Club dance band (1977-1979)

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October, 1977: The country rock band Pecos breaks up and the bass player from the band, Denny Johnson, comes up with a plan to put together a commercial show group to play the lounges and hotels, doing a wide variety of music and generating a good income. The band Sunrise comes together with Denny Johnson on bass guitar and vocals; Rick LiaBraaten on drums and vocals; John Thompson on Rhythm guitar and vocals and Mike Comer on Lead Guitar / keyboards and vocals.   John Thompson, nicknamed Big John, could sing everything from Elvis to Creedence Clearwater and Merle Haggard to The Doobie Brothers.  Mike Comer was known as a guy who knew more songs than anyone.  The name of the band goes back to 1975 when Denny played in the band Winterwood at The Strawhouse, where one of the popular drinks was Tequila Sunrise.  After a brief period of rehearsals, the band plays the Holiday Inn circuit and other lounges throughout the upper midwest. 

April, 1978: Rick LiaBraaten accepts a job offer to play drums with Denny and The Tornado’s who had an on going gig at the Shorewood Inn in Fridley where they played for years. Rick leaves the band and is replaced by Dan Fashing on drums.  Dan was an old friend of  Mike’s.

Mid-Summer, 1978: Denny has the idea of adding John Richardson to the group in order to have five singers and expand the variety of songs.  John joins the band and the band’s stable of songs grows.  With John added to the band, the band now performs songs by Eddie Money, The Bee-Gee’s, Kenny Rogers, Foreigner, Bo Diddley and even The McGuire Sisters.  The band becomes well known for their various song medleys, including Elvis, The Beatles and Disco.

February, 1979: John Thompson leaves the band to go to Las Vegas.

April, 1979: Dan Fashing leaves the band to return to his former band.

Denny, Mike and John R. carry on as a four piece, using a number of drummers.

August, 1979: Sunrise comes to an end.  John Richardson joins Monterey.  Mike Comer forms a new band called Grand Avenue, Denny Johnson joins for a while.  In January, 1980, Denny leaves the band to focus on his own recording studio called Sunrise Sound.


In 2011, Denny Johnson recalls that during the entire time span of Sunrise, there was not one disagreement or one argument in the band over anything.  Denny says Sunrise was “a very happy band.”


Photos  –  Click on Photo’s to Enlarge

                             Arrows Left & Right



To  LISTEN   –   Click on Audio Player

Baby Baby Fallin’ in Love – from CD One

Listen What The Man Said – from CD One

Deseree’ – from CD One

Ain’t No Sunshine ( When She’s Gone) – from CD One

Sangria Wine – from CD One

My Sweet Lady – from CD One

Marguerittaville – from CD One

Your Mama Don’t Dance – from CD One


The End Is Not In Sight

Heard It In A Love Song

Let Your Love Flow

Low Down

Are  You  Ready  For  The  Country

Burnin’  Love

Neil Diamond Medley

This  Time  You  Gave  Me  a  Mountian

Suspicious  Minds



Long Train Runnin’ – From Late  August CD

Devil or Angel – From Late August CD

Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance – From The August  78 CD

Bottle Of Red Wine – From The August 78 CD



Happy Anniversary – From The “WILD” At The Matador CD

Heart of a Saturday Night – From “Wild” At The Matador CD

Beatles  Medley  ( 6-songs )

More  Than  a  Woman

Don’t  It  Make  You  Wanna  Dance

I  Wouldn’t  Wanna  Be  Like  You

Burn’in  Love

Up  Against  The  Wall  You  Red  Neck  Mother


 Sunshine Of My Life  – From Live At The Matador CD

Love Me – From Live At The Matador

oh Darlin’ – From Live At The Matador CD

Who’s That Lady – From Live At The Matador CD

CC Rider – From The Live At The Matador CD





Sunrise                                        BAND  TREE       


Sunrise  1977  to  1979


John  Thompson         Rhythm  Guitar  /  Vocals            1977  to  1979


Big  John  J  &  B


Gold  Dust


JT  Silverstar

Thompson  &  Tolson

Honky  Tonk  Angels


Mike  Comer       Lead  Guitar  /  Keyboards  /  Vocals         1977  to  1979

The  Jagsmen

The  Casualties

The  Sir  Raleigh’s


Apricot  Brandy

American  Way


Highway  35W



Grand  Avenue


Midnight  Flight

Beatles  Forever

Mendota  Life


Denny  Johnson        Bass  Guitar  /  Vocals          1977  to  1979

Jokers  Wild

Flash  Tuesday

Mojo  Buford  Band

Lexy  Johnson  Band






Denny  Johnson  Group



Gold  Dust


Grand  Avenue

Crow  featuring  Dave  Wagner

JT  Silverstar


The  Bowery  Boys

The  Dick  Tracy  Band


Dan  Fashing        Drums  /  Vocals         1977  to  1979

Johnny’s  Hot  Six

Special  Care

Ruby  and  the  Fever’s

Sai  Hik  Picalla


Danny’s  Reasons


Uptown  Manhattan


Will  Sumner  and  Tropic  Zone

617  Band


The  Sam  Cooke  Tribute  Band

Moon  Dogs



John  Richardson      Lead  Guitar  /   Vocals        1978  to  1979

Knights  of  Day

Cold  Steel

Wild  Kingdom

Jerome  Nalla

Apricot  Brandy




Strait  Up

Jeffery  BC






Crow  featuring  Dave  Wagner

The  Ryder  Band

Silver  Rose

Dick  Tracy

Big  City


Common  Ground





Rick  LiaBraaten           Drums  /  Vocals        1977  to  1977

The  Transgressor’s

Good  Idea

Thunder  Tree

The  Hombres




Denny  and  the  Tornado’s

The  Artisan

Main  Street


Where are they now?

Sunrise                   Where  Are  They  Now  ?       



Sunrise  1977  to  1979


John  Thompson       Rhythm  Guitar  /  Vocals

Active  in  Music              Yes

Doing  What  ?…..    Playing in Honky Tonk  Angels in  Los  Vegas


Mike  Comer                 Lead  Guitar  /  Keyboards  /  Harmonica  /  Vocals

Active  in  Music              Yes

Doing  What  ?.. …   Jobbing  in  Florida


Denny  Johnson          Bass  Guitar  /  Vocals

Active  in  Music               Yes

Doing  What  ?……. Studio  Session  Work  –  Re-Mastering  and   Band  History


Rick  LiaBraaten           Drums  /  Vocals

Active  in  Music                 No

Doing  What  ?.. …..   Living  in  Minnesota


Dan  Fashing                   Drums  /  Vocals

Active  in  Music                Yes

Doing  What  ?…….   Jobbing  in  Minnesota 


John  Richardson          Lead  Guitar  /   Vocals

Active  in  Music                   Yes

Doing  What  ?………   Playing  in  Artisan



(interview here)