2016 Nebraska Music Hall of Fame Inductee – Ryan Comte

Ryan was immersed in music at an early age.  With a big band leader for a father and a mother who could sing nearly any song from the 30’s to the 60’s, music was bound to be a major part of his life.

Ryan started his musical career by learning to play trumpet from Bob Olsen in Fremont, NE.  He played trumpet in both marching band and concert band throughout his junior high and high school years at David City Public Schools.  Around the age of 12 he started sneaking into his dad’s recording studio to teach himself how to play drums.  When his dad, Bud, caught him playing to rock music one day, he said “if you are going to use my equipment, then you are going to learn how to play all kinds of music.”  Bud thought that was the toughest punishment he could dole out, but in reality it was one of the best things that ever happened to Ryan.  He learned how to play many different types of music, which in turn, has helped him greatly throughout his musical career.

At age 14, Ryan had his first “professional” gig playing drums for Joe Cockson at a keg party near Bellwood, NE.  His pay was sandwiches and a beer.  At that point he was hooked, and he continued to hone his craft by keeping the beat for the David City High stage band his Sophomore, Junior and Senior years.  Towards the end of his high school career, he had the privilege of playing with his dad in The Bud Comte Orchestra.  The regular drummer for the band was way too dependable.  Ryan only got to play about four gigs but it was a tremendous experience and one that he will never ever forget.

Ryan went off to college at Wayne State.  During his Sophomore year he was approached by a couple of guys in his dorm.  They asked Ryan to be in the backing band for a variety show on the Wayne State College TV Station KWSC.  The rock band Magnum was the result of this collaboration.  The band played in the Wayne area as well as on the TV show.  They disbanded after his Junior year when a couple of the members moved on.

A musical collaboration between Ryan’s dad Bud, Dalton Fuller, Larry Good and Bob Palensky resulted in the album “A Bit of Country with a Touch of Brass”.  A few years later, a demand escalated for that music to be played live.  The group put together the band Country with a Touch of Brass.  While Bud managed the band and ran sound, Ryan and his little brother Rick worked as the lighting crew.  The brothers traveled with the band during the summer months as they played state and county fairs all throughout the Midwest.  Then, when Dalton’s touring drummer quit unexpectedly, with gigs already booked, the scramble was on to find a new drummer.  While most of the guys in the band weren’t even aware he could play drums – Bud suggested Ryan could play the charts.   After a few rehearsals, they hit the road that summer with Ryan behind the kit.  Ryan continued to play drums for “The Brass” until they disbanded a few years later.

As a result of their time playing together in The Brass, Ryan was asked by Dalton Fuller to join the country portion of that group, The Dalton Gang.  Ryan played locally with The Dalton Gang for around seven years.  When the decision was made to go back out on the road, Ryan bowed out because of his involvement with the family business – Five Star Feeds.

Then, as a result of a business association, Ryan met Patti Mahoney and joined The Sunny River Band.  He continued to play country music with them locally for around four years.

After his time with The Sunny River Band, Ryan was contacted once again by Dalton Fuller to play for the River City Roundup as part of the Trail Ride Band.  This was an annual event that started each year in Ogallala, NE.  The band played nine gigs in eight days across the state, ending up at the River City Roundup in Omaha.  Ryan played this annual gig with The Dalton Gang for seventeen of the twenty five years they performed as the trail ride band.

Sometime towards the end of Ryan’s time with The Dalton Gang, Delmer Schultz, the manager of The Country Troubadours (and a lifelong employee of Five Star Feeds) approached Ryan about replacing his departing drummer.  Ryan agreed to fill in for only six months until they could find a permanent replacement.  He had been trying to form a blues band with some buddies that had put together a weekly jam session at The Pour House in Surprise, NE.  Those six months turned into seven years, and when Dalton Fuller decided to leave the band, Ryan followed and left the Troubadours to pursue his desire to play the blues.

With a funny turn of events, the jam band Ryan had played with at The Pour House got their first gig for the Butler County Arts Council and quickly became The Blues Infectors.  Over the span of a couple of years, The Blues Infectors played at several fund raising events for local charities.   Almost everyone in the Infectors was already involved in other projects so they disbanded.  Ryan and a couple of the others formed what was to become Out Of The Blue.

The new band went through several personnel changes before they played their first gig at an open stage night at Duggan’s Pub in Lincoln, NE.  The band gelled and with only two other personnel changes, Out Of The Blue played throughout the tri state area for the next fourteen years.  The band broke up after this long run due to changes in day jobs and geographical locations.

In the midst of all this, Ryan was approached by the principal and the athletic director of his alma mater, DCHS, to put together a stage band to play during the Holiday Basketball Tournament.  Ryan called on his A-list of musician friends and The Swinging Neck Breakers were born.  They played for the tournament over the next three years.

In the meantime, at an Out Of The Blue gig, an old friend Scott Murphy (formally of Black Pearl), brought the lead singer from the current rock band he was playing in, Standing Stranded, to hear the band play…or so he said.  Little did Ryan know – it was actually an audition.  A few days after the gig, Scott called Ryan and asked if he wanted to be the drummer in Standing Stranded as the current drummer and the band were parting ways.  Ryan agreed and rehearsals ensued.  Ryan has been playing 70’s, 80’s and 90’s rock with Scott, Mike Smith, Vince Christie and Trevor Heeney for the last eight years and they continue to play locally every chance they get.

About the same time, Ryan got a call from Virgil Balmer, another former Black Pearl member, to play for a fund raising event at Camp Pawnee and the band Virgil Balmer and His Rowdy Friends (now known as The Balmer Brothers) was formed.  The band plays old & new country, classic rock and some hard rock too.  Ryan continues to play with this band a few times a year whenever The Balmer Brothers make their way back to their “Good Old Nebraska Home”.

Out of a jam session with a group of “who’s who” of Columbus musicians and Max Carl (lead singer for The Chancellors, Jack Mack & The Heart Attack, .38 Special, Grand Funk Railroad and many others), a group called The Enablers was started.  This group that covers classic rock, soul and R&B plays whenever Max is available.  Their last time on stage together was the 1st Annual Rivers Edge Music Festival last year.

After not playing blues music for a couple of years, Ryan talked with Mike Martin, a former Out Of The Blue band mate and he expressed the same yearning Ryan had, to start making music together again.   They enlisted Brad Walker, the former bass player of Out Of The Blue and Mike Smith, the guitar player from Standing Stranded and formed Barrelhouse.  The blues/rock group has been together for a little over a year now, and continues to play throughout the area.

Along with playing music, Ryan has also carried on the business of running the Nebraska Music Hall of Fame recording studio his dad started out of the family garage many years ago – Renee Sound Studio.  Although not as active as it once was – Ryan still enjoys the creative process and jumps at the chance to record area artists whenever they ask.

In addition to all of the bands Ryan has played with and filled in for over the years, he has also continued another tradition started by his dad back in the late 60’s – to celebrate this brotherhood of musicians.  The annual Comte Jam Session, now known as Comtestock, just celebrated its 20th year this last August 14th.  What started as a small backyard gathering has grown to become an annual event that Ryan’s musician friends (and family and friends who appreciate listening to good music) look forward to every year.  Comtestock is a Sunday afternoon (and evening) filled with fantastic music, great food and a wonderful comradery between friends, old and new.  Ryan looks forward to carrying on this tradition in the future…as long as people keep coming.

Ryan wants to thank all the musicians, past and present, that he has had the privilege to play with over the last 45 plus years…many of whom have also been inducted into this great organization.  He feels truly blessed to be receiving this honor for simply doing one of the things he absolutely loves to do…make music!!

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