For Love of Country

Now part of Denver Joe's "family," Dick and Lois Meis have strummed, plucked and picked their way across five decades of Western music.

Meis has been playing with Denver Joe for nearly ten years; Lois joined the group about five years ago. When Dick asked her to join, she balked because of Joe's penchant for drink and his use of the more coarse term for fornication. With encouragement from her husband, she joined and soon won Joe over with her bass lines, vocals and deep knowledge of country. At her first gig, she notes, "I jumped every time he used that word. I've heard it before, obviously. But I'd never heard anyone use it, so, um, often." These days, when Joe takes expletive-laden jabs at an adoring crowd, Lois simply smiles politely at the floor.

"The people at the Cricket are just great. They treat us really well," Dick says. "They like that old country music, and they really respect us and treat us great. So does Joe."

Respect, say the Meises, has been one of the factors in their long-lasting marriage to country and each other. Musical issues are resolved after the gig, and each of them defers to the other's musical strengths when it comes to decisions. Lois leaves Dick to his devices on guitar and steel, and he doesn't question Lois's yodeling or bass playing, which she downplays as nothing special.

Husband-and-wife team Lois and Dick Meis were country when country wasn't cool.
James Bludworth
Husband-and-wife team Lois and Dick Meis were country when country wasn't cool.
The way they were: Dick and Lois in publicity stills taken in the early days of their careers.
The way they were: Dick and Lois in publicity stills taken in the early days of their careers.

Details

The Denver Joe Show, with Uncle Dick and Aunt Lois, 9 p.m. Mondays, Cricket on the Hill, 1209 East 13th Avenue, free, 303-830-9020; Lois Lane & Superband, 8 p.m. Thursday, August 26, Colorado Country Music Hall of Fame Awards Induction dinner, Holiday Inn Southeast, 3200 South Parker Road, $25 members/$30 non-members, 303-745-4781.

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"She plays just what the song requires," Dick says. "Besides," he adds with a grin, "she's a really good singer. And I practice a lot to make sure she never gets better than me."

The couple's work ethic applies at home, too.

"You've got to work at being married," Lois says. "You've got to make yourself be in love, and not let it disappear. We still hold hands to this day, and I just don't see people do that anymore." One thing that keeps Dick focused on his family, he says, is a comment from Lois's father back when he asked her to marry him. "'He's not a farmer, he's a guitar player,'" Dick recalls her father saying. "He'll never be able to make a living."

But Dick and Lois, secure in their place in Denver's country culture, proved him wrong. According to Lee Sims, president of the Colorado Country Music Hall of Fame, "Dick has been an icon of country music since the late '60s, in Colorado and the United States." Lois has an equally lofty rep in Colorado, he says, and the two "are true musicians, down-to-earth, likable people who play the kind of music our people want to hear. They're definitely the ambassadors for good country music in this state."

Dick Meis is increasing his efforts as local ambassador of the steel guitar. He recently opened a steel-guitar shop (Uncle Dick's Steel Guitar Shop, at 6487 Federal Boulevard, in Denver), from which he sells instruments and teaches courses. The shop's been open for a few months and has become a haven for the area's growing number of steel-guitar devotees; his list of students includes aspiring players from as far away as Chicago. Ronnie Miller, a longtime Meis student, is now the steel player for Charlie Pride. Meis keeps his own playing profile up by performing at events around the country, including the upcoming International Steel Guitar Convention in St. Louis. He's been hosting similar events locally for the past two years, steel jams that give the area's steeling sidemen a chance to take center stage. (For details on these jams and the Superband's schedule, visit www.pedalsteels.com and www.dickmeis.com.)

Lois has begun planning an upcoming CD she hopes to record in the next few months and has been assisting aspiring local singers by letting them perform with the Superband. "People have been very good to us," Lois says, "so we're trying to give a little something back to the community."

Meanwhile, the Meises are continuing along with their joint pursuits, shooting holes in the theory that one should never fall in love with a bandmate. "Back when we got married, a commitment was a commitment," Dick Meis says. "If you're going to get married, why not stick together?" Besides, he notes, "I couldn't play my hot licks without her bass playing." For Lois, "the fact that we have similar interests in country music and steel guitar has helped keep us together. I think it's great that we're able to share what we love and still be doing it at this age and time in our lives. It's pretty neat."

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