Summer, 1964: Greg Balego (drums and vocals) and Don Hime (guitar and vocals) start jamming together in the basement of the Balego house in St. Anthony Village. Gary Hall stops by one day to play guitar with Greg and Don. Greg and Don are amazed, as Gary Hall had taught himself to play a right handed guitar, left handed (or upside down). Impressed with Gary’s unique style and his ability to quickly pick up chord sequences and lead riffs and also ad lib his own lead parts, Greg and Don ask Gary to join them in forming a band. Bill Palmgren joins the group on bass guitar and a new band emerges called The Illusions. Don, Gary and Bill live in Northeast Minneapolis. The first task was to learn as many British Invasion songs as possible, with a strong emphasis on The Beatles. Don Hime sings the John Lennon parts and Greg Balego sings the Paul McCartney parts. The band will eventually have 100 Beatles tunes on their song list.
Winter, 1964/1965: The band plays their first real jobs, playing at church events, private parties and eventually local junior high schools and then Edison High Schooland a KC club in Fridley. A bar in Northeast Minneapolis called the “Friendly Inn” on Main Street, decides to have teen dances in their lower banquet room on Sundays. The Illusions play there and become the house band and after a few weeks of playing there, the place is packed every Sunday.
Summer, 1965: The band is filmed at the Minnesota State Fair on the Date with Dino television show, hosted by Dino Day. The Illusions were supposed to play for the first half of the show and The Underbeats were booked to play the second half. Due to a change in plans, The Underbeats have to leave town at the last minute, giving The Illusions the full hour and a lot of television exposure.
Fall, 1965: The band picks up a young and talented drummer, Chuck Gill, moving Greg Balego to front stage as lead singer, playing tambourine, harmonica, and some rhythm guitar.
Spring 1966: Don Hime and Bill Palmgren leave the band. Greg Springer joins the band on keyboards and vocals and John Kokesh joins the band on bass guitar.
Winter 1966: The band plays at a fraternity party at the University of Minnesota and draw hundreds of people into the party room, among them, local booking agent David Wachter, who immediately asks the band to sign on with his company, with David managing the band. The partnership with David Anthony Productions puts the group on the road, traveling to ballrooms across the State of Minnesota.
The band plays with The Royal Guardsman (“Snoopy vs The Red Baron”) at the Aldrich Arena inSt. Paul.
February, 1967: Greg Springer and John Kokesh leave the band.
The band goes to the Prom Ballroom in St. Paul to see The Fabulous Flippers. The Flippers concert generates excitement in the Rhythm and Blues sound and the band decides to head in a new musical direction. The new lineup is: Greg Balego on lead vocals and bass guitar; Gary Hall on lead guitar; Sue Huble on keyboards and vocals; Jim Kogl on tenor saxophone ; and Chuck Gill on drums. This was the core group that came up with a new look and a new sound. The band covers songs by Wilson Pickett, James Brown, Sam and Dave, The Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, The Chiffons, The Shirelles, and JJ Jackson, among others.
Summer, 1967: Sue Huble leaves the band and Mike Dillon joins the band on keyboards and vocals. Mike had played organ with the New Ones (previously called Jack and the Rippers), a popular North Minneapolis band that was also booked by David Anthony Productions. Prior to that, Mike had played organ (and sang) with The Chanticleers, a Rhythm and Blues group from South Minneapolis. The new lineup is now: Greg Balego on lead vocals; Gary Hall on guitar; Mike Dillon on piano, organ and vocals; Jim Kogl on tenor saxophone and flute and Chuck Gill on drums. Greg does most of the lead vocals, with Mike doing lead vocals on a number of songs.
Winter 1967: Gary Hall leaves the band and is replaced by John Northrup on guitar.
Spring 1968: John Northrup and Jim Kogl leave the band to join The Society (a 10 piece horn band). The band decides to carry on as a quartet with Greg Balego on bass guitar and vocals, Mike Dillon on piano, organ and vocals, Jim VanBuskirk on guitar and Chuck Gill on drums and percussion. The band plays Top 40 songs, Motown, Rhythm and Blues and play cover songs by The Beatles and The Rascals.
Summer 1968 – Early, 1969: The band continues to play throughout the upper five state region. In Minnesota, the band plays at: The Prom Center in St Paul; the Minnesota State Teen Fair; The Macambo Club in Yankton, South Dakota; Proache’s Popular Ballroom in Ellsworth, Wisconsin; The Blazer in Nisswa; The Glencoe Ballroom; the Wilmar Armory; The Fun House in Pierz; New Munich Ballroom; The Parkway Ballroom in Foley; and The Tower in Austin. In addition, the band also plays at high schools and colleges and twin cities clubs including: Magoo’s inMinneapolis; Someplace Else in Robbinsdale; The Purple Cigar in St Louis Park; and Casino Royale inFridley.
The Illusions play with some of the top local groups including: The Underbeats; The Stillroven; The He-Too’s; South 40; Metropolitan Soul; and King James and the Disciples.
The band opens up for Tommy James and the Shondells at Proache’s Popular Ballroom in Ellsworth,Wisconsin.
Spring, 69: The band members go in different directions and The Illusions come to an end.
In October, 2011, Greg Balego reports a highlight of being in the band for him was playing on the Date with Dino show filmed live at the Minnesota State Fair in 1965.
In October, 2011, Mike Dillon recalls showing up at Someplace Else (Robbinsdale) in 1968 to open up for The Underbeats. As Mike began to bring his gear to the stage, James Walsh told him, much to his surprise, that he didn’t have to worry about setting up his keyboards and informed Mike that he could play on his brand new Hammond B-3 organ for the opening set. Walsh also provided instructions on how to play the B-3.
(image of Bandtree)