For a town of it's size, Columbus, Nebraska in the 1960's seemed to spawn more than it's share of rock bands. The Echos started things off and became one of the first really popular bands in the area. By April 1966, six Columbus bands participated in promoter Abe Lincoln's "Battle of the Bands" at the Columbus City Auditorium. (By the way, the Nebraska Hall of Fame Echos won!) The other local bands playing that night were The Sonex, The Shades of Blue, The Shantells, The Rustix and The Mob. Ultimately, musicians from four of those groups became The Beautiful People, a group who's run as a top Midwest rock and roll band spanned 8 years from the mid 60's until June, 1973.
The Beautiful People actually had their genesis as "The Sonex" in 1964. Schuyler native Gene Hadley began playing bass and singing lead as early as 1961 with "Geno and the Teen Tones" at high school gigs in the area After moving to Columbus in the early 60's, he hooked up with a number of local musicians including lead guitar player John Svoboda from Leigh, as well as drummer Jim Swanson to form The Sonex. After experimenting unsuccessfully in 1965 with the "James Brown" sound and a horn section, The 3 original Sonex became a 4-piece group with Doug Brown on Hammond Organ. Brown grew up in Hebron, Nebraska, and his piano background was more jazz oriented. His professional experience began in 1958 and included playing piano and sometimes trumpet with The Mickey Kull Orchestra's 13-piece "Big Band", that played all the southern Nebraska and northern Kansas ballrooms and social clubs throughout the late 40's and 50's. When work for big bands faded, Brown continued playing trumpet and fronting his own 6 piece Jazz combo, "The Rhythmaires" in Southern Nebraska and Northern Kansas until the end of 1963.
Throughout 1966, The Sonex gained increasing commercial success, mostly within 100 miles of Columbus, but when Jim Brouse of the Echos joined the band late in the year, his vocal harmonies and additional guitar work boosted The Sonex another notch. By the end of the year, the band was picked up by well-known promoter James N Reardon out of Hayes, Kansas. A former associate of John Brown's Mid-continent Productions in Lawrence, Reardon decided The Sonex name was too similar to Seattle's popular and well-known band "The Sonics". At Reardon's suggestion and taking a phrase from a then popular Beatles' song, the band learned how it felt to become "one of The Beautiful People?" They changed their name at the beginning of 1967.
With Reardon's promotion, The Beautiful People grew in popularity and scope. Advertising on 50,000-Watt radio station KOMA in Oklahoma City, the band's name spread throughout the Plains States. In 1967, playing mostly top 40 hits and emphasizing vocal harmonies, The Beautiful People played more than 70 dates throughout several states, traveling in their converted greyhound bus. In 1968, the band was named the winner of a year long tournament "Battle of the Bands" at the Pink panther Nightclub in Chadron, and in 1969 the Champion Beautiful People defeated the Moonrakers, then advertised as Denver's #1 band.
The band's commercial success as a dance and nightclub band continued, but by the end of 1969, burnout from all the traveling, plus the failing health of organizer Gene Hadley had taken it's toll. After wearing out three cars and two busses, The Beautiful People decided that their December 31st, 1969 New Years Eve gig at the Hollyhock Ballroom in Hatfield, Minnesota was their last. As luck would have it, a new young lead guitar player from Alabama named Paul Thomason was invited to sit in with the band that night.
After the breakup, keyboard player and vocalist Doug Brown looked around in early 1970 for accomplished musicians to form a new group. HE decided joining with Thomason was a good start. In February 1970, with booking requests for The Beautiful People still coming in, Brown, the last original member of the group, and a new guitar player Thomason decided to keep the name of The Beautiful People alive. Seeking experienced musicians; they contacted bass player Steve Nosal and drummer Vince Placek, both with Shantells/Soul Incorporated experience, plus lead singer Denny Hoyle and guitar player Al Joy from the Shades of Blue. By April 1970, The Beautiful People were back on the club circuit, playing top 40 hits and doing their characteristic harmonies. Tragically, during the initial days of the band's resurgence, founder Gene Hadley passed away from complications of pneumonia in April 1970, before his 30th birthday. In 1971, Fremont native Joel Story replaced Placek on drums.
In the following three years, The Beautiful People expanded their range, playing from Minnesota to Arizona, Wyoming to Missouri. By the time the end came in mid 1973, they could count themselves as having been regulars at "college" dance clubs like The Fireside in Kearney, the Dark Horse Inn in Hayes, Kansas, The Royal Grove in Lincoln, The High Chaparral in Lincoln, The Macombo Club in Sioux Falls, The Lamplighters Clubs in Salina and Hayes, Kansas, plus Me & Ed's in Manhatten, Kansas. They also continued to find acceptance as a top "prom" band throughout Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado in the early 70's. The evolution continued, as during that time, former Echos and Chancellor's drummer Denny Goines spent several months with the group, and in 1972, original drummer Jim Swanson returned. In June 1973, the group played its last regular performance. Another final chapter soon followed when an original member of The Beautiful People and former Echo, Jim Brouse was killed in a car-pedestrian accident in August 1973.
Since the late 70's, in addition to his day job with the Nebraska Department of Revenue, guitarist Paul Thomason has played almost constantly, finding that a country-classic rock format in Lincoln offered the most opportunities to stay busy. Jim Swanson, John Svoboda and Al Joy are all in Columbus and have other careers, but have continued to keep their skills sharp by playing sporadically, sometimes together or in combination with other musicians. Swanson continued to perform with the group Night Train throughout the 80's and 90's. Steve Nosal and Vince Placek regrouped with the Soul Incorporated in the late 1990's and performed regionally. Lead singer Denny Hoyle is in southern California and no longer performs professionally. Keyboardist Doug Brown is in Tacoma, Washington, still has his Hammond and a couple of his electronic keyboards at home, and mainly entertains himself and his family, although he has jammed with some Seattle rock bands on rare occasions.
In 1997, after a week of rehearsal, The Beautiful People, in the form of Doug Brown, Jim Swanson, John Svoboda, Paul Thomason, Al Joy and Denny Hoyle, along with assorted musical friends and family members, reunited in Columbus, Nebraska for a July 4th show with the Echos at Wishbone's Nightclub. So, contrary to rumors, The Beautiful People have not actually broken up. They just haven't played together much lately.