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Rockin' in the Holidays

What do Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Janis Joplin and Santa Claus have in common? They're all part of the Rock 'n' Roll Xmas Spectacular (RRXS). For the sixth consecutive year, the holiday season will be kicked off when the RRXS show hits the stage...

For the sixth consecutive year, the holiday season will be kicked off when the Rock 'n' Roll Christmas show hits the stage at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17 in the Tornstrom Auditorium in Brainerd. The concert is part of the Cultural Arts Series at Central Lakes College. (Brainerd Dispatch - Kelly Humphrey)
For the sixth consecutive year, the holiday season will be kicked off when the Rock 'n' Roll Christmas show hits the stage at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17 in the Tornstrom Auditorium in Brainerd. The concert is part of the Cultural Arts Series at Central Lakes College. (Brainerd Dispatch - Kelly Humphrey)

What do Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Janis Joplin and Santa Claus have in common?

They're all part of the Rock 'n' Roll Xmas Spectacular (RRXS).

For the sixth consecutive year, the holiday season will be kicked off when the RRXS show hits the stage at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17 in the Tornstrom Auditorium in Brainerd. As part of the Central Lakes College Theatre Cultural Arts Series, it's a show that series producer Patrick Spradlin calls "something you have to see to believe."

"When I was first approached about presenting this show, I was skeptical," said Spradlin. "I mean, 'The Little Drummer Boy' played in the style of the surfer song 'Wipeout'? I couldn't imagine it."

Skepticism was quickly replaced by awe, according to Spradlin, when he saw the show at the Pioneer Place in St. Cloud.

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Spradlin said, "I'd never been to a show where two things that were so familiar to me - Christmas songs and the stylings of particular rock bands - were blended to create something so incredible. I was sold after the third song."

The show's creators convinced Spradlin to give the show a try in Brainerd, with immediate success.

"It's one of the shows I will present every year it's available," said Spradlin. "I think there'd be a revolt in the streets if I left them off the schedule."

Spradlin said audiences can expect new material, new opening and closing sequences and a new CD on sale in the lobby."

The addition of new material really isn't an issue though, Spradlin said.

"So far, without much advertising, we've sold more seats for this year's show than the 600 we sold last year," he said.

RRXS is the creation of Ted Manderfeld and Paul Diethelm, two musicians from the St. Cloud. They arrived at the idea of the show and set out to find the musicians and singers to make their vision a reality.

Manderfeld is half of Deuces Wild Dueling Pianos, which performs more than 120 times a year across the country and Mexico.

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"We've played for corporate clients, casinos, country clubs and some pretty exclusive night clubs all over the country," said Manderfeld. Manderfeld co-produces the Billy Joel and Elton John tribute show "Eye 2 Eye" with former Bobby Vee and GB Leighton keyboardist Greg Armstrong. He has also spent time in the studio as jingle writer, recording artist and producer. He has performed as an actor and a game show host, and brings a high energy showmanship to the RRXS.

Diethelm is a veteran of more than 30 years of live performance, studio recording and songwriting. Born and raised in Watertown, Diethelm moved to St Cloud, and in 1989 formed the band Slip Twister. The band quickly grew to become a midwestern perennial favorite. As an eight year member of the Jonny Lang Band, Diethelm toured the world and shared the stage with rock and blues legends including Aerosmith, B.B. King, Sting and the Rolling Stones. He has made multiple appearances on national TV shows including David Letterman, Jay Leno, and Conan O'Brien. Diethelm is a magnetic performer, a world-class guitarist and has played on two Grammy-nominated recordings, including the platinum selling Jonny Lang album "Wander This World," for which he also co-wrote the hit single title track, and most recently the "Pinetop Perkins and Friends" album where he appears on tracks with Eric Clapton, B.B. King and Jimmy Vaughan. Diethelm is a founding member of The Fabulous Armadillos.

Pamela McNeill is a lead vocalist with the show. Her credentials as a performer in the Twin Cities is legendary. In the words of Minneapolis/St. Paul magazine, "Country-rock siren Pamela McNeill cooks like grease on the griddle!" Besides songwriting for her four critically acclaimed solo albums, McNeill has also penned songs for artists such as Wynonna (Judd) and Yanni. Based in Minneapolis she has developed a fervent following in the Midwest and in 2007 was featured in the book "Music Legends - A Rewind on the Minnesota Music Scene," written by Martin Keller. McNeill is a frequent performer with The Fabulous Armadillos, and also is the driving force behind "Rumours and Dreams," a tribute show to the music of Fleetwood Mac.

Stacy Bauer is a vocalist that has been with RRXS since the beginning. Having headed the popular midwest Led Zeppelin tribute band, Blimp, Bauer was a perfect candidate to come in and round out the list of vocalists for the RRXS. Besides being a member of Blimp, Bauer is a member of the Stearns County Pachanga Society and was recently asked to perform shows with Janis Joplin's former band, Big Brother and the Holding Company in a string of sold out shows. Audiences are astounded at the voice that comes out of this seasoned performer.

Vocalist Tim Haussner has been a singer/songwriter/guitarist for many different groups in the past 10 years. He has played thousands of shows at: large festivals, back yards, coffee shops, bank openings, weddings, pizza joints, clubs, body builder competitions, garages, theaters and holes in the wall from Minnesota to Alaska.

Billy Thommes is a world-class, powerful drummer whose musicality and professionalism make him the perfect choice to match the varied musical styles in the show. Thommes is an in-demand musician in the Twin Cities for touring and studio work. With versatility as his calling card, he's backed up a wide range of artists, from the blues rock of Lang , Indigenous, Bernard Allison and Sue Foley, to the Minneapolis rock of Soul Asylum and the Honeydogs.

Bassist Mike Zeleny has been one third of one of the midwest's most popular and sought after bands, Slip Twister. Along with Diethelm and drummer Jay O'Donnell, Zeleny has played innumerable shows all over the region and proven to be an essential part of the rhythmic backbone of every show he is in, including RRXS, Billy and Elton Eye 2 Eye, The Fabulous Armadillos and Deep Seven.

Mike Kreitzer, on saxophone and flute, is a multi-instrumentalist who has also been a part of the RRXS since its inception. He's played in numerous bands for more than two decades and often featured with The Fabulous Armadillos. His favorite part of the RRXS shows is the response from the crowd when he plays his flute on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."

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Tickets for the Rock 'n Roll Xmas Spectacular are available from the CLC Theatre Box Office. Orders can be placed by phone at 855-8199, or can be purchased online at clcmn.edu/arts​.

Related Topics: CLC
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