SOME "WRAPPER" HISTORY
- A Timeline -
(1966 - 1973)
Van Arsdale Decker
March 12, 1948 – December 7, 2022
June 22,1940 -- Feb. 10, 2020
Traveling around Michigan in their self-converted, equipment hauling, school bus/dressing room (with a coal stove for heat), the first 5 versions of "The Wrapper" entertained many fans and made even more. For seven years the Plain Brown Wrapper was all about changes. Changes in personnel, musical style, venues, and most importantly, changes in fortune. Over their many-year existence, this band had their share of ups and downs. From performing for large crowds and sharing the stage with many famous Michigan rock groups, to losing bandmates due to the draft, management mis-steps, along with two broken recording contracts (the first with Capitol Records!),..they rode-out the changes and kept writing their music.
P.B.W. chart by James Hosley
Bill Malone (bass & vocals) leaves "The Plagues"! Van (guitar & vocals), Jim (guitar & vocals) and Phil (Drums) begin searching for a new member.
This is personnel Group #1 - June 1966
The band is reformed adding Scott Durbin (keys, trumpet & vocals) and The Plagues become: "Plain Brown Wrapper".
And so the seven year Wrapper dynasty begins!
October 1966 - Steve Allen (bass, trumpet & vocals) joins the band to make the Wrapper a quintet. Subsequently, the Wrapper wins several "Battle of the Bands" and becomes the house band for 6 months, on "Swing Lively" - a locally produced Saturday afternoon, music and dance, "Teen" TV show on WJIM, Lansing, MI.
January 1967 - Plain Brown Wrapper releases their first 45rpm, "And Now You Dream", which climbs to number 20 on the Top 40 chart on WILS in Lansing, MI.
This is personnel Group #2 - April 1967
Steve is drafted to serve in Viet Nam. Jim quits the band. Van invites Chuck Sweitzer (guitar & vocals) and David Livingston (bass, trumpet, trombone & vocals) to join the group. PBW musicality goes up.
June 1967 - The new Wrapper becomes very popular at the Coral Gables in E. Lansing and is hired to play the Coral Gables in Suagatuck, MI (6 nights-a-week
for three months straight). Their song arrangements and the show tightens-up.
October '67 into 1968 - The Wrapper plays regularly at the well-known "Rooster Tail" night club on the Detroit River, and opens for several famous entertainers and groups such as the Four Tops, Jerry Van Dyke and the Lemon Pipers (Green Tamborine).
This is personnel Group #3 - April 1968
Phil Nobach (drums) leaves the band and joins the Coast Guard Reserves. Rick (Soaky) Kalb becomes the band's new drummer, bringing a more jazzy feel, and a talent for telling tall tales (enter the Avant-Garde Society).
July 1968 - James Hosley, after working as a clerk for Marshall Music for a year and a half, rejoins the Wrapper as a permanent sound man, bus driver, and the band's
assistant road manager.
October 1968 - The Wrapper signs management contract with Phil Rapp (Chicago, IL) and the Wrapper begins playing week long gigs at Barnaby's in Chicago.
Just after Christmas 1968, the Wrapper loads into their 1st school bus, heading to Chicago to collect Yeshwua (conga player), and keep going, through an all-night
snow storm across Nebraska, and into the mountains of Colorado.
New Year's Eve, 1968 - The Wrapper starts playing a 5-week gig at "The Center" in Aspen, Colorado. Six sets a day, for 6 days a week, and it was an unforgettable experience for all the members. The band came back to Michigan as a tight musical unit.
March 1969 - The Wrapper begins recording their first album of all original music for Dunwich Productions in Chicago.
June 1969 - While recording the final vocal tracks for their album
the Dunwich contract was broken and sadly, the recordings were never completed.
June 1969 (The Summer Woodstock) - The Plain Brown Wrapper begin playing a series of different venues from high school proms to large outdoor music festivals. They perform all over Michigan but mostly in the Detroit area.
This is personnel Group #4 - Fall 1970
Rick Kalb (drums) resigns to join the band "Green Light Sunday" and Gary Story (Flint, MI) joins as a drummer, vocalist, and songwriter, in January 1970.
This is personnel Group #5 - Spring 1971
Both Van Decker and James Hosley decide to leave the Wrapper.
The Plain Brown Wrapper continues as a quartet.
February 1972 - Wrapper plays 6 sold out shows of The Who's rock opera "Tommy" with "Michigan State University New Players" dance troop.
March 1973 - The Plain Brown Wrapper (a quintet again) perform with
The Lansing Symphony Orchestra and The Lansing Area High School Choirs in a "Farewell Concert" featuring "Flying" by Van Decker
and orchestral arrangements by Scott Durbin.
This is personnel Group #6 -Summer 1973
Scott Durbin decides to change his musical direction and forms a quieter lounge-type quartet with previous Wrapper member, Steve Allen
along with Scott's 1st wife, Christina Kallas,
and a Lansing drummer, Bob Thompson.
Years later, Scott will continue using the Plain Brown Wrapper name with a few more bands of talented musicians, this time with a jazzier/funkier feel.
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 your 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 slowdown 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 wide open.
Our “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 his Santa Claus hat on, 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, so many “Van songs”.
He loved to wish upon a star, create music and more, driving his well-laid and inventive 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 to the very end)