Saturday, December 17, 2022

The Lykes Of Us (Bloomington-Normal)

If you were a student at Illinois State University in the late 1960's chances are you saw The Lykes of Us perform on or around campus at some point.

The popular group formed in the fall of 1966 with all five original members attending the same high school in Rockford before coming to ISU.

Originally called the Young Bloods, the combo soon changed their name to The Lykes of Us to avoid any confusion with The Youngbloods who had recently released a record.   (Little did they know that there was also a lesser-known group from Michigan called The Lykes of Us that would soon release a 45 as well.)

By the fall of 1967, the group consisted of brothers Dave (singer) and Dennis (organ) Belfield, Jim Boitnott (bass), Gary "Snuffy" Smith (guitar) and Wes Morgan (drums).   All were ISU undergrads except for Smith who commuted from the University of Illinois.  Later members of the group included Paul Hansen and singer Margo Meek.   In late '68 Meek was replaced by Leslie Aguillard because of chronic laryngitis.  

While the group played a number of dances, parties and concerts on the campus of ISU, they also toured around Illinois and across the Midwest.   In 1969, the group told the Vidette, ISU's student newspaper, that "their greatest on stage experience was is Oshkosh, Wis., but they recalled ISU, SIU, WIU and Bradley as having really great dances."  Drummer Wes Morgan added, "schools in Indiana and Kansas were also good."

The group was managed by the Champaign-Urbana talent agency Blytham Ltd and as a result were sometimes promoted as being from Champaign.  Other times, when playing gigs outside of Illinois, they were occasionally listed as being from Chicago.  

In an article in the Vidette in October of 1967 the group mentioned plans to make a record "perhaps in the next three or four months."   If they did make any recordings at that time they do not appear to have been released.  

The group announced their breakup at the end of the school year in May of 1969.   The main reasons given were hardships caused by frequent changes in personnel, the loss of equipment in a flood and the overall difficulties of the music business.

After the breakup however not all members left the music business entirely.  Dennis Belfield, the group's organ player, went on to a long successful music career as a bass player.  He was a member of Rufus with Chaka Kahn in the early 70's and then joined Three Dog Night in 1975.   In the years that followed Belfield became a top notch session player that performed with an impressive list of artists:  Neil Young, Roy Orbison, The Monkees, Ringo Starr... just to name a few.

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