Pursuit of Hall of Fame no laughing matter for this group

The last time Silver Laughter played together was more than 30 years ago, and the band’s members have been trying to keep its music alive.

The Davenport, Iowa-based group once graced the stage at Marshall’s Blue Moon and the Valhalla in Slayton back in the late 1970s, said Mick Orton, who played bass for the group.

This past November, the group started a website, www.silver-laughter.com, in hopes that it will be inducted into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame for its contributions to music in the Midwest.

“Our hope is that people will contact us with memories of the band and enjoy the musical performances we have posted there, Orton said. “We’ve been trying to get in (the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame) for the last few years.”

Orton, who now lives in California, said that Jon Ludtke, who helped start Silver Laughter, was one of his good friends.

“We were friends from junior high,” Orton said about Ludtke. “We’d rather play music than be juvenile delinquents.”

When the bass player for Silver Laughter dropped out, Jon Ludtke called on Orton to join. Orton had moved from Iowa to Denver, Colo. and had played with the band, The Contents Are, for a few years.

“What he (Jon) offered was a touring band with an opportunity for recording,” Orton said. So Orton jumped at the chance and moved back.

When he joined the band, Orton said it consisted of Ludtke on guitar and vocals, Ludtke’s brother, Kim, on drums and vocals, and Mark Zaputil on guitar and vocals. Jon Ludtke and Orton were also co-songwriters for the band. When Zaputil left the group, Ken Wiles took over lead guitar and did vocals.

“Shortly before we recorded our first album ‘Handle With Care’ in Kansas City, Kim decided to leave and was replaced by Paul Staack,” Orton said. “A year later we recorded our second album ‘Sailing on Fantasies,’ which featured all new songs from Jon and me, plus two songs from Ken and one song from Paul.” “Handle With Care” was released in 1976.

Silver Laughter played all over southern Minnesota – Austin, Worthington, along with the Valhalla and the Blue Moon.

“That was one of our big places,” Orton said about the Blue Moon. “We had a great time playing there.”

The band also toured around the Midwest, Orton said, hitting North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri. It even did a two-month tour in Canada, he said.

Orton describes Silver Laughter’s sound as pop/rock. The band’s music has been compared to the Beatles.

“We (even) had a Beatles set we did,” Orton said.

Orton said the band went to New York to try and sell its albums to big record companies. It finally got to see someone at Atlantic Records.

“The guy liked our music, but he said ‘you sound too much like the Beatles,'” Orton said.

That news “depressed the band,” Orton said, which eventually led to its breakup.

Orton said he’s kept in touch with most of his former bandmates throughout the years.

More than 30 years later, Orton said there was a little bit of a writeup about the band on the website Glory Daze Music. One of the band’s albums was sold recently on eBay to a Japanese collector.