Jimmy Thomas-As remembered by Bill Keitel-Pandora’s Box 1966-1969?

I had the good fortune to know Jimmy Thomas and his family because I played in a rock and roll band with his son Johnny. We played together in our junior high and high school days.

We were a garage band and what set us apart from other bands is that we knew three or four more chords than other bands.

Over the years our band consisted of the following members Jon Thomas, Bob Cook, Chris Schoon, Dan Getman, Grant Wilcox, Butch Zierath, Clem Hatting, Jimmy Groth and myself.

It was a formative time for all of us. Jimmy Thomas earned his living with the SHOWBOAT BALLROOM and his booking agency.

Jimmy had a claim to fame, a group called Dee Jay and the Runaways.

They had a hit song that was climbing the charts (Peter Rabbit) as it was nearing the number one slot in the entire nation. As it reached number two in the nation a new British group showed up on the music scene and had written a song called “I want to hold your hand”.

They called themselves the Beatles. Their music dominated the charts for years to come.

From that time on Dee Jay and the Runaways were never to be found. British bands ruled the American charts.

Jimmy continued in his booking agency and specialized in booking regional bands for high school proms, snowballs, junior high parties and many different ballrooms throughout the midwest. His agency was well known and his territory extended from the mighty Missouri River to approximately ninty miles into Minnesota. This would equate to an area approximately 200 miles east and west by 60 miles north and south. He was a well organized man that kept his eye on his business.

Along came his son John and the rest of the band mates, we called ourselves Pandora’s Box. In high school we were booked to play at Proms, Snowballs, Junior High Parties all over Jimmies territory.

We felt we were living on the edge playing gigs many Friday and Saturday nights. We would individually earn 22.50 to 35.00 each night. Imagine tripling a weekly wage by going out and playing at high schools and ballrooms.

To ensure our safety our parents would drive us to the gigs. They too would be paid as an additional band member and mileage would be included.

Once Little Richard of Chuck Berry came to the ShowBoat Ballroom and we were asked to open for him. Alas, we decided that we could make an additional ten dollars per band member up the road another twenty miles.
History will show that Pandora’s Box was the band that decided not to open for Chuck Berry. ??????

We thought we were living a wild life style, as we matured we realized that we had been chaparoned our entire high school days.

 Distant gigs included Esteline, Fox Lake, Dimick, Aberdeen, Highmore,Winner, Chamberlain, Lake Andes, etc. (to the best of my recollection). The nights would conclude by getting home at 2 to 4 p.m.

It was gainful employment and for the most part kept us kids out of trouble. We made a fair deal of money at our tender young age.

Compared to other bands we could have easily afforded to have made an album or two. Alas, we played cover tunes and had precious little creativity and never considered why we would want to stop the gigs and sit around in a recording studio.

So….I suspect you won’t find us in the MN or SD rock and roll hall of fame!

However we did go down to I.G.L. In Milford and spent the day watching Marlys Roe and the Talisman record the song HeatWave!

Jimmy and his family left fond memories for all of the band mates. They were not known for being timid. It was the time of the Free Love generation. Jimmies wife Harriet would rail about the love generation and the detestable drug called “the pill”.
Harriet would profess in a loud and Catholic tone “the only protection for a women was an aspirin !…..between the knees!!”

I came from a family that was quite reserved, her bold and forth right manner made me cower with fear and amazement . Her husband Jimmy was reserved, however his entire family put their emotions on the table and left “no air in the conversation”.

It was a fun rough and tumble time. Jimmy treated the many bands that he booked as family.

He is remembered fondly by all that knew him.



  1. I have a page on facebook that is titled: “I survived the Lake Benton Showboat”. The members, last count, are up to 1,000. I would like to share your write up about Jimmy Thomas if you would allow it. The article was very interesting.

  2. Nice write up about my grandparents. It still amazes me sometimes how many people grandpa knew and how big his territory was.

  3. Indeed Marynell ! I’m flattered by your invite. I may even take the time to correct and edit some of my ramblings! billkeitel.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.