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Original Williams and Ree band members gather at alma mater

Patty (Cummings) Nills, who now works at facilities services at BHSU, recently shared this photograph of Williams and Ree and Dennis Van Vactor performing at her wedding dance in 1970. Patty is shown in the far left. Her mother, Babe Cummings, who was food service director at BH for many years, is shown on the far right. Dennis Van Vactor , back left, is playing the piano and Williams and Ree are shown singing. Several of the original Williams and Ree band members will reunite for a special performance at Black Hills State University Tuesday, June 9 at 7:15 p.m.

Gary Mule Deer, a Black Hills State University alum who was recently named to the South Dakota Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Kenny Miller, longtime performer in this region, have just announced that they will join Williams and Ree and friends for this special reunion show.

Williams and Ree, who have been performing their unique comedy and music shows for more than 40 years, will present a “reunion” show on the Black Hills State University campus along with several of the original band members: Dennis Van Vactor, Jerry Burton, and Jim Roberts.

The show is set for show Tuesday, June 9 at 7:15 p.m. in the Clare and Josef Meier Recital Hall on the campus of Black Hills State University. Proceeds will benefit the Sever and Ruth Eubank scholarship program. Limited seating is available. Reserve your ticket now by call 642-6385. Tickets are also available the BHSU Alumni Office, Woodburn Hall – room 114; the Bay Leaf Café and the Spearfish Arts Center Gallery in downtown Spearfish; or by contacting Dixie Richardson (Sever and Ruth’s daughter) at 605-717-3270 or dixierandr@rushmore.com.

Williams and Ree have returned to their alma mater many times for performances and are active supporters of the University, however, this is the only time they have reunited with former band members for an appearance on the campus where it all began.

Legendary performers Williams and Ree began performing along with several other BHSU students, including Dennis Van Vactor, who first met Bruce Williams when Williams arrived in Spearfish from Mountain Home, Idaho, to spend the summer working with the Upward Bound program at what was then Black Hills Teacher College. Van Vactor spent his professional years with Yamaha Corporation of America working as a manager in their musical products division. After a 27-year career there he retired and now works with a group of studio musicians in Tucson, Ariz.

Also appearing at the show will be Jerry Burton, who has worked as a professional drummer in Minneapolis for 40 years. He joined Williams and Ree in the mid-70s and is still one of the “first call” drummers in Minnesota.

Jim Roberts also joined Williams and Ree in the mid-1970s and toured with the group. Roberts and Williams live near one another in Brentwood, Tenn., and have a “fun” band with Williams' daughter and neighbors (one of the band members is a member of the Little River Band from Australia). Roberts has spent most of his professional life working in the medical imaging (X-ray, MRI, CAT, etc.) field with manufacturers.

Gary Mule Deer has appeared on over 350 television shows including The Tonight Show and David Letterman, and has entertained everywhere from the Hollywood Bowl to the Grand Ole Opry to Royal Albert Hall in London. His unique blend of comedy and music has set him apart as a one-of-a-kind performer. He has appeared regularly in Las Vegas, Reno, Lake Tahoe and Atlantic City with everyone from Ray Charles and Vince Gill to Brooks & Dunn and the Smothers Brothers. For 15 years he has been touring as a special guest with Johnny Mathis in major venues across the country. Gary's next appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman will be on July 28.

These BHSU alumni are honored to have the opportunity to perform together in a concert that will raise funds for the Eubank scholarship program. Sever Eubank was a faculty member at BHSU when this band formed and they all fondly remember his dedication and commitment to students. His wife Ruth taught for many years in Sturgis. The couple was actively involved in their community and served the Democratic Party at the local, state, and national levels. When Sever retired from BHSU in 1985, his replacement as chairman of the social science department instituted a scholarship in his name. In 2007 an endowment was established. The funds are used to award a scholarship to a BHSU student majoring in history, human services, political science, sociology, or social science.

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