The Blue Band

History of Bob Dorr and The Blue Band

Bob Dorr and The Blue Band started in Cedar Falls IA, in the early summer of 1981, simply as a way to satisfy the remaining contracted obligations of a band that had broken up in the spring of ’81. Blue Band founding members Bob Dorr (vocals and harmonica) and Molly Nova (bass, violin, and vocals) assembled old friends to play the remaining three contracted dates of The Little Red Rooster Band, which Dorr and Nova had been part of from early 1977.

Discover the full history of The Blue Band here.

Listen to The Blue Band

We played a couple of Festivals that Iowa Public Radio’s Phil Maass recorded during our 35th Anniversary Tour in 2016. Here’s a five song sampling. Podcasts of three different full shows can be found at the Iowa Public Radio website.

1) Bottle In The Kitchen-Bowlful of Blues Festival, Newton IA 9/4/16


2) They All Ask’d For You…Friends Blues Blowout, Electric Park Ballroom, Waterloo IA 2/6/16  Featuring Ralph Stephens on washboard


3) Arc Welded-Friends Blues Blowout, Electric Park Ballroom, Waterloo IA 2/6/16


4) The Happy Birthday Blues-Bowlful of Blues Festival, Newton IA 9/4/16


5) I Like To Rock In The Morning-Friends Blues Blowout, Electric Park Ballroom, Waterloo IA 2/6/16  Featuring Larry van Loon on keyboards


The Blue Band on all these recordings:
Bob Dorr-vocals, zydeco tie, harp
Jeff Petersen-guitar, vocals
Doug Norton-bass, vocals
John Rohlf-drums
Nolan Schroeder-tenor saxophone
Brian Crew-trombone
Cathy Henry-vocals
Ralph Stephens-washboard on song #2
Larry van Loon-piano and organ on song #5

Thanks to Dennis MacRunnel for movin’ all the stuff on and off these stages!

Watch The Blue Band

Check out our YouTube videos from Sturgis Falls and IPTV.

Meet The Blue Band

2015 finds Bob Dorr & The Blue Band celebrating their 34th anniversary. Beginning June 10, 1981, the band has averaged playing around 100 dates a year for its 30+ year existence, resulting in a multi generational, dedicated fan base, and making them one of Iowa’s most revered, storied, and requested bands. Kansas City music writer Paul Taylor says “If you wanted to furnish your own nightclub, you would want The Blue Band. They are like one of those gleaming bright white appliances that you oohh and ahh over, and when you open the doors, all the best features you ever wanted come spilling out.” Mississippi Valley Blues Society Director Karen McFarland says “…the best damn rockin’ soul dance band in the heartland.” Originally called “Bobby’s Blue Band” (an obvious tongue-in-cheek play on blues icon Bobby Blue Bland), The Blue Band is a 5-7 piece group whose sound can only be described as The blues/soul/rockabilly/reggae/creole/rhythm Band! The band can play nearly three hours of original music or another three hours of popular covers, done in Blue Band fashion. A typical night mixes originals and covers plus a few requests.

These days The Blue Band has evolved into a veritable Iowa All-Star collection of regular and alumni players, spearheaded by founding members Bob Dorr with his unmistakable lead vocals (Dorr can also be credited with a 40+ year career on Iowa Public Radio) and Jeff Petersen on his 1968 Gibson Flying V guitar, lap steel guitar, vocals, and song writing. Two drummers split time on the Blue drum chair. Longtime eastern Iowa drum legend Steve “The Chief” Hayes has been part of the group since 2003, longtime Cedar Falls drummer John Rohlf (Johnny Metro) joined the drum team in December of 2011. “Uncle” Al Naylor brought his renowned trumpet chops to the Blue horn section in 2008. The “new guy” is bass player Doug Norton, who joined the group in 2013. It’s not unusual to catch a number of “Blue Alumni” also playing with the band on any given night including guitarists Ron DeWitte and Bryce Janey and sax men Nathan Peoples, Tom Barry, Bob Thompson, Heath Alan and Jerry Peoples. Iowa Blues and Jazz Hall of Famers Sam Salomone and Tommy “T-Bone” Giblin often lend their talents on keyboards. The band generally travels within a 300-mile area of their home base in Eastern Iowa which includes Minneapolis, Kansas City, Omaha, and Chicago, performing at live music venues, summer festivals, and private functions. The band also has had regular appearances in Summit County and Denver, Colorado, and has performed at Bluestock International Convention & Festival in Memphis, Tennessee and Sun Valley ski resort in Idaho. Bob Dorr &The Blue Band-STILL rockin’ your soul after all these years. Be part of the show some night soon!

Bob Dorr Dorr’s legacy with the Blue Band began in June 1981. Although Dorr is talented on various instruments including the harmonica and percussion, his voice is his best instrument. Not only has Dorr made his own band a success, but he has helped provide valuable exposure for other regional bands through the use of his highly popular radio shows on Iowa Public Radio and as producer of the highly regarded Iowa Blues compilations for Hot Fudge Music. Bob began his tenure in Public Broadcasting at KUNI-FM in October of 1972 and for his 40+ years of entertaining listeners with his solid knowledge of music history and interviews with highly noted rock and blues figures, he was inducted into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Music Association Hall of Fame in September 2000. In April 2006, Bob was inducted into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame. In 2007 he was re- inducted into the Iowa Rock ’n’ Roll Music Association Hall of Fame as leader of The Blue Band.

Jeff Petersen is one of the Eastern Iowa Region’s best guitar players and a founding member of The Blue Band. He has performed for over 40 years, playing a customized 1968 Gibson Flying V Guitar. Originally from Clinton, Iowa, Jeff started playing guitar at the age of 14 after hearing the Beatles and was further influenced by B.B. King, the Allman Brothers, and Eric Clapton. After a 10-year stint with the Headstone Band, Jeff helped start The Blue Band along side Blue Band front man Bob Dorr. Jeff has played in a variety of venues and has opened for national acts such as Freddy King and Johnny Winter. According to Jeff, he’s trying to find that one perfect note and takes life one day at a time. He explained, “I don’t care how big the crowd is, I just love to play.” Jeff has been inducted into the Iowa Rock ’n’ Roll Music Association Hall of Fame TWICE-in September 2006 for his work with the Headstone Band and September 2007 with The Blue Band.

Steve Hayes, “The Chief” has been eastern Iowa’s first call drummer for over 30 years. Born in Cedar Rapids, Hayes started playing professionally at age 16 with Leo and the Hilltoppers. He has been a long time side man with Patrick Hazell’s Mother Blues Band and can be heard on records by Greg Brown, Bo Ramsey, Kevin Gordon, Dave Moore and a host of other “Who’s Who” Midwest musicians. Although Steve has done many substitute gigs with The Blue Band over the last 20 years, 2003 was his first full time presence with the group. Steve was inducted into the IRRMA Hall of Fame TWICE in 2007 for his work in The Blue Band and The Mother Blues Band and inducted into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame in July 2007. Steve took a full-time job at University of Iowa Hospitals in the fall of 2011 and consequently shares the Blue Drum Chair with veteran Cedar Falls drummer John Rohlf (Johnny Metro).

John Rohlf (Johnny Metro) became one of the two Blue drummers in December of 2011. He has been gigging in bands since 7th grade and includes playing in Nasty Jack, Headstone (with Jeff Petersen) Tennyson, The Proof, The Back Alley Band, and Scarlet Runner. He’s traveled all over the country, including stops in Colorado, Nevada, Minnesota, Georgia, and Alaska, playing on bills that included Elvin Bishop, Rick Derringer, The Grassroots, The Ozark Mountain Daredevils and more. In addition to playing with The Blue Band, John is the owner of Metro Records in Cedar Falls.

Eddie McKinley is one-time Lil Ed & The Blues Imperials sideman and current Diplomats of Solid Sound section leader. He spearheads a committee of rotating saxophone players for The Blue Band, most recently frequently joined by UNI Jazz 1 sax player Nolan Schroeder.

Doug Norton bought his first bass guitar after attending a Cheap Trick concert in the summer of 1979. Shortly after, at the age of 15, he started his professional musician career by playing in many Iowa based bands including Staxx, Bad Dog, and Major Day. Doug also played full time in the Atlanta GA based band Rayze, touring 36 states and Canada, on the bill with Three Dog Night, Foghat, The Beach Boys and others. Recently Doug has been involved in a recording project with Christian artist Alissa Degroote and as leader of the worship group at the Evangelical Free Church in Marshalltown. Doug’s wife Jodi is also a singer and keyboard player in the worship band, they have two children, a 6 and 7 year old. Doug also has a 19 year old daughter. By day, Doug is a delivery man for a Marshalltown distribution company, by night “The New Guy” in The Blue Band.

Al Naylor is a born and raised Iowa music educator and trumpet player. Al was a member of the Oelwein based horn band, “The Pages” in the early 70’s. He was inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with them in 1999. Al was a founding member of the legendary 70’s Iowa rock band Sisters. He also played with a kickin’ funk band in Michigan named “Chopper.” Al spent some time living in New York City and played in a group with legendary fusion jazz guitarist, Bill Frissel. Upon his return to Iowa, Al started his own big band, the I-380 Express, and was a founding, twenty year member of the state’s premiere salsa band, Orquesta de Jazz y Salsa Alto Maiz. He also had the opportunity to play with the rock legends The Temptations, Englebert Humperdink, and the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. “Uncle” Al played on a few Blue Band records in the ’80s and is playing nearly all the Blue Band shows these days.

Sam Salomone, on Hammond B3 organ, has contributed to the Blue Band sound since 1996. Prior to his works with Iowa-known acts like The Blue Band and BillyLee Janey, Salomone started his impressive blues and jazz career in the early 60s. With the influences of Little Richard and Ray Charles–Jerry Lee Lewis being the one to ignite his passion–Sam started his career touring with names like Del Shannon and The Duprees. Sam bought his first Hammond B3 organ in 1965 and after studying theory and harmony at Grand View College, he made his move to jazz. Since those days Salomone has toured from Coast to Coast and within the Midwest including Chicago and Kansas City, but has in recent years decided to stay closer to home. His work in Iowa has not gone without notice. Sam was inducted to the Iowa Jazz Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame in January of 2002 as well as the Iowa Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame with The Blue Band in 2007.

The Blue Band Over the Years

A few snapshots of The Blue Band throughout the years!