The Last Standing Man… (the story of Dakota & Jerry Hludzik)
It’s not just a song, or a CD title – it’s a statement. Jerry G. Hludzik is a survivor in a business where it isn’t easy to keep your dreams alive, let alone actually live them.
(Case in point – The Last Standing Man also refers to the fact the Jerry is the only original member of Dakota left, and the only one still making his living in music.)
Jerry’s saga begins in Northeast Pennsylvania with a band called The Buoys…
Recommended playlist: Unicorn
The Buoys (1971, Scepter Records)
The Buoys had a million-selling single called “Timothy”, written by Rupert Holmes (Escape “The Pina Colada Song”) supposedly about the Sheppton mine disaster in Northeastern Pa. during which cannibalism had been implied. The band was spearheaded by lead singer/guitarist Bill Kelly, featured Jerry on guitar and vocals, and was rounded out by Chris Hanlon, Fran Brozena, and Carl Siracuse.
Years later, in 1979, “Give Up Your Guns” (1979 EMI of Holland) was a #5 European hit from the same album, The Buoys – Dinner Music, also penned by Rupert Holmes. Jerry and Bill went to Europe to promote the tune, doing radio and TV shows, one in particular was the popular “Top of the Pops”. The Buoys toured in the 70’s with the likes of Pure Prairie League, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Grass Roots, Sha Na Na, Frank Zappa, and Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett to name a few.
The band moved to Polydor Records in 1972 with producer Rupert Holmes, released 2 singles, and recorded an as-yet unreleased LP. In later years, they also worked on a project with (the now much sought after arranger and conductor) Michael Kamen (New York Rockin Roll Ensemble CBS records 1970’s) as producer.
Jerry-Kelly Band (1978 CBS/Epic Records) Hludzik and Kelly eventually broke off from The Buoys to form The Jerry-Kelly Band. Thanks to the efforts of long-time friend Michael “Dad” Stahl, (who was working for Claire Brothers Audio, doing house mixing for the band Chicago) drummer Danny Seraphine and Rufus keyboardist Hawk Wolinski got a hold of a demo tape from Michael, and signed them to CBS Epic Records to record Somebody Else’s Dream, the first and only Jerry-Kelly album, in 1978. This album featured members of Chicago singing and performing.
Dakota (1980 CBS/Columbia Records) The Jerry-Kelly Band moved to CBS/Columbia and changed their name for their 1980 release, self titled Dakota. This release yielded a regional hit across the country called If It Takes All Night, which peaked on the billboard charts at # 78. Michael Stahl was now working with the band Queen, who was touring to support their album The Game. Michael worked his ‘magic’ once again, and Dakota wound up getting the nod to be the opening act, and a 35-date tour ensued.
In 1983, it was off to Hollywood to record the next Dakota album (1984’s Runaway) for MCA, with producer Danny Seraphine and engineer Humberto Gatica. Around the same time, another local band, Synch, was starting to write original music. Jimmy Harnen co-wrote a Billboard Top 10 pop ballad called “Where Are You Now?” Jimmy was a big fan of Dakota, and wanted Bill and Jerry to get involved with the recording of a Synch EP. Jerry convinced Jimmy to also hire Rick Manwiller, Dakota’s keyboardist, to help out with the Synch project, and Rick wound up co-producing the project.
The members of Dakota went their separate ways after their 1987 farewell show at Montage Mountain, PA in front of 17,000 Loyal fans.
Jerry and Rick had been experimenting with writing country music, and once again Michael Stahl was instrumental with connections, and they wound up getting the Oak Ridge Boys to record two of the songs. This led to them eventually landing a deal as staff writers at MCA Nashville in 1989.
In March of 1995, the band started to get feedback from across Europe that Dakota was a well-known and well-respected band there. Jerry contacted Rick Manwiller to start writing together again, and put together today’s version of the band. Jerry sings and plays bass, Rick handles keyboards, Jon Lorance plays guitar, and Jerry’s son Eli plays drums. The resulting success led to the 1996 release of Mr. Lucky, and the 1997 release of The Last Standing Man in Europe and 1998 in Japan. Jerry Hludzik, Rick Manwiller, Jon Lorance and Eli Hludzik have now added the latest CD, Little Victories (King Records Japan) to the Dakota legacy, and are currently working on songs for the next eagerly anticipated release, tentatively scheduled for release sometime later in 2003. Dakota co-founder Bill Kelly will also be a featured vocalist on a song or two. The new album will be titled Deep 6.
From 1990-1998, Jerry continued working writing jingles and performing in multiple areas such as studio singer /player and produced 5 independent CD’s, 3 of which secured deals in Europe and Japan.
Jerry regularly performed the National Anthem at the Philadelphia Phillies AAA stadium at least 3 times a year (Memorial Day, 4th Of July and Labor Day) thru the 90’s.
Between 1997-2000, Jerry, and his band Dakota, released 3 CD’s (1997’s Mr. Lucky, 1998’s The Last Standing Man, and 2000’s Little Victories) in Europe and Japan. Dakota is currently working on their next CD, scheduled for a late fall, 2002 / early spring 2003. In addition to the upcoming Dakota release, Jerry is in the studio, remixing The Buoys’ previously unreleased 2nd album. Coming soon to ItsAboutMusic.com.
Jerry was slowed down by a car accident in 1999 and spent about 14 months recovering. Now, feeling like he’s 16 again, Jerry is on the road (see Schedule) and back making records.
In June, 2002, Jerry was commissioned by Dreamworks Records, Nashville to write for one of their up and coming projects…of which one of the songs is.. as they say, in heavy consideration.
Jerry’s career has been an on-going journey of close calls…but it’s what he does, and will continue to do; you will, one day, hear about this overnight success story…FILM @ 11.
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