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After separate journeys, musicians return to form band

June 15, 1997

By LISA GRAYBEAL

Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Their lives have crisscrossed since high school as each as pursued a career in different areas of popular music. Now they've returned home and formed a group their parents and grandparents can relate to.

Denny Hoke of Chambersburg, Michael Jackson of Waynesboro, Pa., and Rich Rippeon of Hagerstown make up the group "Triangle," which plays classic dance music from the 1930s to the 1950s, an era that's gone but not forgotten.

"There aren't a lot of bands doing this anymore," said Hoke, the band's leader, who plays the keyboard.

The three musicians come from diverse musical backgrounds, having performed in big cities and backing names like Jimmy Buffet, The Oak Ridge Boys and B.B. King.

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As a drum major in the Army, Rippeon has performed for former presidents Lyndon Johnson and Gerald Ford as well as several foreign dignitaries.

But they've never had the following they enjoy now in the Tri-State Area since they formed four years ago. Their "groupies," however, consist mostly of the gray-haired set.

The group plays regularly at senior citizen dance clubs where members show up by the hundreds, Hoke said.

"I'd like to think we infuse a little life back into their music," he said.

In May, the three musicians performed for and backed vocalist Tom Netherton, who is best known as the tall baritone on the popular 1960s Lawrence Welk television show.

In July, Triangle is scheduled to perform for actor James Earl Jones.

"We're a very defined group with a very defined clientele," Hoke said. "We're somebody around here."

Though each member admits there's somebody out there better than they are, Rippeon said they have an edge over others. They've all had formal music training and can read music, a key factor for being selected as Netherton's backup.

"This band reads. We do the charts," Rippeon said.

Each band member said they knew from the beginning they wanted to pursue music as their careers. Hoke and Rippeon got their start as drum majors at their respective high schools in Chambersburg and North Hagerstown.

By the time he was 18, Jackson, a bass guitar player, was performing in bars in West Virginia.

Being in the music scene early in their lives, the three knew each other well, but they set out with different goals in mind.

Hoke went on to music school in Boston and traveled for years performing in Atlantic City, N.J., and Las Vegas.

Rippeon's musical education was through the Army, and he later opened "Drumtique," a percussion teaching facility.

Jackson worked with the Department of Defense and the USO, performing for troops in Turkey, Spain, Germany, Panama and the Persian Gulf. He also toured with blues pianist and recording artist Deanna Bogart.

The three never realized that 20 years later, they'd be dressing up in black tuxedos and performing music together that was popular before their time.

Through a type of musicians network, the three found out they had all returned to the area and decided to join up. Though Hoke and Jackson still do some traveling outside of their gigs with Triangle, all three said they're happy to be based back home.

"I have a bag packed all the time. It's the nature of the business," Jackson said. "I'll play in a big city, but I don't want to live there."

"As hectic as our lives can be, it's nice to come back to the area," added Hoke.

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