Uncle Wheat & Eddie, a musical duo made up of Brad Wallace on cajón and Ed Koehler on guitar, performed at the Sprout Growers & Makers Marketplace on January 26th, 2019. While Brad “Uncle Wheat” Wallace grew up in Indiana, early connections to Minnesota pulled him and his wife to move to Cross Lake in 1977. “My wife vacationed in Longville as a kid and my family spent summers in Cross Lake,” Brad said. “We started dating in high school, got married in 1976, and knew we wanted to live here in Minnesota. We thought, if we were ever going to do it, we should do it right now.” Brad’s bandmate, Ed “Eddie” Koehler, also has roots in Minnesota, growing up in Hibbing and then teaching in Brainerd. Ed continues to teach on Thursday evenings to guitar students at Bridge of Harmony. "It would be hard to find a better guitar player than Ed Koehler, and it is just a pleasure to sing with him,” said Brad, whose stage name is “Uncle Wheat.” Uncle Wheat was a term lovingly given to him by his nieces and nephews. “My sister-in-law is from Chicago and she has a pretty strong accent. She says ‘Brad’ and my nieces and nephews tease her asking, ‘What kind of bread is he?’ And so, I became Uncle Wheat.”
Brad and Ed have been playing together for 20 years, but only as a duo in recent years. “We've been friends for 20 years and were both in different bands over the last few years. Both of those bands broke up, so we got together as a duo,” said Brad. While both Brad and Eddie played in large bands of six to nine members, Brad says it became more difficult to find venues for the larger bands. “The band I was in, Decade Seven, had nine members and we really filled out the sound for music by Blood, Sweat & Tears as well as Chicago and Steely Dan. There was a lot of pride in that band because we played a lot of songs that other bands couldn't do. We used to say we played ‘Everything from Chevy Van to Steely Dan,’ and we did that for about eight years. Venues have become more reluctant to take a chance on hiring a bigger band. ” said Brad.
Both Ed and Brad played in a six member band called SKATYRS (Still Kids After All These Years), which played music from the 50's, 60's, and 70's. As Brad says, “It was during a time when there were more events happening and people would hire bands for private parties. That band was around for about 15 years.” Brad says he hopes the region gets back to hiring larger bands, and that summer musical festivals in Pequot Lakes and Cross Lake have demonstrated the regional demand for more performance opportunities. Finding more consistent, year-round opportunities is an important factor to being able to keep a larger band together. “Our band Decade Seven practiced a lot, every week. When you have only six to eight opportunities to perform a year, it can be hard to sustain.”
When Brad and Ed decided to play as a duo, they knew they would have many more opportunities to perform. “We went into the duo knowing that we could, if we wanted to, play every weekend in the summertime. But, I do still miss that big band sound.” Uncle Wheat and Eddie play a mix of tunes from 60's rock to Summertime by Ella Fitzgerald. New breweries and summertime venues in the region are great places for smaller musical acts. It’s clear when watching Uncle Wheat & Eddie that they are having a blast performing. “We just loved the opportunity to play at Sprout because it was something new to us, and helped give us an opportunity to play in the wintertime to stay sharp.”
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