CHISHOLM — To the delight of many of their followers, an Iron Range music favorite, “The Renowns,” took to the stage last month, marking the end of a four-year sabbatical.
The group was formed in 1955, and played at various locations across the Iron Range. Original members were: Ione Tomasetti on lead vocals and bass; Tony Tomasetti, lead guitar; Warren Grillo on percussion; and David Karakash on vocal and rhythm guitar.
Current members of the band are: Ione Tomasetti, Grillo, Tom Moeller on lead guitar and two of the Tomasettis children, Mike Tomasetti on percussion and vocals and Jim Tomasetti on keyboard and vocals.
Ione said it was a dinner and dance promoting the local Eagles Club that gave the group a reason to get together once again. The dance, held last month at the Hibbing VFW, brought out many of the band's followers, she said.
“A ton of people had a request for those oldies,” said Ione.
Playing in front of a live audience continues to be fulfilling for the band.
“It’s a lot of fun, and it was really nice getting back in the saddle again,” she added.
It was in 1959, Ione recalled, that The Renowns permeated the music scene outside the Iron Range. That's when the group won a talent contest sponsored by a Duluth radio station, and was given the opportunity to cut a record with Everest Records in Chicago.
One side of the recording contained a song written by Ione, entitled, “My Mind’s Made Up.” The other, a song by Karakash entitled, “The Wild One." The songs topped the charts, and were No. 1 and No. 2 on the east and west coast, respectively, she said.
Having both sides of a recording do equally as well was a rarity in the music industry, Ione said. Typically one side of an album would be “hot.” Having a female vocalist on one side of the recording, and a male on the other was also unique, she said.
In 1996, the band was shocked and saddened with the passing of Tony Tomasetti. They were faced with the difficult choice of whether or not the band should continue. For Ione, the choice was particularly difficult, being the couple had been together since they were 14 years old.
After a five month break, Moeller, a good friend of the Tomasettis joined the band. Moeller had jammed with Ione and Tony on several occasions, and proved to be a good fit.
Yet those first few practices were very difficult for Ione.
“When he started playing, ‘My Mind’s Made Up,’ it brought up feelings,” recalled Ione.
“If we hadn’t done it then and got through that song, we probably wouldn’t have done it again,” she added.
Looking back, Ione said continuing with the band was a “good thing.”
She said the band has been a part of her life forever, and she would have missed it. Having Mike and Jim join the band, has made it a “family thing,” keeping everyone close, she said. The Tomasettis eldest son, Mark, is also a talented vocalist, and may some day join the group.
In 2005, The Renowns were inducted into the Rock Country Hall of Fame. Shortly thereafter, the group decided to take the break, which would last four years — the longest in the group’s history.
Throughout the break, Ione said her family and Grillo kept singing, along with the Renowns Karoaoke.
“But that's a whole different program than live music,” said Ione.
The Renowns' next performance is slated for Saturday, Feb. 26, at the VFW in Hibbing. The event is to promote the Eagles Club, with dinner at 6:30 p.m. and music at 7:30 p.m.
For dinner reservations, call the VFW at 262-6416. Those who would like to attend the dance but not the dinner may do so, but are asked to give a free-will donation.