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In Memoriam

Van Arsdale Decker

March 12, 1948 – December 7, 2022

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Van _ Great Lakes Studios   300KB .jpg
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(1966 - 1973)

Who were the Plain Brown Wrapper
and what did you miss?

The Plain Brown Wrapper performed throughout Michigan in the late 60s and early 70s. Known for its amazingly versatile sound, their music was full of emotion and intensity. Often with driving rhythms and screaming trumpets -- other times with a beautiful song in 4-part harmony. Traveling in their converted school bus, they entertained in a wide variety of venues including many outdoor Woodstock-style concerts.  

Welcome to the Wrapper's "official" website (built by Van).

P.B.W. — W.B.P.  (Plain Brown Wrapper — Way Back Project)

  Join us on this adventure as we look back at one of Michigan's most original rock bands:

The Plain Brown Wrapper!

Master Decker, Dr. Decker, Our VanMan

​Master Decker, Dr. Decker, Our dearest VanMan, I love you and, I’d like to reveal a few “Deckerations” you mounted, if I can:

Saturday nights, babysitting your sisters, when really downstairs we would jam,..white lies I told to your girlfriend(s), to cover his fidelity scam,

we wrote a “Moonshiner’s” ditty and played as a hootenanny band,..​Singing in Mr. Nelson’s Barbershop harmony club were Demmer, Hammond, me and Van,

a mic inside Van’s acoustic guitar, he went electric through the Wollensak, damn !,..the “fried woofers" and really loud shockwave, from a pluging-in, helpful-hand plan,

“hungry poaching” a sandwich from the worker’s “frig”, while working for his old man,..

backing his folks’ car ‘round the neighborhood to lower the odometer (their car he had stol-en), but they came home early and caught him, so sorry Van,..dull “time” in county jail tearing a tiny, paper, playing-card deck, by hand.


Master Decker, Dr. Decker, Our dearest VanMan, violently expanded a campfire by using a gasoline can,..

“tripped” the birch woods lightly as a hairy Hobbit man,..tried to slow the cable at Redstone, but sadly ripped open his hand,

the suitcase went into the dumpster to hide the contraband,..(maybe not the best plan),

got married, left Michigan, and went out West, to find his place in the open.


Oh, “Grand Demo of the Dimension”,

    he went flying without suspension, simply believing in his intention, with clouds as his friends, I must mention,

In the “feeling of freedom and just being” he/me/we, saying “All in the air, together we’ll be”. So, what you believe in, you surely will see.


Van was a good guy, and generous man, he’d be putting on his Santa Claus hat whenever he can.

With hard work he was self-driven, building a song, a band or his own brand. 

He built big hi-fi speakers, a stage footlight system, set-lists, and his recording studio. He built trellises, garden beds and equipment sheds.  All along he built friendships and fans.

Over time, he built an academic credential, and a couple of music websites,

while teaching, and writing Yosemite suites and so many “Van songs”. 


He loved to wish upon a star, create music and more, driving his well-laid plans.


My dear oldest friend, I miss you, and I will remember all of the good times I had with you. 

Please, play-on, my rascally, creative “brother man”, Van.


With love,                     Hoz, Jim, James                          January, 2023

"The music of my friend and brother Van Decker has always inspired me.  

His whimsical and innocent style can be heard in this medley of his songs close to my heart."

Scott Durbin, January, 2023                                                                      (Please listen all the way through.)

Van's Songs (Scott's medley)
00:00 / 04:58

(Click on images below)

Introducing The Plain Brown Wrapper
1st P.B.W. - Fall 1966 (which formed after The Plagues broke-up)
P.B.W. October 1968
v.2 Dave, Phil, Chuck, Scott, and Van - Fall '67. A wake for Van (goofin' around).
P.B.W. Feb. '68.
v.3 PBW in the convex mirror image, on the 'sub loohcs' - Oct. 1969.
P.B.W. - Fall,1970. w/James Hosley (sd man & bus driver)
P.B.W. Spring 1971.
P.B.W. (Reborn-1973).
Plain Brown Wrapper "live"  
at Valley Court Park, 1969


While listening, click on the images below.
And Now You Dream (lyrics)
Scott - Trumpet Intro
James, Van , Scott
Phil Nobach - Drums
WILS Radio Chart - Feb. 1967
Scott - Pipe Organ
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Meet The

(1966 - 1973)

Plain Brown Wrapper from Lansing, MI (1966-1973).

During their 7- year existence the band grew into a massive stage show.

Including screaming guitars and horns and soaring vocal harmonies.
(Courtesy Posted Thursday, February 4, 2021)

From the article: "A Look Back at Plain Brown Wrapper" - by Rich Tupica.

Aside from a small batch of limited-run singles, "Plain Brown Wrapper" is now cemented deep within Lansing’s murky ’60s and ‘70s rock folklore. Those who were around to experience the band live on stage have hazy memories of the stage-filling ensemble cast of local musicians that made up Plain Brown Wrapper (PBW). From scorching guitars, to jazzy horns, the group slowly evolved from primitive arrangements into a colossally progressive wall of sound. When a group rolls up on stage with two trumpets, a trombone, plus 4 standard electric rock instruments and (sometimes)... 2 percussionists, you know it’s not your typical band.

Built from the garage-rock ashes of "The Plagues" (another legendary Lansing band), PBW took shape in 1966, after Plagues frontman and main song writer, Bill Malone, left the group and headed to Hollywood. 

But back home in Michigan, Bill's bandmates Van Decker (guitar/keys), Phil Nobach (drums) and Jim “Hoz” Hosley (guitar/bass) joined up with Scott Durbin (and temporarily, Steve Allen) to form The Plain Brown Wrapper. The group, which fully embraced the new psychedelic sounds of the late-’60s, saw many lineup changes until its 1973 breakup. But, at its core the outfit followed a basic equation, creativity.

“The Wrapper was influenced by American groups like the Beach Boys, Motown, Frank Zappa and some jazz artists.” Decker said. “(The sound) had a lot to do with Scott Durbin, who was an experienced jazz musician. Scott’s trumpet playing and piano talents made it possible to explore a much wider variety of styles, which carried over into our original material.”

Hosley confirms, The Wrapper preferred to test the creative limits, and each other, every time they performed together at venues like Grand Mother's, The Brewery, The Dells, MSU Shaw Hall, The Stables and Club Roma, along with dozens of "teen clubs" across the state of Michigan.

“The band loved to jam, as in jazz improvisation, or blues riffing, and that showed-up often, as the band would stretch-out and allow a soloist to play-on, or, there might be a dueling 8-bar jam, one soloist trying to stump the other or just put down a good lick”, Hosley said.    

In the Spring of '68 a new drummer, with a more jazz-influenced feel, joined The Wrapper. Rick Kalb ("Soaky Patato Funbath") was also a jazz DJ at MSU (Michigan State University), and his influence was noticed when he first auditioned,..he was "in". The Wrapper's original material soon began to flow and stretch-out, with creativity as a goal. This group signed a management contract and played in multiple Chicago clubs and a 5-week New Year's 1968-69 gig in Aspen, Colorado. But, all things come to an end. Kalb left The Wrapper to join Green Light Sunday, an even more jazz aimed band.

In January 1970, Gary Story replaced "Soaky" as the drummer. Gary's strong voice and song writing ability were immediately attractive, and his fat-back drumming pushed the band away from jazz towards a bluesey, R&B, pop-rock sound. In the Spring of 1971, Van and Jim left the band, but the group continued as a quartet for two more years.

Today, some of the band’s catalog is streamed on YouTube, like the soulful “Real Person” and “You’ll Pay” (an early, stripped-down single). And, check out their website and listen to the traces of sonic brilliance these local cats left behind.

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