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OHS grads get the band Big Al and the High-Fi's back together

Big Al and the High-Fi's to headline park fundraiser

City of Oconomowoc - Big Al and the High-Fi's, a perennial favorite area band, will hit the stage again for the first time in four years at a fundraiser to benefit Veteran's Memorial Park held at Olympia Resort on Saturday, Feb. 2.

Lead singer Tim Counsell said the group came out of retirement to help with the worthy cause.

The Honor and Valor event is hosted by a community group looking to upgrade the newly named Veterans' Memorial Park. The group wants the one-acre parcel on Lac La Belle to reflect the gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifices made by veterans. Plans call for relocating monuments to the one park and rebuilding the space to include an archway entry to the park. In the center will be a water fountain surrounded by a brick or stone circle with a pentagon star shape surrounding that, representing the five service organizations.

Highlights of the plan include reflection areas and a memorial for POW/MIAs with a black stone that will have the American flag engraved in it.

"This is really a great reason for us to give back to the community and we are honored to do it," he said.

"This community has always been very generous with all the fundraisers and cancer benefits. This is special and geared toward everyone. Everyone knows someone who served, or is still serving. There's a lot of hard work put into this benefit and the goal is to build this park and not take 10 years to do it," Counsell added.

He said the band will feel no jitters in the upcoming performance.

"To us, we're giving back to the community that has given a lot to our band for 38 years. We're best friends, our wives are best friends and we've put a lot of smiles on people's faces and it makes us happy to be a part of this," he explained.

"We still get together periodically to reminisce and laugh, but officially, it was four years ago that we played in public, when we did a benefit for pancreatic cancer," Counsell said.

The lead vocalist said they are looking forward to the event and the opportunity to play before an audience again, "before we become Shorehaven's house band," he joked.

Looking back

Counsell said the band's enduring popularity stems from the affection people have for the musical genre they are known for, early rock 'n' roll.

All five members of the band are Oconomowoc High School graduates and went on to play with some popular musical acts of the day including: Chubby Checker, The Coasters, Sha-Na-Na, Roy Orbison, Gary Pucket & The Union Gap and Ricky Nelson.

"We play the type of music that has stood the test of time. When we started the Beach Boy songs we played were like five or eight years old. Now the songs we sing are 50 to 60 years old. But it's something people still really enjoy," he said.

Counsell recalled when the band first started up.

"I was the youngest at 17. We knew 15 songs and probably 10 were instrumentals. I didn't have to do too much," he said with a laugh.

"When we booked our first job, at Matty's Disco Rock and Roll Palace in Hartford, that was the spot. If you were lucky enough to get on the list, you could play there once a year. We became his number-one band and played there three to four times a year," he said.

"We had fun. If people quit coming, we'd have been done, but they didn't quit. For awhile we juggled playing three to five times a week with kids and normal jobs," he said.

Fame knocked at their door at one point, but the risk was too great.

"We had a chance once to leave and do a TV show, going back to back with Sha-Na-Na. Basically, my dad said, I was working for him at the time, if you leave you can't come back, so that was some reality," Counsell said.

Even though he said he knew the show would not last long, Counsell admits there is a small part of him that wishes they had taken that opportunity, just to have had that experience.

"But the band continued. We never realized it would last that long," he said.

Tickets going fast

"As far as this event, I could not think of something more neat to play for. We've got people coming from everywhere: Colorado, California, Texas, Chicago and the outlying areas around here," he said.

Counsell said the event will include a performance by bagpipers and the Silver Rifles, from St. John's Military Academy in Delafield.

"They have bagpipes that go worldwide and the Silver Rifles will also perform," he said.

"Over 700 tickets have been sold," so far, he said.

"If you're even thinking of coming, get your tickets before it's sold out," Counsell cautioned.

Doors will open at 6 p.m. and Okauchee guitarist Michael Beglar will be the starting act. Big Al & the Hi-Fi's will take the stage around 7:30 p.m. There will be auction items, bracelets and memorial bricks available for purchase at the event. Appetizers are included in the cost of the ticket.

"Every cent is going toward the park and it's tax deductible. There are live and silent auctions. We want a five to get this done," he said of the park.

"It will be a very memorable night," he promised.

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