The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Shade of Blue: UI alumni band’s 30-year history

Band members and fans of the locally formed blues group Shade of Blue look forward to their annual band reunion in Iowa City, filled with love, memories, and great music.
Photo Contributed by David Rosazza.

Lead vocalists Simone Green and Joan Ruffin of the Iowa City-rooted, Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame band Shade of Blue met as first-year students at the University of Iowa during their first college party in 1990.

Little did they know, a classic case of outfit clashing would lead to their life-long friendship and subsequent introduction to the band.

“We had the same dress on,” Green said. “And we weren’t happy about it either.”

Though the first glance they shared with each other was one of offense, the two became quick friends. Their shared love for that halter-neck dress introduced the two to their other shared interests, like their love for singing.

“I was like, ‘Okay, [Ruffin] can sing and she’s got style,” Green recalled.

Green and Ruffin started singing together in the university’s gospel choir, Voices of Soul. There, they met Dave Rosazza.

Rosazza, the founder and lead guitarist of Shade of Blue, initially formed the band in 1989 as a trio with his friends Todd Hesseltine and Todd Fackler, who played drums and bass respectively.

The three met as members of a prior band but formed their own group in pursuit of a blues sound. With them came Saul Lubaroff on saxophone and Sean Seaton on keyboard.

After joining the gospel choir after a referral from the choir’s late director in 1992, Ron Teague, Rosazza was introduced to Green, Ruffin, and the choir’s bassist, Ken Fullard.

The growing group met soon after for their first rehearsal in the UI’s Voxman Music Building and quickly became a local household name.

“I’ve been following them for years,” said UI alum Monique Washington.

Her support for the band began 30 years ago when a college friend coaxed her into going out to a show at The Mill, a local jazz bar that has since been demolished.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God,’” Washington recalled her reaction to hearing the band play for the first time. “There were not too many bands that could hold a stick to them.”

But after graduation, some of the band members moved away, putting their sound on pause. Green moved to Chicago and found success in forming her own band, Soul Sanctuary. Ruffin relocated to St. Petersburg, Florida, to pursue a career away from music.

Rosazza, along with Lubaroff, Seaton, and Fullard, stayed local while working on their own projects. The members remained in contact, but Shade of Blue was, for the most part, a piece of their past.

Denny Ketelsen first met the band when he worked as a sound engineer for their Cedar Rapids shows in the mid-‘90s. After Rosazza learned of Ketelsen’s background as a keyboardist, Ketelsen was brought on board the now-nine-piece crew.

Though his love for music never wavered, Ketelsen turned his focus towards his professional career; he eventually became the president of NuSolutions, an environmentally conscious feed additive company.

Then, in 2012, Ketelsen got a call from Rosazza.

“I was on my way to Singapore for a business meeting, actually,” Ketelsen said, recalling where he was when the phone rang; Rosazza called to propose a Shade of Blue reunion show.

“[Rosazza] asked me to come in and play and I said ‘Sure,’” Ketelsen said.

After the success of their first reunion, Rosazza and the band decided to do it again the next year and, eventually, the crew established an annual reunion every Fall.

“Everybody’s got their own projects, but [the reunion] has become our fun time,” Rosazza said.

More than 30 years after their formation, fans new and old come each year for the electrifying, soul-dancing sound unique to the Iowa City-rooted band.

This year, the band took up an array of gigs. The band performed on Thursday at a fundraising event held by Margaret and Fran McCaffery. The next morning, they performed on the sidewalk in front of jewelry store M.C. Ginsberg in Iowa City’s downtown district.

Later that evening, the band captivated attendees at Wildwood Smokehouse & Saloon with original songs as well as covers of classics from artists like Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, and Steely Dan.

The chemistry between members, Ketelsen said, is paramount for the success of any band. Luckily, Shade of Blue is in excess.

“This band has chemistry, and that just makes it all happen,” Ketelsen said. “We all feel it.”

On stage at their Wildwood show, the same garment the former choir members used to wear around their necks during performances, an African print sash, was draped over one of the band’s speakers as a tribute to the late director of the gospel group that brought them together.

“[Teague] is always with us,” Green said. “He’s part of the reason that we’re all here.”

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About the Contributor
Avi Lapchick
Avi Lapchick, Arts Editor
Avi Lapchick is an arts editor at The Daily Iowan. A fourth-year student studying English and Creative Writing at the University of Iowa, she previously held the positions of staff photojournalist, summer arts editor, and assistant arts editor at the DI. She is happiest when she is writing or painting.