Groovin’ to the 70’s: ZHS teen duo channels Zeppelin, Clapton, Beatles, Doors, et all

Michael Dorso (lef) and Chet Peterson are bonded by their love of music. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

by Bruce Strand, Arts editor

Zimmerman teens Chet Peterson and Michael  Dorso have an 70’s and 80’s band going, or at least to the extent that’s possible in a small town.

Since eighth grade, the musical pals have  fronted a foursome they call “The ZZIM” (“Zimm,”  backwards) and done well in school talent contests and occasional pep-fest gigs. Mostly they jam among themselves, and with whomever they can enlist at the moment.

“Living in a small town like Zimmerman, it’s hard to find people as much in love with music as we are,” said Peterson. So they fill out the band with friends who aren’t quite as devoted.

“If we’re together in  college,” said Dorso, “we’d like to put something together to play at coffee houses and clubs.”

Their school band director, Tim Smith, is impressed.

“Chet and Michael play great classic rock covers from bands like Journey, Billy Joel, Led Zepplin, and Eric Clapton,” said Smith, himself a member of an Irish rock band, the Durty Nellys.

“They are not just your same run-of-the-mill cover garage band. These guys really understand the style of the era better than most youth.”

The kids churned out a tune for the Star News after the photo session at Dorso’s home on Lake Fremont. They have a pleasant, energizing, toe-tapping sound.

Peterson, on lead guitar and vocals, and Dorso, on piano, keyboard, vocals and sometimes guitar, are currently joined during gigs by Dalton Thompson (bass guitar) and Dustin Richards (drums). All are juniors. Last year, Matt Ehrich, two years older, sang with them at Starstruck.

Starstruck is ZHS’s annual talent show. As freshmen they played Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” and got second place behind a ballroom dancing pair. As sophomores they played  Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and placed third behind the dancers and a pianist. Chet and Mike also did a Mumford and Song song “White Blank Page” and placed fourth.

The boys play saxophone in Smith’s concert and jazz bands and both are learning harmonica.

We asked the teens why they prefer the music of their parents’ generation.

“I was raised on CCR, John Fogarty and the early blues,” said Peterson, “and when I started to play guitar, that’s what I learned on, and what i came to love. You listen to the music nowadays, and it just doesn’t cut it.”

Dorso explained that you can “put  a lot more soul” into music of 70’s, 80’s and 90s luminaries such as the The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and The Beatles.

Peterson regards Eric Clapton as his musical hero and “Layla” as his favorite Clapton tune.

Dorso’s favorite is the Beatles.

“When I heard ‘Let it Be’ for the first time, I knew I had to learn it.”