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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : features : people, places & past May 28, 2016

8/28/2012 1:09:00 PM
After 30 years, Major Lingo is calling it a day
Band’s next gigs will be farewell ‘Fall Finale’
Major Lingo has seen some lineup changes over the years, but founders John Ziegler and Tony Bruno have always been the soul of the band.
Major Lingo has seen some lineup changes over the years, but founders John Ziegler and Tony Bruno have always been the soul of the band.
Courtesy PhotoJohn Ziegler and Tony Bruno founding members of Major Lingo posed in front of Paul & Jerry’s Saloon in Jerome just about the time the duo expanded into Major Lingo. Circa 1981.
Courtesy Photo

John Ziegler and Tony Bruno founding members of Major Lingo posed in front of Paul & Jerry’s Saloon in Jerome just about the time the duo expanded into Major Lingo. Circa 1981.

Philip Wright
Staff Reporter

COTTONWOOD – “Friends, fans, family "there is barely a distinction," says John Ziegler, founding member of the Verde Valley's longest running band, and one of Arizona's most popular highway bands – Major Lingo.

“For Lingo these three words have come to mean one and the same," Ziegler stated about the band’s plan to call it quits after its fall tour. “Yet the time has come. After 30 years of adventures in song, dance and love, we’re calling it a day.”

Ziegler explained that instead of putting on an extravagant concert, the band will let its fall schedule of gigs be its farewell.

“Let’s call it our Fall Finale,” Ziegler said.

This all got started 30 years ago in Jerome when founding members Ziegler and Tony Bruno met, started performing together as a duo then expanded into a band.

Over the years, the band has comprised a total of 11 members. But the current band has been together for about 20 years. Besides Ziegler and Bruno, the current band includes Sally Stricker on bass and vocals and Steve Botterweg on drums and vocals.

The eclectic sound of Major Lingo cannot be pigeonholed into any genre. In a December 2007 story about the band’s 25th anniversary, Verde Independent Editor Dan Engler described Major Lingo’s sound as a “mixed bag of country, blues, rock, reggae, Celtic, Caribbean Calypso and South American Salsa.” Not to forget African rhythms, Japanese motifs, Scottish folk ballads and “raucous New Jersey roadhouse rock.”

That mix of music has earned the band a fan base spread over several generations. Children and grandchildren of some of the band’s earliest fans still follow Major Lingo.

“We’ve had a few generations that have blessed us,” Ziegler said.

When asked what he will miss most about Major Lingo, Ziegler said, “We have never ascended so high on a musical level as during the last 24 years since Steve (Botterweg) joined us.

“We knew we had something precious,” he said, “for the four of us to be that communicative and creative.”

Thirty years is a long time for a band to be together, and it seems that it would be difficult to put one’s finger on the best part of all that time and travel. But not for Ziegler.

“Always the gig,” he said.

He explained that the band always greatly enjoyed traveling, rehearsing, recording in the studio and breaking bread together.

“But the gig is it,” he said, “It is High Mass again, here we go.”

Bruno and his lap steel guitar were there at the beginning and will be there at the end.

“John and I started it,” Bruno said. “We started playing together as a duo and expanded.”

Bruno said that for him, the longevity of the band was based in a genuine friendship and respect the musicians in the band had for each other.

“We’re just good friends,” he said. “We all get along well, and you can’t keep going if you’re not friends.”

Bruno agrees with Ziegler that the gig is the best part.

“For me, number one, is the chance to play together,” Bruno said. “That’s still number one on my list.”

Dave Rentz who has played and still does with many different bands around the area, and now plays in the Johnny Lingo Trio with Ziegler and Kirk Burnett, was also there at the beginning.

“I was the original drummer,” he said. “I was with the band for about two years.” He said he rejoined the band for a while in the 1990s.

The longevity of Major Lingo may be as simple as chemistry according to Rentz.

“Chemistry is everything,” he said, “everything interlocks with the greatest of ease. That’s when the magic happens.”

He said the band never gave in to following the flavor of the week with its music. The band always remained true to the music.

“The music comes from a deep place,” Rentz said. “People who love music are looking for bands that are real.

“It’s just about chemistry and love,” he said.

Fans of Major Lingo, fortunately, will have several opportunities to listen and dance to this talented band throughout the fall.

Aug. 31

Major Lingo will play The Blue Moon Ball at Tequa Plaza Courtyard. This will be a major fundraiser for Big Park Community School and is sponsored by the Big Park PTSA. Tickets are $100 per person with $50 going direct to the school.

Sept. 14

Rally in The Valley in Old Town Cottonwood. This outdoor event will be on Main Street from 7:30 to 9 p.m. All ages are encouraged to attend.

Sept. 27

The band will entertain at the Farmers Market in Old Town Cottonwood beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Oct. 6

Major Lingo will return to its roots at the Spirit Room in Jerome from 8 p.m. to midnight.

Nov. 3

Day of the Dead Masquerade Ball will be a huge concert event, as it is every year. The concert begins at 8 p.m. in the Cottonwood Civic Center. It is always for all ages.

Nov. 17

Major Lingo will make yet one more big road trip to Hollywood Alley in Mesa. Cover is $8, and the concert will begin at 10 p.m. and last until 1 a.m.

Dec. 16

“This is our Mt. Hope, John Ziegler Christmas Show,” Ziegler said of the Circle of Friends Christmas Concert in the Mingus Union High School Auditorium. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. and the show begins at 5:30.

Ziegler said this will be the 17th year for this concert.

Major Lingo may be riding off into the sunset, but Ziegler will be around.

“The Johnny Lingo Trio will continue, as well as my solo performances,” he said.

In fact, Ziegler is now involved in helping getting a new band started.

“Mountain Stranded Time, is the name,” Ziegler said.

The new band features Ziegler, Ron Chilston and vocalist Jill Wood.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2012
Article comment by: Phil Falbo

Music just didn't come any easier.


Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2012
Article comment by: Thanks For the Memories

Major Lingo is the only reason I still own a walkman, it is in a draw next to my desk at work. It has the tape “Wild Blue Yonder” in it and I have listened to that recording thousands of times. I went to my first show in the early 90's and see them whenever my schedule allows when I come back to the valley. Some of my best memories were dancing at Spook Hall, I think that was the first time I ever truly danced. They are my Beatles, John with his extraordinary voice that breathes such amazing life into his magical songs. I have never heard anyone play the slide guitar like Tony Bruno, nobody. His playing provides the atmosphere with which the music takes flight. Beautiful Sally’s ethereal voice and steady bass compliments the band perfectly and Steve’s drumming kept it all together. I am saddened to hear that they are calling it quits, the end of an era. Thank you for the marvelous times and the great recordings. They have somehow captured everything that I love about Jerome and the Verde Valley better than any photograph, movie or story ever could. One note, or piece of lyric, and I am instantly transported back to a thumping dance floor full of happy people. Thanks for the wonderful times.

Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2012
Article comment by: Celeste Was Blessed

I have been blessed to have this band in my life. From the time I was 16 and danced with my best friends Rayonna and Carrie. To taking my son to dance at the farmers market and watch him enjoy them. This band truly spans the generations. You will forever be one of my favorites.

Posted: Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Article comment by: The Nav

I was sad when M*A*S*H ended I was sad when "The Carol Burnett Show" left the air and shed a tear or two when "Seifeld" bowed out. It will be the same with this great bunch of musicians. Thanks for the memories and best of luck to all!

Posted: Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Article comment by: Nooooooooo! Noooooooo!!!!!


Ahem. Pardon my unrestrained rant, but...I say again: Nooooooooooo!!!

Please, say it isn't so..........

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