The Kilowatt Pioneers
group photo
Don Meyers: Guitar, pedal steel, vocals
John Reynolds: Bass, vocals
Tom Shadonix: Guitar, keyboards, violin, vocals
Aaron Smith: Drums
Mark Owen : occasional 2nd drummer
Merv Carnahan: keyboards
Date formed: Jan. 1974
Date disbanded: New Years Eve 1977
The Kilowatt Pioneers were a collection of refugees from other groups. John had previously been with Jebidiah Stone as had Merv. Don came out of a band based in Dayton named Mourning Glory - 2016 inductees into the IRRHOF. Tom, who had been out of the area for a bit, had returned and hooked up with Don. Aaron was brought in through Tom who had known him previously. Mark, who is pictured to the left of Aaron, was only in the band for a short while.
   A friend of the band came up with the name that was ultimately chosen. The group themselves had brainstormed some on a name, but this friend had given the Pioneers a list of names and they chose from his list. Quite early on they had referred to themselves as “Dual Showman & the Kilowatt Pioneers” which was soon shortened to just the Kilowatt Pioneers.
Don was playing a Gibson Les Paul ‘goldtop’ (pictured above) through a Peavey Vintage amp. He started out with an MSA Sidekick steel guitar eventually moving to an MSA Semi–Classic. He played the Semi until MSA went out of business since he couldn't get the instrument repaired anymore. He used a separate amp for the steel.
   Merv had an M series Hammond organ along with a Wurlitzer electric piano. His amp of preference is not known. John was playing a Fender style bass, but the exact make is unknown. His choice of amplification is also unknown. The other members gear info is not available.
   As for sound reinforcement the Pioneers progressed through an assortment of equipment. At the start they had a couple of Sunn speaker bottoms each employing two 15 inch speakers along with some Sunn horns; amplifier unknown. Later they had a Carvin setup with a 4 channel amp and a couple of bottoms along with some Electro-Voice horns. They ended up with a 12 channel mixer and a Phase Linear power amp with unspecified speakers. Interestingly Rick Wiess, formerly with Jebidiah Stone, ran sound for the band when they reached that phase. Some of the sound system was inherited from Rural when they broke up. Ralph Stevens, who was in Rural, was an occasional 2nd drummer for the Pioneers and a good friend of the band which is how that connection was made.
The Kilowatt Pioneers practiced a few times at Aaron’s house in Des Moines before ending up in what used to be Thompson’s Drug store in West Boone, just east of the former Boyd’s Dairy. At first they used the downstairs only for $75 a month rent. Since there were apartments upstairs they were not able to practice late into the evening. Eventually they were able to rent the upstairs also. Now they had the whole building for $150 a month which meant rehearsals could go as long as needed. The band rented out the upstairs to friends and had a very nice place to base themselves. They got together at least a couple of times a week to rehearse depending on their playing schedule.
The material the group did was quite eclectic. A mix of tunes by artists like the Grateful Dead, the Flying Burrito Bros., Hank Williams, Herbie Hancock, Jeff Beck, Jean Luc Ponty, the Allman Bros. Band and even standards like “Orange Blossom Special”. They also wrote some of their own material with Don and Tom doing most of the writing.
   Most of the gigs were gotten by word of mouth. Being so across the board with their material made things somewhat difficult when it came to finding places to play.
The Kilowatt Pioneers stayed together for quite a long time as bands go. John was the first to leave the group. He had graduated from college with a EE and got a job in Cedar Falls which would have made for a long commute if he had stayed with the group. Rob Wolf and Rick Wiess were brought in around that time. Tom left a couple of months later. After the addition of a female singer and a few more gigs things just kind of ended due more to lack of gigs than anything else. Don’s departure to join Ralph Stevens in Mason City to form the Deputy Dawg Band was the last gasp for the Pioneers.
   Tom stayed involved in music earning his masters in organ performance at Drake University. He lived in the Fort Dodge area for a time, playing at a church there. Tom is currently in Ottumwa, Iowa and was last known to be a member of the East Court Hill String Band. John stayed involved in music also joining the Deputy Dawg Band - 2009 IRRHOF inductees - for a time. After graduating with a masters in computer science he went to work for Techtronics in Portland Oregon. He still plays with a weekend warrior band. Don continued on and was in quite a number of bands including Deputy Dawg with John. He used to work at Rieman’s Music in Des Moines and still plays whenever he can. As of this writing not much is known about the other members.
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