March 25, 2014 | 02:50 PMMegan Pflueger returned to Badger High School on Friday, her first return visit to Wisconsin from Nashville, Tenn., in nearly two years.
Pardon. That’s Megan Ruger.
When she was attending classes here, her last name was Pflueger. It rhymes with Ruger.
Ruger looks cooler on the posters.
And she’s come a long way since her 2005 graduation.
Megan, 26, a Twin Lakes native, is a hot item now on the popular The Voice television show.
The (now) signature (kind of a) Mohawk ‘do, the tats and the name change are part of the image-building upcoming singers need.
The Voice singing competition television show, which is pushing Ruger’s name into the mainstream, might help her break out of Nashville’s homey country-western scene into the more rarified air of professional rock-and-pop performing.
“But the Badger trip, that was fun,” Megan said in an interview after her 45 minute show in the Badger High School gym.
Later that evening, Ruger also performed at The Brat Spot, a Kenosha restaurant, bar and stage, where tickets went for $10 to $20 each.
But the Badger show was gratis to the students and faculty. Megan’s Valentine to the high school she chose to attend more than 10 years ago.
Although from Twin Lakes, Megan said that she and a friend decided on becoming open enrollment students at Badger.
“It had more to offer than Wilmot (High School),” Megan said of Badger. “And it was a new beginning for us.”
Megan is a genuine person, said those who knew her at school.
She wasn’t just a music-all-the-time kind of person. She played sports.
She golfed on the boys junior varsity golf team, said golf coach George Steffan. Badger at that time did not have a girls golf team, he said.
If the school would have had a girls team, Ruger, or rather Pflueger, would have been first team, he said.
She was also on the ski team and played powder puff football.
“My Happy Ending”
She opened with the boisterous “My Happy Ending,” by Avril Lavigne, setting the jammed Badger bleachers rocking.
She then took a lap around the gym, trading high fives and fist pumps with the students and teachers, and then she stopped and gave a little hug to Barry Mess.
Mess was Megan’s chemistry teacher, and still teaches chemistry at Badger.
Really? She hugged her chemistry teacher?
Mess said Megan was a good student and he enjoyed having her in class.
And, he said, there were some indications that she would stand out in her chosen profession.
“She was pretty prominent around here,” Mess said.
“I liked chemistry,” Megan said in an interview later. “We made ice cream in chemistry class.”
Later, she shouted out an “hola” to her Spanish teacher, David Davila.
“In Spanish, she was a great student and great fun to have in class,” Davila said later. “I do remember her being a positive role model in class.”
“It was always her passion to be a singer,” said Will Harris, the school’s director of security and an onsite security guard for Megan.
He said she was always a positive influence in school when she was a student.
“She was the sort of kid you wanted to see succeed,” he said. “I love the fact that she chose to come back to Badger (for a performance).”
Students were allowed to ask questions. Some of them were:
How long does it take to put up your hair?
Thirty to 40 minutes, Megan said. “I use a lot of hairspray.”
Who was her favorite teacher?
“Oh, that’s not fair,” Megan replied laughing. “They were all my favorites.”
But she added that her art teacher, Lamarr “Sparky” Lundberg, now retired, was one of her special favorites.
Megan took some time out to admire the banner that stretched over her head.
It read, “Welcome Home Megan Ruger. Good Luck.”
After singing three selections for the students, Megan retired to a classroom decked out as a dressing room.
There she met with family and old friends.
Her biggest fan, Grandma JoAnn Schwalbach was on hand.
According to Schwalbach, Megan started at 4. She loved performing in the backseat of the family car, singing Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.”
At first Megan seemed mildly embarrassed by Grandma’s revelation. But she did an acapella rendition of “Crazy.”
Megan’s musical influences might run along the lines of Joan Jett, Pat Benatar and Guns & Roses, but she was absolutely faithful to Patsy Cline, as well.
A confessed food-lover, Megan asked to finish a sandwich before talking to the press.
As she dived into a sandwich, she was heard to say, “I miss good cheese.”
Asked about her distinctive, stand-up ‘do, that goes from blonde to brunette with nary a shade between, Megan said she’s tried a number of different hair styles.
“I’ve changed it so many times,” she said of her hair. “I’ve had it purple and I’ve had it pink.”
However, this one seems to have caught on.
When she auditioned for The Voice season five, she didn’t make it because the teams were filled before she got a chance to try out.
But she was told by some of the professionals on the show to come back and audition again, and, she was told, keep the hair.
Began at 6
Megan began performing before audiences by the time she was 6.
She sang in music contests in the Twin Lakes area when still in grade school.
She competed several times in the Walworth County talent contests, but, Megan confessed, she never finished higher than runner up.
She sang “The Star Spangled Banner” at Badger High School home basketball games, said Ralph Braden, former school police liaison officer at Badger and who now works maintenance at the school.
He said her renditions of the national anthem “made the hairs on the back of your head stand up.”
Megan said Braden asked her to perform at his party after he retired from the police department.
At that point, however, she had just been accepted to audition for The Voice. Megan said contest rules said she couldn’t leave Los Angeles. What’s worse, she said, she couldn’t tell Braden why she couldn’t come to his party.
The Voice has pretty much taken over her life since then.
Megan went to Nashville, Tenn., six years ago to give her dreams a chance to come true. The city is a center of the music industry, especially the Country Music industry.
Megan can certainly belt out cowboy. And it carries that rock edge ala Jett and Benatar.
Makes a living
She sings. And she’s done enough singing to begin making a living at it. But it doesn’t pay all that well. And the competition for singers in Nashville is considerable.
If you’re not willing to accept a gig for $30, someone else will, she said.
“Doing The Voice is giving me the opportunity to play other venues that pay better,” she said.
She said the competitors on The Voice get to know each other well. They all stay at the same hotel. Friendships are formed.
And yet, they’re all in competition with each other.
Megan said her sing off competitor, Ria Eaton, 19, was one of those friends.
“She was like me when I was 19,” Megan said. Megan won the sing off, but she said she wishes Ria success in the future.
She credited her support network. Friends and family; Mike Nash, her travel manager for this trip, and the band: Marcelo Bakos on bass, Jason Brooks on guitar, Arick Seal on drums and Rick Patin on keyboard. All of the musicians are professionals, Megan said. She was humbled that they agreed to back her up on her trip home.