Bryant shares musical talent for 50 years

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Bruce Bryant has been performing as a paid musician for the past 50 years. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

In 1972, former Guttenberg and Clayton Ridge High School English teacher Bruce Bryant, of Guttenberg began his career as a paid musician and entertainer while attending high school in Cuba City, Wis. 

"My high school buddies and I had an a capella singing group. There were six of us," he began. "We made up a song about the basketball team and we were asked to perform it at a pep rally. We were too embarrassed and said 'no.' Sue Winky, a faculty member, said she would pay us money to perform. We were pretty excited. It would be enough money to get a burger, fries and a Pepsi at the Dairy Sweet."

The pep rally performance opened the door to additional paying jobs at local care facilities. "We loved watching the Smothers Brothers and blatantly stole their bit and performed it at area care centers and nursing homes for cash."

The high school performers often broke into the high school after hours to utilize the music room and instruments. "We would go to the music room and jam on the instruments and practice and create new songs," he shared. 

Bryant's career would escalate following a successful wedding performance. "My twin sister's  boyfriend's brother was getting married and he hired my sister and I to sing," he remembered. "My sister was terrified. They placed us in the front of the church and she started shaking like a leaf, which made me shake too. We sang the Hawaiian Wedding song and we had a lot of vibrato going on! I couldn't wait until we settled down so we could showcase our talent." 

Bryant secured several other jobs that day. "I sang a lot of John Denver songs, and I had the look to accompany the sound – long hair, wire rim glasses," he described. "I did about three weddings a week in about every kind of venue you can think of – sandbars, parks etc." 

Bryant's melodic voice had the ability to herd cattle. "I had a wedding gig at a farm house located in the middle of nowhere. The ceremony was held out in a pasture under an old oak tree. It was especially romantic," he shared. "I strummed my guitar and sang the first note in John Denver's song 'Today' and the cows out in the pasture started to moo. The herd, comprised of about 80 head of cattle, made its way to the ceremony and surrounded the guests and wedding party." 

He went on to say, "I have heard and seen it all throughout the years. People fainting, lost or forgotten rings. When my wife Joan and I first moved to Guttenberg we went home every weekend. I had weddings booked for a whole year." 

Backwater 

Bryant received a request from then student body president Matt Busick to perform with musician and science teacher Steve Dikkers at an end-of-theyear celebration. "Steve and I performed at that event and became quite popular.  Steve and I decided to form a band and brought in math teacher Ed Dvorak, and students, Scott Fischer and Steve Moser."

Throughout the years members of the Backwater band came and went as well as the band's changing name, but their popular sound and Bryant remained.  

"We started out calling ourselves Backwater. As band members came and went we became Uncle Sam's Band, Backwater, and Uncle Sam's Band again," he explained. "I have had the honor of performing with Ed Dvorak, Steve Dikkers, Scott Fisher, Steve Moser, Troy Thein, Mick Thein, Adam Thein, Greg Anderson, Jeremy Anderson, Chris Sauk and Barry Shea."

Bryant looked back in awe. He told The Press. "I have so many fond memories performing with all those talented musicians. Our first Backwater gig was at the Diamond Jo Restaurant in the downstairs bar in Guttenberg. It was a packed house – standing room only!"

Bryant recognized his love of humor and story-telling while performing in casinos. "We were performing at a lot of casinos. The audience members were more mature. It forced me to up my humor and storytelling game." 

Late nights and family obligations would eventually break the band apart for good. "It got to be too much. Our kids were getting older and involved in sports, and Ed and I were coaching ball teams," Bryant commented. "After I retired from teaching, round two of Uncle Sam's Band was falling apart. Things just weren't happening."

A chance encounter with Molly Moser of Guttenberg would awaken his solo act, Carpe Diem. 

"I was playing trivia at Kaffee 1858 and was visiting with Molly about singing the softer side of music – no more bands," said Bryant. "Now I am more selective on where and what I play."

Bryant, and his wife, Joan, have been married for 41 years. The couple has three children and eight grandchildren. "My wife has been a saint all these years. I could not have done any of this without her support," he fondly shared. 

Bryant's voice and desire to perform remains strong. "I am really enjoying myself. I am playing small venues, and writing my own songs. Performing in front of a live audience is addictive. The people you meet are so nice and the friendships you make along the way are priceless. Sometime I like making people laugh more than the music," he concluded with a smile. 

Look for Bryant's solo act, Carpe Diem on Tik Tok in the near future.

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