north of Luverne. Their early jobs in the cities included Reggie’s Danceland in Excelsior and the Bloomington Roller Rink – both jobs featured appearances by WDGY DJ, Bill Diehl, who would promote the band and his radio station and typically give away free records to members of the audience.  On one occasion at the roller rink, they played with Mike Waggoner and the Bops. The band also performed at the highly popular teen dance club on Lake Street in Minneapolis, Mr. Lucky’s.

In 1962, an opportunity came up through Jimmy Thomas, as Jimmy was booking a three to four month tour for Buddy Knox, a well-known recording artist who had scored his first national hit in 1957 with “Party Doll.”  Buddy was in need of a backup band, so Jimmy offered the job to Mike and his band. Three of the members agreed, with Don turning down the offer as he was in training to become a pilot. Buddy practiced for a few short hours with his new backup band at the Showboat Ballroom. After their brief rehearsal, Buddy and company hit the road, driving in a station wagon pulling a trailer with the band’s equipment. The band worked most every night of the week, sometimes having a Sunday off. Also in the backup band was Bobby Keys, a sax player, from Lubbock, Texas. Keys would later go on to be the sax man for the Rolling Stones and a number of other famous music acts.

While traveling, the driving duties were divided between Buddy, Mike and Gary, as Buddy didn’t really have too much faith in the driving skills of the other two, mainly because they were the youngest members of the group.  The tour consisted of playing at ballrooms, armories, and night clubs, first in the Western area of Canada and then throughout different areas of the United States, starting in Washington.

Once the tour with Buddy Knox concluded, the Rhythm Kings lineup went through changes. By 1963, the group consisted of Mike on guitar and vocals, Pat Riley on bass guitar, Steve Mauer on drums, and Larry Hofmann on tenor sax and rhythm guitar.

In 1963, the new lineup was back at Kay Bank to record a second 45. On the A-side was a cover of the Coasters song “Poison Ivy” and on the B-side was an original tune written by Riley and Hofmann called “24 Hours.” This 45 was released on the Bangar label, a label owned by local producer George Garrett who was having success with records by local bands. Garrett also owned a record store called “Nic-O-Lake Records” at Nicollet and Lake Street in Minneapolis. The store had a small and primitive recording studio in the basement. Bill Diehl used a clip from “Poison Ivy” for radio spots on WDGY that promoted the band’s upcoming jobs. Once again the band’s record got airplay in the smaller markets, but the group discovered that getting airplay in the Twin Cities was difficult with stiff competition.

On a tragic day in American history, the band was booked to play at Mr. Lucky’s. The date was November 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The show went on as scheduled, even though many local clubs closed down for the day. The place was packed and in the crowd were a large number of local musicians who had their jobs cancelled for that evening.

In addition to teen clubs in the metro area, the band played at the popular ballrooms in the Twin Cities, including the Marigold, the Prom, and the Bel-Rae. They also played the out-state ballrooms and likely played in most every ballroom in Minnesota including: the Pla-Mor in Glencoe, Lake Marion Ballroom in Brownton, Hardeggers Ballroom in the Le Center – Cleveland area, the Kato Ballroom in Mankato. the Interlaken Ballroom in Fairmont, the New Munich Ballroom outside of Saint Cloud, and George’s Ballroom in New Ulm.

Jimmy Thomas also booked the band across the five-state Upper Midwest Region (Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota). In Iowa, the band played in Arnold’s Park at the Rooftop Garden, adjacent to West Lake Okoboji and the lakeside amusement park.

When the Beatles and the British Invasion hit the United States in early 1964, Mike and his band added cover songs by the Beatles and Rolling Stones and other British groups and grew out their hair. Their clothing styles also changed and they started to wear black Continental suits with Beatle boots on stage.

In 1965, the band met Lou Riegert, a DJ and program director at KDWB. Lou was a friend of Dale Menten, leader of the Mankato band, the Gestures who had a national hit with “Run Run Run” in 1964. Lou was present at the recording sessions for the Gestures. Riegert had an idea for Mike and his band to rename the group: The Only Ones, and record a 45 with two songs written by Dale Menten. Once again, the recording session took place at Kay Bank. Riegert was the producer.

On the 45 was Mike on guitar and vocals, Pat Riley on bass guitar, Steve Mauer on drums, and Larry Hofmann on tenor sax and rhythm guitar. In addition, they had three trumpet players out of Mankato also playing on the 45. The record was released on Lou Riegert’s label called Sight Records. On the A-side was “With This Kiss” and on the B-side was “The Party’s Over.”

When the record came out, the band assumed that Riegert would get the 45 played on KDWB.  On the very day the record came out, Riegert resigned from his job at KDWB, however the record did get some airplay on the radio station.

The band carried on throughout the second half of the 1960’s, using their original band name.

In 1969 (or perhaps 1970) Mike moved to Hutchinson, just 30 miles northwest of Arlington and west of the Twin Cities.  At this time period, the group was once again a trio. Gary Bonderson played bass guitar.

Three residents of Hutchinson decided to start up a record company called Little Crow. One of the residents was Larry Graf, the owner of local radio station KDUZ; one was the owner of an electronic repair shop; and one was Wally Pikal, a well-known musician who started his musical career in 1944 and leader of a polka band who could play one, two or three trumpets at the same time – sometimes while jumping up and down on a pogo stick. Wally also owned a music store in town.

Mike and his band recorded two 45’s for Little Crow in 1973.  The first 45 had “Bonie Maronie” (a cover song by Larry Williams) on the A-side and “Ya Ya” (a cover song by Lee Dorsey) on the B-side. The second 45 had “Funny How Time Slips Away” (a cover song by Willie Nelson) on the A-side and “The Fool” (a cover song by Sanford Clark) on the B-side.

In the same year, 1973, Mike was asked to add instrumentation and backup vocals to a single 45 of two Christmas songs released on the Little Crow label, sung by a young lady by the name of Shari Karl.  This record was produced by the three owners of the record company.

The Gibbon Ballroom had been closed down for an extended period of time. When they reopened in the early 1970’s, Mike and his band was the first rock and roll band to ever play the Gibbon Ballroom.  The band was awarded the Minnesota Ballroom Operators Association

Award, eight straight years in a row. They were a frequent and very popular act at the Ballroom.

Changes in the lineup followed again:  The revised trio featured Mike, Jordan Gish (keyboards, bass guitar and vocals), and Doug Dungey (drums and vocals).

After 1975, the band kept going, with various changes in personal along the way.


In 2003, Mike was inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, and in 2008, Mike Glieden and The Rhythm Kings were inducted into the Mid-America Music Hall Of fame (the event was held at the Medina Entertainment Center).

In 2015 (the date of the first phone interview), The Mike Glieden Trio consisted of Mike on guitar and vocals, Bob Carnicom on bass guitar and vocals and Cary Glieden (Mike’s Son) on drums and vocals. The band quickly added a fourth member, singer Aprille Schunk. The band played jobs located within a 60 mile radius of Hutchinson.

Mike stated that he has retired from playing music three times, usually for a month -the longest time period was three months – but always returned to playing live music.

In Hutchinson, Mike is known as “the oldest teenager in Hutchinson.”

Tom Campbell

April 14, 2020

Copyright Thomas R. Campbell 2020


Photos  (Click a photo to see it full-screen, then click the arrows to see the next one.)

( Left to Right )

Don Bembenek,  Mike Glieden,  Steve Mauer  and  Gary Bonderson








Where are they now?

Mike moved to the Prior Lake area in September, 2019.

As of April, 2020, Mike performs as a duo with Aprille Schunke.



Interview PART ONE