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****Please note: While this page admin and family members appreciates your emails requesting tour information, the members of The Montana Band all perished in a plane crash on July 4th, 1987. **** The band bio continues below. Thank you.
Formed by Mission Mountain Wood Band members Rob Quist, Terry Robinson and Kurt Bergeron following the break-up of M2WB in 1981, The Montana Band picked-up where Mission Mountain had left off – playing 250 dates a year at venues across the country, sharing the stage with some the biggest acts in music, from the Allman Brothers and Charlie Daniels to Jerry Garcia and Jimmy Buffett … and everyone in between.
With drummer Mark Wittman and bass player Jerry Zalnoski providing the backbeat, the band released it first studio album – Change in the Weather – in 1981, followed by the live LP Wake Me When That Sun Goes Down in 1984. Along the way Zalnoski was replaced by bass player Alan Larson, and in 1985 Quist left the group to pursue a solo career in Nashville. Multi-instrumentalist Cliff Tipton took Rob’s place, adding new energy – and a second fiddler – to the band.
The boys found themselves on a steady upward track in 1987, having won the prestigious Willie Nelson Invitational – the ‘80s equivalent of a country American Idol – just a year earlier, and earning accolades from music critics at Variety magazine, the Reno Gazette, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Calgary Herald and scores of other media outlets across the nation. Grady Whitfield replaced Whitman as the band’s drummer in early ’87, and he never missed a beat.
But tragedy struck on July 4, 1987. After playing a private show for friends on Flathead Lake that afternoon, the band loaded-up for a quick flight to north Idaho, where they had a second gig scheduled just a couple of hours later. Shortly after takeoff, the band’s pilot “buzzed” the Lakeside party that the band had just left, then attempted to pull up (and over) the steep ridgeline ahead. He didn’t make it.
The plane clipped the top of several tall pines and went down in flames. Everyone aboard the plane – including band members Terry Robinson, Kurt Bergeron, Cliff Tipton, Alan Larson, Grady Whitfield, as well as Sound Engineer Dale Anderson and Manager Tommy Sawan – died at the scene of the crash.