As remembered by Bob Peeler:
“The band, “THE CHALLENGERS,” had its beginning in the basement of Roy and Kay Redick in Findlay, Ohio, in the late summer of 1963. Their son Gary, age 17, played bass and keyboards. Gary had just met a guitarist Bob Peeler, age 22, through a mutual friend Roger Hilty. Hilty, then 20 years old, was a drummer who had been jammin’ with Gary in his basement. There was instant chemistry and the threesome clicked right away and started making great music!
Getting together several times a week, the band started putting a song-list together covering some top 40 hits and R&B. Between the neighbors and some friends, the group was already becoming popular and started playing parties and a night or two at a couple of bars in Findlay.
THE BAND’S 1st BREAK!
The Hollywood, a Findlay Bar, was managed by Bob Routson and Bob loved The Challengers! They started playing for him at the Hollywood on Friday and Saturday nights in the basement which had been opened up for live music on the week-ends. In the beginning, it was bare- bones with the band playing on the floor and no designated dance floor, basic bar and a few stools. Then Bob took it to the next level and, with the band’s help, he built a stage, got some lighting and created a dance area.
The Challengers had a home base now and were playing every Friday and Saturday night. Crowds were backing up in the stairwell and The Hollywood had arrived!
OUR BIG BREAK!
Things just kept getting better and better at the Hollywood: their business, the band’s play-list, and exposure. The trio truly loved what they did and their music reflected that.
So one Saturday night an older man approached the band for a word “when we get a moment”. The gentlemen, Don Williams, was the owner of The Club 224 in Tiffin and offered a 2-week contract with a 4-week option for a lot of money playing Tuesday through Saturday. To do this would be a career-decision for all three. For Bob and Roger, it was also a difficult decision, because they both had good jobs with benefits.
The decision was made to go at it full time, based on the confidence they had in themselves and each other and they never looked back! The band left on good terms with Bob Routson and The Hollywood, as by that time there were several groups wanting to play there. They returned to The Hollywood now and then, filling in an off-week on the road and catching up with friends and fans. By then, they were playing 5 and 6 nights a week in clubs mostly in college towns such as Columbus, Cleveland, Bowling Green, Kent, and Norwalk. During this time, they had recorded 2 records which were getting some air play in Findlay, Fostoria, Toledo and Columbus.
THE FINAL CHAPTER!
From the latter part of 1964 thru October of 1965 The Challengers, working constantly and using Findlay as a home base, were realizing the need for professional management in order to achieve their goals which were to secure a recording contract and bigger better-paying gigs! One such agency was Marty Conn Entertainment and Management in Cleveland, Ohio. After several meetings, studio time, and negotiations, it was decided that we needed to add a 4th member, as anything less would be a “Hard Sell!” All in at this juncture, we started auditioning for a bass player/vocalist to add and signed a 12-month contract with the agency as the band “THE AMERICAN WAYS”. A young 17-year-old from Toledo, Ken Turner, showed up at The Hollywood in December of ’65, auditioned, and became the 4th member of the newly formed AMERICAN WAYS!
In June of 1966, at a Waukegan, Illinois, club called “THE MOUSETRAP”, The American Ways finished up their 4-week contract and with the next 2 weeks off, Bob Peeler gave notice of his resignation to the band in order to pursue a career in sales. Upon Bob’s departure from the band, Gary, Roger, and Kenny hired another guitar player and renamed the ban, “The Turfits”. The Challengers did re-unite two more times: once in Findlay in 1968 for a music set at a club on West Sandusky and once in 1972 for a Friday/Saturday gig at The Doghouse in Curtice, Ohio.
Footnote: Much of The Challengers’ success was based on just having fun with it and there was this unspoken mutual respect of each other’s ability. There were no egos in the band, yet each was better than the other! We loved the fans, music, the crowds, the dancers, and most of all… entertaining!
IT’S ALL RIGHT- IT’S ONLY ROCK N ROLL!
Gary D. Redick died 3 years ago in Sebring Florida still performing as a one-man act.
Roger P. Hilty died in 2020, at age 76, in Conyers, Georgia. He was retired from The Kroger Company.
Robert Peeler passed away in June of 2022 in Perrysburg, Ohio.”