BROOKINGS – “You Can’t Go Home Again.” So says the title of one of Thomas Wolfe’s noted American novels.
But a decades-ago Brookings band, Cocoon, is having a go at coming home again – albeit with some newcomers to the group – for a second time after being away for 15 years.
The born-in-Brookings band was the featured entertainment at the 2002 Brookings Summer Arts Festival and returns in that role for the 2017 BSAF this weekend.
It’s not a bad gig for a group that got its start as a Brookings garage band in the late 1960s and went on the road in the “Monster Green” bus in the 1970s, touring a three-state area – Iowa and Nebraska in addition to South Dakota – playing at school proms, auditoriums and bars.
Cocoon was originally made up of Eric Wilson Adams, lead singer; Lyle Behrend, drummer; Tom Barnes, bass guitar; Mike Barnes, lead guitar; and Wayne Myers, keyboard and vocals. This go around Adams, Behrend and Myers will be joined by Jim Juntunen, lead guitar, and his son Josh, guitar; Curt Henry, bass guitar and an honorary Cocoon member; and Melissa Adams-Goihl, Adams’ daughter and a professional actress and singer, doing backup vocals.
Adams takes pride in his being responsible for the band’s transportation.
“We got around in an old school bus that we painted ‘monster green.’ We converted it, put four bunks in there and the back end held our equipment,” he explained.
“That is where I got my very first loan. The bus cost $900. My dad had to co-sign with me for the loan,” Adams added.
The 64-year-old Brookings Bobcat, class of 1971 and the oldest member of the band, now retired and living in the Dallas area, was also the driver in getting Cocoon together for this year’s BSAF gig. After their glory days in the early 1970s, the band members went their separate ways but kept their ties to music.
Cocoon disbanded – somewhat – in 1972. Adams, however, prefers to think of it as “the band that keeps on playing.”
Adams taught school in Corsica before going into business for himself in Fargo, N.D., for more than 30 years. While he’s retired, he still substitute teaches for K-12 classes. Additionally, he continues to write and promote his own music, which he sings in casinos now and then.
Behrend earned a master’s degree in music and became a teacher; Tom Barnes currently plays in Reno, Nev., with a group called Blue Monsters.
In touch over the years
“We’re all friends still,” Adams said of the group. “We stayed friends all these years. We still like the music; and, frankly, some of the classic tunes are still being played a lot. Our kids and now even some of our grandkids are liking some of those tunes.
“So the Brookings Summer Arts Festival gives us a chance to go back. There’s going to be several BHS class reunions, and they’ll have some of their kids there. So it’s just kind of fun to get those classic tunes back out there again. We have fun and we think a lot of people have fun with it.” Adams has four children and four grandchildren.
Asked why a return to Brookings, he said, “The camaraderie. We’re still all friends and keep in touch, enjoy the music. And the Brookings Summer Arts Festival is just a fun venue.”
Jim Juntunen, 64, lives in Brookings and is no stranger to the BSAF. He played at the festival in 1973 in a band whose name escapes him. He played with Cocoon at the 2002 BSAF. Additionally, he has his own local band, Highway Call. Now he’s back to the festival as an official honorary Cocoon member.
“I think this will be the sixth time I’ve played there (BSAF), and it’ll only be the second time with a repeat band,” he said.
And he’s happy to be back, adding, “It’s not hard to talk me into playing.”
Hoping for the Hall of Fame
As to what type of music festival goers can expect this year, Adams said, “I would list at the top a couple of bands, like Rolling Stones, James Gang, Chicago, and Three Dog Night. That’s kind of the realm and it goes on from there.” That could include songs by The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and BB King.
Looking back to the birth of “Cocoon,” Adams recalls that when he was in seventh grade, he and fellow classmates Behrend and Mike Barnes put together a band they called “The Abstracts.”
“When you’re in seventh grade, what do you do? You practice in the garage,” he said.
For gigs, they “played in the old middle school gym; it used to be called ‘the pit.’ We would play for little sock hops and that.”
They got into high school and the name changed, apparently for no particular reason.
“To be honest, we probably looked at a number of names and there was ‘Cocoon,’ and we just settled in on it. No big reason,” Adams explained.
From that past comes Cocoon’s playing again in the town the band loves. But Adams did tie one issue to the band’s return to BASF 2017, what he called “one other caveat to our getting back together. We haven’t been promised anything, but what we are shooting for and trying to be nominated for is to be inducted into the South Dakota Rock Hall of Fame.
“We’ve got people from that committee who are going to come to the arts festival and listen. And we’re asking people if they like us, they can go to that website of the South Dakota Rock Hall of Fame and they can cast a vote for Cocoon.”
If the band is inducted into the hall of fame, the band will play in Sioux Falls in April 2018 “for one last performance.”
“If we’re not inducted, we will not be back,” Adams said. “They can’t wait too much longer, because we’re all getting pretty old.”
Behrend, a Brookings native present at the creation of Cocoon, now lives near Dubuque, Iowa, after retiring from a career teaching music in Iowa.
“I’ve been real excited about it since we first started talking about this, probably over a year ago. It’ll be great to see everybody again, the old band members.”
Before he went into music education, he earned his living as a working musician.
After Cocoon disbanded in 1972, he played in about five bands before returning to South Dakota State University to earn a master’s degree in music, graduating in 1981.
Like Adams, he wants to see Cocoon inducted into the Hall of Fame. He said, “We’ve been working on it for two or three years, hoping to get in this next year.”
Cocoon performs at the Pioneer Park bandshell at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday and at noon and 4 p.m. Sunday.
Check out Thursday’s edition of The Brookings Register for our Brookings Summer Arts Festival special section with a listing of all the festival artists, food booths, musicians and more.
Contact John Kubal at [email protected].