In 2007, Mark Miller—now the rhythm guitarist for the Mark Miller Band (MMB)—decided to start learning to play guitar. What followed was something he didn’t expect. “My whole life I wanted to play guitar, and at 47 years old, I decided to give it a try,” Miller says. “I told a mutual friend that I was learning to play and he mentioned he had a friend, [John Pottebaum], who got together with friends to play. So, I went over to check it out.”
Pottebaum, who now plays bass and acoustic guitar for MMB, welcomed Miller into his home and introduced him to Pat Buse, who at the time was singing and playing guitar and would later become lead and background vocals and trumpet player for MMB. Pottebaum’s son was playing drums. The guys welcomed Miller and started to have some fun. But reality set in when Pottebaum’s son went off to college, and they no longer had a drummer. “I thought to myself that I would keep this going because I was having way too much fun,” Miller says. “I moved into a new house and met my next door neighbor, Curtis [Dobler], who saw that I had recently purchased a drum kit. He asked if I played, and I said, ‘I have some friends and am just learning.’” Dobler told Miller that he had some drum experience, and Miller invited him to the band’s Monday night rehearsals.
As the band started to take shape, more connections were made within the crew. Pottebaum’s neighbor Steve Stromberg is the band’s lead and background vocals and lead and rhythm guitar. Miller’s friend Todd Stabno also plays lead and rhythm guitar. The group had two spots left to fill: female vocal, and keyboard.
“I was talking with a guy I knew and he mentioned that his wife was an awesome vocalist and would love to get in a rock and roll band,” Miller said. Beth Hansen was soon on board for vocals, tambourine, keyboard and more. Hansen introduced the band to Susan Geitzenauer (keyboard, vocals and clarinet) and her husband Greg Geitzenauer, who was able to step into the shoes of the band’s original “sound guy,” John Herzog. Miller says, “Before we knew it, we had a full band.”
MMB was ready to rock and took on its first gig at a battle of the bands event where the winner was chosen based on the maximum gross receipts at the bar at the end of the night. The band packed the bar and won the entire thing. “The whole thing was just organic,” Miller says. “No one ever sat down and planned out that we would be a band with all of these different parts. It just happened.”
Playing mostly charity events, school fundraisers and a few local bars, MMB can be found rocking out to John Mellencamp, The Beatles, Pat Benatar, Lady Antebellum, Head East, The Doobie Brothers and many more. Their territory stretches from downtown Minneapolis to Wabasha, and no song is too obscure for them to play. “We try to pick a few songs that are unique, like Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’” Dobler says.
The favorite collective song of the group, however, is Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason.” Least favorite? “Freebird,” by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
But the band hopes its fans—even its littlest ones—are inspired by more than the music. “We all have kids, and we just want to show them that just because you’re old, you don’t have to stop doing stuff like this,” Stromberg says. “Learn music, play sports, have fun and carry it through.”
For Miller, it’s a dream that came to fruition but was never expected.
“Never in a million years did I dream I would do this,” Miller says. “Every minute is a bonus to me. None of us were looking for something like this. It just happened.”
- July 24: Riverboat Days Festival, Wabasha
- August 13: Champps, Eden Prairie
- September 12-13: Valleyfair, Shakopee
- September 17: Champps, Eden Prairie
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