The Shadow Casters

Shadow Casters photo

Updated October 2010

The Shadow Casters were students from West Aurora High School in Aurora, Illinois, on the edge of the greater Chicago area. The band was active from 1966 to 1969, when members left for college.

They released two 45s on J.R.P. Records (James Ruff Productions) in November 1967 and April 1968. I knew little about the group until members of the band started leaving comments, below, so I’m rewriting this post with this new information.

Bill Maakestad – lead vocalist
Gregory Ellis – lead guitar (replaced by Thom Swiss)
Ron Pansing – bass
Bill Buff – drums

“It’ll Be Too Late” is their first 45, credited to Ron Pansing. The flip “Going to the Moon” has a slow, late night atmosphere. Singer Bill Maakestad says that this song made it to American Bandstand.

Their second record featured a guest vocalist, Dick Johnson. “But Not Today” was their most upbeat song, credited on the label to Bill Buff. “Cinnamon Snowflake” is an excellent melancholy number credited to Greg Ellis.

Originally I was surprised to see each of the Shadowcasters’ songs written by a different member of the group (plus one credited to their producer, James Ruff). Bill Buff corrects this, saying Bill Maakestad wrote all lyrics and co-wrote the music with Greg Ellis. Maakestad’s name was left off the labels only because James Ruff couldn’t remember how to spell it. Ruff was not musically inclined, but somehow listed himself as writer of “Going to the Moon”.

The only other single on J.R.P. that I can find is Something Obviously Borrowed, a band who may have included D. Geinosky and L. Carr as members.

Thanks to Ad Zwaga for sending in the soundclip of “Cinnamon Snowflake”.

8 thoughts on “The Shadow Casters”

  1. Thanks for finding this. I was in the Shadowcasters, from 1967-69, replacing guitarist Ellis. Bill Makestad was the lead singer on all these 4 cuts; Ruff was not part of the band. He was an indie ‘producer’ fly-by-night as befit the times; he did pay for the studio time for these cuts.
    We were all from Aurora, Il, all students at West Aurora High School. The band broke up after a sucession of drummers, replacing Bill Buff…sometime around 1969.
    I’m a Professor at the U of Minnesota now. cheers for this great site, Thom Swiss

  2. What a wonderful surprise that one of the colleagues found this fine site! It sure brought lots of memories back!

    Just a couple of corrections and additions:

    1. There was a guest vocalist–Dick Johnson, another student at West Aurora High–on the two songs released on the second 45, “Snowflake” and “But Not Today.”
    2. One of the songs on the first 45–“Going to the Moon”–was played to a nationwide audience on “Dick Clark’s American Bandstand.” It was one of two songs rated by teens on the show each week. I don’t recall who are competition was, but I do know that we won! (Probably because it was slow and they could dance close…)
    3. The Shadowcasters never made it big time, but they did get to play opening band to a number of fine Chicago-area groups of that period, including the Cryan Shames, Flock, Mauds, and Baby Huey & the Baby Sitters.

  3. I’ve been looking for a copy of But Not Today/Cinnamon Snowflake since my old 45 of it vanished in the 70s! I was a melancholy kid – would play Cinnamon Snowflake endlessly.

    Thanks for bringing back old memories!

  4. All the songs were written by Bill Maakestead, Lead Singer and song writer. All music was co-written by Greg Ellis and Bill Maakestead. Greg Ellis was the lead guitarist and Ron Pansing was the bassist. James Ruff was the record producer/agent. The band broke apart when the members went off to different colleges. During the years 1966 through 1969 they played at all the major “West Aurora High School” functions (where they all went to school) and toured the Chicago and Southern Illinois Univ scene for special events.

  5. Bill,
    Send me your email address. Maybe Greg and I can meet up with you sometime in the upcoming future…

    Thanks,
    Bill Buff

  6. Bill,

    Just a quick note. Found this site while looking for a copy of “Going to the Moon”. Been quite a while since we hung out with Rod Olden & Jim Wagner.

    By the way, I think “going to the Moon” was played (& won) on Rate-a-Record on Bandstand against “Pictures of Matchstick Men” by Status Quo. I remember watching the show (Rod called me).

    Rich Boyles
    still of Sycamore

  7. Ron and I have been friends for more decades than either would like to admit !
    He was in my wedding ! and I didn’t know until a few years ago that he played the bass ! I just got back into playing my drums… but can’t get him to join in a jam session !
    Awesome history !
    Rock on people !

    Rap sucks !

  8. Hi, I am the daughter of a hippie Dad that never grew up. I was wondering if you could email me the lyrics to Cinnamon Snowflake. My,Dad loves this song and there are a few words we can’t figure out. Thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *