Larry and Jerry Anders were only 6 years old when their older brother, John, started teaching them to play the guitar.
Although the identical twins were accustomed to being the center of attention, they had no idea they were destined to keep people dancing for more than 50 years.
Inspired and encouraged by John and their parents, they played “This Old House” in a local talent contest and won.
“Our parents helped us by encouraging us to get up in front of a crowd. They pushed us and made us better,” Jerry said.
By the time the boys were 10, they were regulars at local talent shows. But while Johnny taught them how to play a guitar, nobody ever taught them to read music. They still rely on the exceptional ability to play by ear.
When the boys were 16, the Anders Brothers became an official band. John and a drummer, whose name has since been forgotten by the boys, hit it big when they played at Fats and Slats, a 3.2 beer joint in Ridgway. The owners found it challenging to have the young men play because they weren’t old enough to drink, but they were popular.
Ken Wolford recalled going to see them at Fat and Slats. Later they became close friends and Wolford worked as a roadie occasionally, helping them set up and take down their equipment.
The band members never considered themselves professionals until the brothers’ uncle Charles flew John to Nucla in his private airplane to sign a contract to perform at the 1967 Nucla High School Prom.
They played at other then-notorious places like the Ramble Inn in Gunnison and Giacino’s Pizza Parlor in Montrose. Over the years they played at Arcadia, LeCave and Mary’s Cafe in Montrose.
Turning down jobs; turning up the music
The Twins, as they are known to most of their long-time fans, graduated from high school in 1968. They both received baseball scholarships to Northwestern Oklahoma State University and were scouted by several pro teams. They were on their way home from college when they were offered jobs teaching and coaching in Gunnison. But they decided to pursue a music career instead.
John opted out of that decision for the most part, but still played with them at local venues. He is now a successful real estate broker and runs a professional recording studio.
“We hired an agent,” Larry said. “Not long after that he called and said he had us booked for several gigs up in the Northwest. We hooked on to our little trailer and headed out.”
Their first gig was in Fruitland, Idaho.
“I remember when we got paid for that job,” Jerry said. “It was $1,000 in cash. We went back to the hotel and threw all that cash on the bed. We couldn’t believe we had that much money.”
Drummer John Wolcott spent about six years traveling with them throughout Oregon, Washington and Montana.
In addition to playing in venues across the western U.S., they played in British Columbia, Canada and Baltimore, Maryland. They returned home for special gigs at the Montrose Elks Lodge and Redstone Castle. The Anders Brothers estimate that they have played at the Montrose Elks Lodge at least 200 times over the years. They recalled their first performances in the old building, which is now occupied by City of Montrose offices. Following one of their performances, one Elks member noted that they had to open all the windows to keep the lodge cool. As a result, they received numerous complaints about the loud music. He used that opportunity to promote the idea of purchasing a new building east of town.
In the mid ’70s, the Anders Brothers functioned as an opening act for some big-name personalities in Las Vegas and they played for special crowds in Hong Kong.
For several years, the band shared billing with nationally known bands at the Olathe Corn Festival, a venue they consider to be home. They fronted for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, LeAnn Rimes, Randy Travis and Joe Diffie. Despite having shared the stage with these celebrities, the twins said that the most special gigs have been those close to home, especially when they play for the Wool Growers and Cattlemen’s Association banquets.
“It’s hard to remember all the places we have played,” Larry said.
He recalled some special memories from when the band played at the Big Barn in Ridgway and had Daryl Hannah join them on stage. They played for Ralph and Ricky Lauren at the Double RL Ranch near Ridgway and for Tom Friedkin at the Sleeping Indian Ranch.
“We were always running into celebrities and CEOs of big corporations,” Jerry said. “Sometimes it was overwhelming, but our parents and where we came from enabled us to let people know about our small town values and, you know, they put on their pants the same way we do.”
Ready to relax
Although music has always been their passion, Larry and Jerry went on to lead separate careers after all. Larry is in semi-retirement after working for a local engineering company for many years and later for the Montrose County Road and Bridge Division. Jerry ran the family farm for several years and now works for the City of Montrose.
While they will still play on occasion, the Anders Brothers have decided to turn down the amplifiers and settle into a quieter life—no more bars and taverns and no more long trips to anywhere except down memory lane.
Jerry is still playing his jazz Fender bass guitar he bought from J.B. Hart Music in Grand Junction in 1966 and Larry still plays lead on his Fender Thinline Telecaster that he bought in 1968.
While the twins are looking at 50 years of playing, drummer Ted Cole, who joined the band in 1981, is quick to note that he has been with the band for 36 of those years, and counting. But he, too, is ready to relax.
“It’s been a real rush,” Jerry said.