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ASIA

Mike English (far right) with his band mates at the 2019 South Dakota Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. 

Mike English, Hot Springs High School Graduate from the class of 1971, was inducted into the South Dakota Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this past weekend in Sioux Falls as a member of the band ASIA.

This is the third band of English’s to receive the honor. He was first inducted in 2015 with the band Shells of Time, a band comprised of Hot Springs area teens. The Shells of Time played a reunion concert this past homecoming at the Mueller Center. He was later inducted as a member of White Wing in 2016. 

ASIA was a progressive rock band formed around 1977 and consisted of English, Larry Galbraith, Mike Coates and John Haynes who was later replaced by drummer Doug Johnson. 

The group was a regional success, opening for national touring acts like BTO and  George Thorogood. 

English said the band took pride in their technical ability. ASIA had a wide range of influences to pull from including classical music. 

Their lyrics also challenged audiences. "We didn't do the regular verse, chorus, verse," said English. He added that the audience ASIA attracted wasn't always the traditional rock n' rollers, "we'd have English teachers asking about lyrics or music professors asking about our playing style."     

Their musical experimentation and intense on stage performances (explosions, flash pods, ect.) may have been a bit ahead of its time in middle America, but by the time they released their second album, "Armed to the Teeth" in 1980, ASIA felt they were getting their feet under themselves. 

ASIA was moving towards success, doing radio interviews, getting their songs on the airwaves and having a presence on record store shelves. 

Just as the band was feeling some traction, a cease and desist order was delivered from a powerful law firm.

It demanded the South Dakotans stop using the band name ASIA claiming they had no rights to the name and a different band from Europe was the owner of the name ASIA. 

The record company representing the European group had the power to remove the South Dakotan ASIA from record stores and radio play and threatened a lawsuit if the midwesterners continued to use the name. 

The South Dakotans had previously filed for a trademark but had yet to receive any confirmation from the U.S. Patent Office. 

The South Dakota ASIA immediately sought legal council, but the first two lawyers they consulted declined to help because the situation was much bigger than they could take on. 

The third lawyer the band found explained the law firm representing the European ASIA was the same firm that represented the United States in some court cases. 

The lawyer explained a hard truth to the South Dakotan ASIA; a legal battle over the name could take years, millions of dollars and at the end of the day, they may not win. 

Eventually, a settlement was offered. If the South Dakotans changed  their band's name, they would receive a cash settlement along with a record deal in Los Angeles California. 

The decision to accept the offer was a tough one, but the band didn't have the time or resources to fight the legal battle. Additionally, their ultimate goal was to get a national record deal, and the offered deal served that purpose. 

They ultimately agreed to accept the settlement and change their name to Solomon Kane. 

In an almost cruel turn of events, a day after the settlement was reached, the South Dakotans received their trademark for the band name ASIA. 

English said ultimately the cash settlement was a fraction of what was agreed upon and the record deal that was promised never happened. 

Solomon Kane existed for a short time after but the band members eventually went their separate ways. 

For a while, English tried to get out of the music business all together, but he kept finding himself playing. 

Currently, he is retired and lives with his wife Carolyn, of Huron S.D. in Burbank California. He and Carolyn were together throughout the entire ordeal. He still plays music regularly. 

In an interview with the Hot Springs Star, he said, "It's still a little painful to talk about," referencing the naming controversy. He added, "I wouldn't have my life go any other way," as he smiled and glanced at Carolyn. 

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