rockford illinois entertainment guide
Date: 12/02/2002
Put a little 'stank' on it!
by Patrick McDonough
Recently I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Matt Engbring and Dennis Feltner from local band Stank Willie at Café Patou, a French bistro on Broadway Ave. I quickly learned that they both had a sense of wit and sarcasm that made it a little unclear whether I was speaking to a band or a comedy duo turned musical act.

After the interview they played an acoustic version of their normal stank-ass groove music mixed with a sprinkling of bonus songs you can't get at a full Stank Willie show. Engbring's fluid keyboard playing was accented by his amazing vocals that ranged from soothing, on songs like their own "Miles Away," to down right dirty when covering artists such as Tom Waits. Feltner smoothed out the sound with the fervent picking of his twelve-string guitar.

When researching more about Stank Willie I came across the following biography by Chris Paxhia that I feel gives a more comprehensive look at a band named after a stinky little dog named Willie…

Back in 1998, Stank Willie launched its career in the college town of Carbondale, Illinois by utilizing Southern Illinois University as a testing ground for its college-style jazz-rock that quickly made the band a headlining act and allowed it to expand throughout the region. Stank Willie's original blend of Jazz, Rock, Funk and Blues, as well as their unmatched ability to inject excitement into the occasional cover song, has been connecting with audiences since the band's conception.

The band was originally comprised of maturing music students and distinguishable local musicians. Stank Willie found itself quickly playing the best clubs in town and receiving its greatest responses in other college towns such as Champaign-Urbana, DeKalb, Springfield, Edwardsville, and Cape Girardeau, Missouri all while maintaining and expanding its core and loyal audience back home. In fact, Stank Willie has a fan mailing list of approximately 500 active members stretching from Madison to Carbondale that continues to grow with each performance.

Stank Willie has gone on to play major events in Panama City, Florida and has even appeared in commercials by major sponsors encouraging tourism along the Florida coast. The band has also played live on 105.9 WCKG in Chicago for the Pete McMurray show and has recorded and released its first album entitled "History," which is available in stores and can be purchased on the band's web site. ( While reviewing the album, Nightlife Magazine had this to say, "energetic, excellent, pocket-city musicianship is readily apparent, and the exuberance of the band is contagious."

In 2001, the band decided to move closer to the Chicago Metropolitan area by relocating in Rockford, Illinois. The band attacked the Rockford area possessed with the same determination and persistence as in the past, and just as in Carbondale, Stank Willie won over its audiences. In addition, they ventured east and earned respect and a name for themselves in Chicago with performances at venues such as Beat Kitchen, Elbo Room, Hog Head McDunna's, Tequilla Roadhouse, Lyon's Den, Pops, Flatlander's Brewery, and most notably achieved a growing loyal audience with a year long weekly gig at Fuel in Wrigleyville. Shirley King, daughter of legendary blues man B.B. King, could be seen frequently sitting in with the band during these performances.

Currently, one can see singer-songwriter Matt Engbring simultaneously wailing away on alto saxophone and effortlessly navigating his way around the keyboard, while Dennis Feltner and Dave Ritter hold down the groove and add a personal style all their own. While Dennis gives a whole new meaning to the word guitar "prodigy," with guitar solos that reflect the intensity of Jimi Hendrix, the feeling of Stevie Ray Vaughn and the maturity of David Gilmour, Dave has been known to do more with four strings than most bassists can do with seven. In July of 2002, Stank Willie saw a change of the guard on the drum stool, which included the arrival of NIU jazz performance graduate Jeff Braken.
Contact Information
Stank Willie
Matt Engbring
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