Old Fat Guy Idol

Fundraiser for Susan G. Komen – Chicago

About the Band


Ketih Kowalewski also plays guitar and adds vocals to the Old Fat Guy Idol band.
The information below was gathered several years ago, so unfortunately there is no bio for Keith.
Also pictured is Geoff Saccomano, our MC.

Band bios (in their own words, unedited)

Greg Youngdahl, lead guitar

It had been two years to the day since the start of the Goyang Geumjeong
Cave Massacre. Just the day before, negotiations for a ceasefire in Korea had been postponed, and a three-train crash at Harrow railway station in England had resulted in the deaths of 112 people. And the day before that, Vladimir Putin, who would eventually become the Russian president, was born. On this particular day John Lennon was celebrating his 12th birthday, and Jackson Browne turned 4. The time was just after 2:00 in the afternoon when, in the small town of Alpena, on the shores of Lake Huron in Michigan, Carl Arthur Youngdahl Senior and his wife Jessie became grandparents for the first time. It was Jessie’s 45th birthday. To say they were proud grandparents would be an assumption based only on the idea that often grandparents are proud to be, but I really have no idea if it even fazed them, as they had seven children themselves, the youngest of which was only 11 months old at the time.

I really have no recollection of living in Alpena, though I did visit there once with my parents, probably as a young teenager. My parents packed up and moved to Chicago when I was 9 months old, living in a couple of apartments in neighborhoods that weren’t too bad at the time, but might be risky for me to visit these days. I had my first experiences with recording in the first apartment. My dad had a device called a wire recorder, which was technology that preceeded a tape recorder, and actually had spools of metal wire that could be magnetized to record on instead of the reels of iron oxide coated
mylar tape that a tape recorder uses. He used to make recordings of me, my mother and himself talking and singing on a birthday or Christmas. One of my first vivid memories was in that apartment when my dad let me plug in the wire recorder. I was about 2 years old, and I was having difficulty getting the two little metal prongs aimed at the two little slots in the wall (this was before 3-prong grouded outlets) and so I had grasped the two prongs between my thumb and index finger and finally gotten the prongs aligned with the slots and in went the plug. 110 volts was now coursing into my thumb and out my index finger (or maybe it was going the other direction). So started my fascination with electricity, and recording.

Shortly thereafter we moved to another apartment in Chicago, where I got my first 2-wheel bicycle, my sister was born, and I started going to school. I went to kindergarden and the first semester of first grade at Fernwood Elementry School in Chicago. On December 1 of that first grade year the Our Lady Of The Angel’s school fire took place. I saw that on the TV news and the building looked much like the Fernwood building, and it made me scared going to school that the same thing would happen at Fernwood. Fortunately at the semester break in January we moved to Elmhurst, and I finished first grade in a modern Elmhurst school that looked nothing like the old school in Chicago. My mother always liked to tell the story that at some point she was called to the principal’s office of that school where the principal told her I was the worst hoodlum that had ever moved from Chicago to Elmhurst. I really
have no idea what precipitated that (and generally most people that know me find that an amusing and difficult to believe story as well), but fortunately again, by the time I started second grade a school was completed that was nearer my house and so I went to that school instead.

It was at this time when I was playing at a new friend’s house that I met a kid who was a friend of his younger brother, and for whatever reason, we bonded and became fast friends. That would be Tom Cooke, who I eventually invited to play bass in the Old Fat Guy Idol band. We built model cars and communicated with walkie talkies between our houses and built miniature forts out of Lincoln Logs and kid sized forts out of refrigerator boxes and eventually out of plywood and 2x4s lifted from the scrap piles at various houses that were under construction in our neighborhood and rode our bikes all over town (and beyond) and set up our Lionel trains and went swimming at the YMCA and blew up our model cars with firecrackers and raced slot cars down at Sunburry’s raceway, and camped out in our back yards, and built mini-bikes (bikes powered with lawnmower engines) and all the things that kids do. It was a fantastic time.

Tom’s older sister would drive us places, and it was on her car radio that I first heard the early ’60s Rock and Roll music instead of the music that my parents would play on the radio or record player. At that point I didn’t really like it much, a lot of it was pretty lame (The Monster Mash, The Name Game, Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, Soldier Boy, lots of songs with Twist in the name…). There were some gems as well (in fact I probably first heard our opening song for this year’s OFGI event, Green Onions, on her car radio), but I wasn’t tuned in yet, my musical spark hadn’t been lit.

My dad was an electronics engineer and we used to build radios together.
We built one radio and I was able to tune in the BBC and listen to that. I started hearing songs by some band called The Beatles being broadcast by the BBC, and it caught my interest for some reason. They weren’t being played on the local stations yet. That was still a few months off. Love Me Do, She Loves You, I Want To Hold Your Hand, now this music was cool.

November 22, 1963. It was a Friday. At that time our school would send us home for lunch, so I was at home eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and watching Bozo’s Circus when they broke into the program with a bulletin that President Kennedy had been shot. This event had a profound effect and influence on my life (I’ve read at least 100 books about this event over the years), but not as much as…
February 9, 1964. It was a Sunday. I can remember the weather – overcast
but not snowing, chilly but not cold. I remember sitting out on the curb waiting. Waiting for the Ed Sullivan show to come on. The Beatles were going to be performing, and I was looking forward to it with great anticipation and excitement. The Beatles played 5 songs during the course of the hour long show (3 at the start and 2 more at the end), and by the time it was over my life had been changed. I had decided I wanted to play the guitar. My musical spark had exploded. I’ve read many interviews and biographies of musicians, and most all of them (who were around to watch it) cite that hour as being a strong influence on their musical interest. So I guess I’m in good company. I had to mention
it in my biography as well.

It took me a while, but my determination never waned. I got a paper route and started saving my money. In the meantime in 7th grade at school I was for some reason asked if I wanted to play the bass viol in the school band. I took the lessons for the school year, and actually played in a rehearsal band during the summer, but when 8th grade started I told the music teacher that I wanted to play the guitar. I didn’t mention that I didn’t like the clicky-ness of the band kids, nor the stupid yellow sweaters with the harps embroidered on them that the band kids had to wear. His response was that they didn’t need a guitar in the orchestra. I told him that was fine because I didn’t want to play guitar in his orchestra anyway. It took me until spring vacation of 8th grade to get the money together, and I finally bought my first guitar from E. J. Korvettes (a Tiesco Del Rey solid body with a single pickup and a sunburst finish), and I never looked back.

In the mean time, and even before, Tom and I had evolved into making our
own drum sets out of oatmeal canisters, cardboard boxes and pie plates.
We would put on our singles or albums of the latest songs by the Beatles or the Rolling Stones or whomever else, and pound away trying to imitate the beats on the records. We bought tape recorders and recorded songs off of the radio, and recorded ourselves. We even tried our hand at writing a couple of songs. Once I bought my guitar we were both trying to teach ourselves to play it. Eventually we both had upgraded our tape recorders to models that took 5 1/2″ reels and had capstans to regulate the speed of the tape, and we put them side by side and ran the tape from one to the other producing a crude version of multi-track recording where we could overdub new parts on top of things we had previously recorded. Little did we know that Les Paul had done essentially the same thing 15 or so years before when he invented the multi-track recording process.

Life seemed to accelerate as I moved into high school. I played with
different musicians, trying to put a band together. My sophomore year I
hooked up with a guy in my auto shop class, John. He lived on the other
side of town and was interested in organizing a band. One day during spring vacation he picked up one of his neighbors, Keith. They stopped by a local music store, bought a bass for Keith (John already had a guitar) and came over to my house. We started working on songs, and the band that started that day continued in one form or another for the next 20+ years. We played at high school sock hops, teen centers and eventually in clubs and bars under the name of Windy City. By the time I was a senior we recruited a guy Mark, from another band who was a singer with a great voice. He had the quality of voice that was as good as or better than any song on the radio. It was because of his presence in the band that we were able to be successful, such as we were, and the experience I gained in that band as a guitar player made the difference that keeps me playing the guitar even now. So I credit Mark with the fact that I became good enough at the instrument to continue playing instead of casting it aside as many kids did after high school or so. Many guys I knew that I thought were good players then, when I encounter them now (like at a class reunion or something) and ask them if they are still playing and maybe would like to jam, they say they haven’t picked it up in years, and wouldn’t be able to play. So, thanks to Mark I made it past the make or break point and have the skills to enjoy the hobby that gives me the greatest satisfaction and joy, that being, of course, music. Unfortunately Mark decided at some point that he didn’t want to continue to be in a band, and try as I (and some others) have, we haven’t been able to coax him out, even just for a jam.

About a year after I graduated from high school, our band was experiencing another bout of drummer problems (much like Spinal Tap), and we met up with a guy from Lombard named Kent who played the drums. From then until now Kent and I have played in several bands. While there have been a few exceptions, for the most part Kent has been a part of practically every band situation I’ve been involved in since. I had to invite him to be a part of the Old Fat Guy Idol band.

So then, as an adult, my life is flying by. I play in bands of various names with several combinations of musicians, but generally with Keith and Kent and myself as the core, playing primarily in the western suburban Chicago area.

For many of the stories that are told about professional musicians and bands, I can counter with my own experiences, on a smaller level, that seem to parallel their stories. At some point I and the other members of the band I was in at the time come to a crossroads where the path I wanted to take was different enough from the path they wanted to follow, and we parted ways. For a few years I tried to find ways to persue music on my own terms. I took piano lessons, and tried to record myself playing various instruments in my studio to produce music. But it wasn’t the same. I couldn’t do it myself, I need the collaboration with other musicians. The give and take and working together toward a common goal that occurs when playing together with other people is what is at the heart of what I enjoy about music. I found out that our church was putting together a band to play contemporary music at some
services. I got involved. It was initially a project of the youth minister and most of the players were high school students. He wanted someone with more experience and some stability to help guide the band. As time went by various band members would graduate from high school and we would have to replace them and work up songs again. Over time I started encouraging other adults from the church to participate, primarily so that we wouldn’t keep losing musicians every June. At some point Jean was playing piano to accompany some of the Sunday school classes, and I thought that she might be someone who would fit in with the band. Shortly thereafter I also noticed that she was pregnant, and figured she probably had other committments in her life and I didn’t ask her at that time. Some time later some people had organized to put on some songs from Jesus Christ Superstar at a service. I was recruited to operate the sound system (it was sort of a Karaoke version with a CD providing the music and the performers singing). Jean was a part of that, and we got to know each other a little. There was an after show party and we got to talking and I asked her if she would be interested in joining the praise band. Apparently the time was right. We became good friends and I asked her to participate in the first OFGI event, but her schedule didn’t allow it. However the second time around she joined in, and again this year.

I had a chapter written for this biography about my first sexual experience, but apparently it was a little disturbing to Lisa, and I had to edit that out. I told her if she was looking to attract people to view the OFGI page, that was the kind of thing that would make the page go viral once word got out about it. But she insisted that I take it out, so I guess you will have to use your imagination. Hopefully you have a good imagination.

Thats my story and I’m stickin’ to it!

-Greg Youngdahl

Jean Deptolla keyboards

Jean has been playing the piano ever since she can remember. It used to be all Bach and Beethoven, but Greg is working his evil ways and making her into a rock and roller.  Outside of OFGI, she works with Greg and Jay in the Praise Band of the Batavia United Church of Christ, playing every third Sunday.  She helps with many of the children’s programs at church, too, making a complete fool of herself every summer, teaching music for Bible School. Thanks to the Fat Guys and Greg, she’s willing to give about any song a try and is working on facing her ultimate fear of playing without lines, staves, and notes.

Tom Cooke bass

Thomas began his musical journey (mid 60’s) stealing time (when he could) on Greg’s first guitar until he got his first bass guitar at the age of 13. He and Greg honed their young skills for many years thereafter…Tom began playing professionally in 1974 continuing through 1976. During this time period, he also did some studio work in Chicago. Skipping forward, Tom began playing again in the mid 80’s in both a WXRT styled band and a nine-piece wedding band. Since 1996, he became one of the main “subs” for the Four Man Acoustic Band at Dick’s Last Resort in Chicago and continues regularly as needed. Tom answered Greg’s call to play bass for the OFGI band for the last three years.

Kent Smith drums

Kent lives in the northwoods of Michigan and could not be reached for his bio. However, you can read about Kent (and a lot of other things!) in Greg’s bio.



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