Beach Boys play Duluth, 1984

The Beach Boys have made several stops in the Northland over the years, but the performance that made the biggest waves in the News Tribune archives was their concert at Wade Stadium on July 8, 1984. Here’s coverage from the next day’s News-Tribune:

Lead guitar player Carl Wilson (left) and lead singer Mike Love of the Beach Boys play one of the group’s many hits during a concert at Wade Stadium on July 8, 1984. (John Rott / News-Tribune)

Review: Beach Boys’ beloved oldies bring good vibrations to Wade Stadium

By Bob Ashenmacher, News-Tribune

Solid cloud cover and a chilly wind kept a cool lid on the first three hours of the Beach Boys’ Wade Stadium concert on Sunday. This despite a fine set by local country-rockers Dakota Crossing and a nearly perfect 80 minutes by early 70s hitmakers Three Dog Night.

Luck. As the stars took the stage, the ceiling evaporated and a warm evening sun shone brightly. The crowd of 5,860 appreciated nature’s smile and enjoyed every moment of the band’s 70-minute set.

There’s gray in the sideburns of lead singer Mike Love these days and in the beard of Carl Wilson, the only Wilson brother present from among the original three. (Drummer Dennis died last year, and songwriter and arranger Brian was nowhere to be seen, despite the tantalizing presence onstage of a cream-colored baby grand piano.

There were wobbly strains among the harmonies. And it’s difficult for some of us to be comfortable with the band presenting itself as merely an oldies act – there’s no emphasis on new material, nor any interpretation put into the old stuff. Finally, it’s painful to the point of grotesque to hear “Good Vibrations” made into a singalong. Like a bad movie.

Kevin Pryor and Louella Foley hug as the Beach Boys perform at Wade Stadium on July 8, 1984. (John Rott / News-Tribune)

All that said, it was a good oldies show. The voices of Love, Wilson, rhythm guitarist Al Jardine and longtime fill-in keyboards player Bruce Johnston were in respectable shape.

Six backing musicians played in addition to Johnston’s keyboards and Wilson and Jardine’s guitars. That took away the nimble leanness of the group’s earliest hits, among them “Little Deuce Coupe” and “I Get Around.”

Wilson kept a few licks of the wonderful old “surf” style of lead guitar in, sounding especially good on a Gibson 12-string electric during “Dance Dance Dance.” Jardine’s rendition of “Help Me Rhonda” had girls who weren’t born when the song was released doing The Swim on the shoulders of grinning-grimacing boys. Other highlights include Wilson’s vocal on the lovely “God Only Knows” and a solid “California Girls.” “Sloop John B” sounded good but too fast, “Wendy” flat and sluggish.

I enjoyed myself, as did everyone else down in the very front. Once the set began, I missed absent Brian Wilson only once, during the sweet beginning of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” I wish he could have seen all of our smiles.

They closed with a surf medley and encored with “Good Vibrations,” “Barbara Ann” and “Fun Fun Fun,” leaving the crowd dancing in the dust of the infield.

Beach Boys lead singer Mike Love performs at Wade Stadium on July 8, 1984. (John Rott / News-Tribune)

By the way, the Beach Boys announced on stage that they and their entourage would play Three Dog Night and its crew in a charity softball game at 7 p.m. today at Wade Stadium.

As mentioned, the warm-up acts were fine. Three Dog Night sang all its hits in tight, faithful-to-the-record arrangements. All three members were in good vocal shape and the band was lively.

The Twin Ports’ Dakota Crossing opened with a set that did credit to the label country rock. Their four-part harmonies on a medley of “Rockytop” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” matched anything by the headliners. Best of all, they’re in their early 20s. Practically kids, in terms of professional careers.

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Here’s a photo from the next day’s charity softball game:

Beach Boys crew member Darryl Morrison (left) gives the group’s Al Jardine a neck rub to loosen up his muscles between innings of a charity softball game in Duluth on Jul 9, 1984. Jardine played second base. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

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The Beach Boys also played in Duluth back in August 1966 as part of the festivities surrounding the opening of the Duluth Arena-Auditorium (now the DECC). They were back in July 1980 at the Arena, then played at Wade in 1984, and returned in 1995 for a concert at Connors Pointe Festival Park in Superior.

That 1995 concert originally was scheduled for July 2 but was washed out by rain; they came back for a show on August 9, with Mark Rubin – now St. Louis County attorney – as the opening act.

Those are all the local Beach Boys shows I can find in the archives – am I missing any? If so, or if you have any memories to share about these concerts, post a comment.

Duluth’s long-gone King Neptune statue

Reader John Michel e-mailed a couple of photos earlier this month of the 26-foot-tall King Neptune statue that used to grace Canal Park from 1959 to 1963. There’s this view from a postcard:

And then this view from the other side that he found online; I don’t have a source, so if you know where it came from, let me know and I’ll post the proper credit:

This photo was reversed hen I first posted it; it’s correct now.

The statue had a brief but tumultuous history in Duluth. The News Tribune’s Chuck Frederick did a great job of recounting the tale in a column that ran September 9, 2006. Here it is:

STATUE OF LIMITATIONS

By Chuck Frederick, News Tribune

Sometimes olden is just old. Not historic. Not significant. And when gone, not a lost treasure. Just lost.

So goes the story of Duluth’s King Neptune. Memories of the 26-foot, 2,000-pound statue that once stood guard over the Duluth ship canal were sparked this summer when Duluth historian and postcard collector Tony Dierckins came across a card featuring the mythical Roman god of the sea. Dierckins dropped me a whatever-happened-to e-mail and the News Tribune published a call for answers — and memories.

The story that emerged, disappointingly, wasn’t nearly as golden as Duluth’s once-proud painted statue.

“Neptune was a hunk of junk,” Duluth’s Lyle Bergal recalled. “Depressing to look at. An eyesore. It was just a disgrace to the city.”

However, as Bergal also recalled, the statue didn’t start out that way. In fact, the big guy was heralded by Duluth Mayor E. Clifford Mork as a “tremendous tourist attraction,” especially among “picture-taking travelers” in 1959, shortly after the Minnesota State Fair Board voted to donate the statue to Duluth. Neptune had been on display during the Great Minnesota Get-Together to commemorate the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

The city’s chamber of commerce, visitors bureau, and retail merchants association came up with the cash to truck Neptune from St. Paul to Lake Superior. At least a dozen businesses provided men or equipment to load and unload Duluth’s newest resident.

With a trident in one hand and a replica of the Ramon de Larrinaga, the first large ocean-going vessel to reach Duluth, in the other, Neptune was hoisted with a crane onto a concrete base not far from the maritime museum. The late-fall dedication was well attended, and D.T. Grussendorf, the State Fair Board member from Duluth who was honored for nabbing Neptune, said the statue exemplified Duluth’s “rugged individualism” and “tenacity.”

“City officials and civic boosters made a big deal about its unveiling,” longtime News Tribune columnist Jim Heffernan recalled. They sure did. Mayor Mork even christened the statue by smashing a bottle of champagne. Luckily, he aimed at the concrete base.

Lucky because, within weeks, Neptune began showing his true quality — or lack thereof. Small stones thrown up on shore by Lake Superior’s waves punched holes into his robe. That despite Neptune’s reported construction of durable fiberglass and a weather-proof plastic composite.

The following spring, Neptune had to be patched and repainted, a maintenance job city crews wound up repeating annually. “He was awfully hard to keep repaired,” Charles K. Ulsrud, the city’s superintendent of buildings and grounds told the Duluth Herald in 1963. “We just couldn’t keep him from falling apart.”

The losing battle wasn’t helped when kids and other vandals threw stones at Neptune or kicked holes into him. The city had to spend about $300 a year — nearly $2,000 today — for paint and patching material. And that’s a figure that doesn’t include workers’ time.

“He was quite an expense for the city and he never really did look good,” Ulsrud said. “If the city’s going to have such a statue, it should be constructed of a more durable material.”

As it turned out, Neptune’s plastic and fiberglass construction was only durable in a thin layer on the outside. The rest of his body, it was later discovered, was made of papier-mache, the “stuff kids use in school to make toy figures,” as the Herald reported.

“Papier-mache does not do well in Northland winters nor does it hold up to the occasional fall storm and high waves,” Thom Holden, director of the Lake Superior Maritime Visitors Center, pointed out via e-mail.

After only four years in Canal Park, a battered Neptune was in desperate need of major repairs. City crews, using blow torches to dismantle the pipes that held him in place, went to work to take him down in June 1963.

That’s when Neptune’s true construction material was first realized. The statue caught fire and, within minutes, was reduced to ashes.
“Duluthians had mixed emotions about Neptune,” the Herald reported on its front page on June 4, 1963. “Many thought him to be unutterably ugly and wondered why he faced out to the ship canal rather than toward the park, where he could be seen. Some thought the old fellow had been neglected, that one of his stature deserved better care.”

He probably did.

“It was a gallant effort,” Bergal said, referring especially to the good intentions that brought Neptune north.

“There are postcards and memories of his presence,” wrote Holden. And “there are still those nights … that he occasionally pays a visit to escort a lonely vessel through the canal.”

In concluding its coverage of the Neptune inferno in 1963, the Herald reported: “Fire officials declined to estimate the loss.”

Tough to put a dollar figure on an “eyesore” and “disgrace,” I guess.

Not a lost treasure. Not this time. Just lost.

-end-

Share your memories of the Neptune statue by posting a comment.

Downtown Duluth, 1981

June 9, 1981

Superior Street in downtown Duluth, looking west from Second Avenue East, June 9, 1981. (Duluth Herald photo)

The picture above shows the Sears Roebuck department store building, home today to the Fond du Luth Casino. Here’s a closer look:

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Here’s another look down Superior Street from a few months later – September 22, 1981, to be exact:

Superior Street looking east from the corner of Lake Avenue, September 22, 1981. (Duluth Herald photo)

You can see a former location of The Last Place on Earth store, part of a row of buildings that now is the site of the Tech Village complex:

Share your memories of downtown Duluth by posting a comment.

Heatwave Berler

KDAL-TV weatherman Richard “Heatwave” Berler wearing one of his T-shirts, August 1976. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)

The Scrapbook section of Sunday’s News Tribune includes a “best of the Attic” feature on TV weatherman Heatwave Berler, who developed quite a fan base in Duluth in the 1970s.

That post originally appeared on this site on May 22, 2008; to read the full entry, click here.

Famous Lashua, Duluth’s singing cowboy

The post on Duluth’s first television station from a few weeks back included a mention of “Famous, a country-western singer.”

The name “Famous” piqued my curiosity, so I went digging in the files and found out a lot more about Famous Lashua, Duluth’s singing cowboy, including this article from February 6, 1983:

Famous Lashua, Oct. 21, 1953. (News-Tribune file photo)

Duluth’s singing cowboy remembers

By Bob Ashenmacher, News-Tribune staff writer

He was Duluth’s singing cowboy during the heyday of radio.

He wrote country-western songs that were recorded by some of the biggest names. He made one of the earliest live television broadcasts in Duluth.

So what ever happened to Famous Lashua?

“Every once in a while that comes up,” Lashua, now 66, said from his home in Mountain Iron. “I get mentioned on one of the radio stations I worked for – maybe on a call-in show or something. People wonder where I went.”

He moved from Duluth in 1964 to take over a dry-cleaning business in Virginia. He and his wife Ruby retired two years ago. Lately he’s recovering from an artificial hip operation.

Lashua doesn’t regret leaving show business.

“I’d been in it for 30 years. This (the dry cleaners’) was a chance to get into a good, growing business, so we bought it.”

But his enthusiasm for the music days remains.

“Oh, the way I got into it is funny. I’d gone out West on a freight (train) when I was 16, gotten a job on a ranch. The cowboys there, it was a big joke for them to put me on a wild horse. I did pretty good – an old Indian wanted to put me in the rodeo. Anyway, I wrote a letter to a girlfriend back in Rhinelander and to dress it up a bit I said, ‘We’re sitting around the campfire singing songs and I’m playing my guitar.’ I was BS’ing – I didn’t know a guitar from any other instrument.

“When I came back home in ’36, well, of course I run into the old girl again, and the first thing she wants me to do is sing for her. So I had to quick scare up a guitar and get me a music book for two bits. After about a week I could sneak by with ‘Home on the Range.’ I did it for her, and she liked it. It went from there.”

Songwriter and performer Famous Lashua spins country and western music on WDSM radio in early 1964. Note the Hotel Duluth / Greysolon Plaza facade visible through the window. (News-Tribune file photo)

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Except for a brief stint in Kentucky, Lashua played music locally for almost three decades. He had a pleasant soprano voice that lent itself well to relaxed country-western tunes.

He worked in many settings, from WEBC radio’s 15-piece orchestra to a popular band called Uncle Harry and His Hillbillies to a solo act.

He was master of ceremonies on “Corn’s A’Poppin,” a weekly KDAL radio show broadcast live from the stage of Duluth’s Lyceum Theater for three years in the mid-1940s.

“Every Monday night, right after the stores closed,” he said. “We had full houses – boy, it was great. We’d bring in some local acts each night. Some girls tap dancing or a local kid singing.”

Among his more unusual gigs was one with an organist who was dying of cancer. They played together on a show sponsored by a funeral home.

“He knew he was done for,” Lashua said, “but he insisted on continuing playing. During commercials I’d sing hymns and he’d play organ softly in the background and once in a while he’d break down and cry. … That was harder than digging ditches, I tell you.”

The early TV appearance came when engineers of Duluth television station WDSM were preparing to go on the air and wanted to test the signal.

“There wasn’t even a studio yet, just a garage up on the hill by the antenna. … We dragged a log in out of the woods. I sat on it and played some songs.”

All the while, Lashua was writing songs.

Red Foley had a big hit with his “Chocolate Ice Cream Cone.” It was among the top 10 country songs of – he thinks it was – 1952 and was eventually covered by 10 artists. Vaughan Monroe and Hank Snow each recorded his “Ghost Trains.” The Blue Sky Boys did his “I’m Glad.” His own favorite among his originals: “A thing called ‘Little Miss Mischief.’ It was recorded by the Oklahoma Sweethearts. I liked that one, but it never went anywhere.”

Where’d he get that stage name, “Famous,” anyway?

“They’ve been asking me that for years,” he said. “It’s my real name. My folks must have had big plans for me. Either that or they were running out of names – I’m the ninth out of 10 kids.”

Now that he’s retired, Lashua wouldn’t mind putting together a little radio show of his own again.”

– end –

Famous Lashua, undated photo. (News-Tribune file photo)

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Famous Lashua died on May 3, 1992, at the age of 76.

A Google search turns up quite a bit of information on Famous Lashua. For a site with a number of mp3 files of his songs, click here. Among the files available is “Choc’late Ice Cream Cone,” which was a country hit back in the early 1950s. It’s a sweetly innocent song, certainly from another era. Not quite sure how it would be received today. I found this image of a folio of sheet music for the song on Amazon.com:

A few more sites with information about Famous Lashua can be found here and here.

Share your memories of Famous Lashua, or other well-known Northland musicians, by posting a comment.

Mighty Thomas Carnival memories

For close to 40 years, the Mighty Thomas Carnival has been a summer tradition in Duluth. It’s back again this week, at Bayfront Festival Park (in years past it was held in the DECC parking lot, but that site got a lot smaller with the construction of Amsoil Arena).

Duluth School Police Patrol members Steve Eklund, 12, and Bryan Hill, 11, react during a roller coaster ride at the Mighty Thomas Carnival in Duluth on June 10, 1986. They are crossing guards at Chester Park School. (John Rott / News-Tribune)

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Nicole Giddings of Duluth flies high on a ride at the Mighty Thomas Carnival on June 10, 1988. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)

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Reactions are varied on the faces of (left to right, front row) Jeff Lien, Chris Reilly and Mike Johnson, and (back row) Jane Page and Chris Chambers as they ride the Super Hurricane ride at the Mighty Thomas Carnival in Duluth on June 7, 1986. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

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Francie Linn, 7, Sarah Toffoli, 4, and Amie Austin, 10, all of Duluth, clutch the bar in the front seat of a roller coaster at the Might Thomas Carnival in Duluth on June 17, 1982. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

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Worker Carlo Magliano of Duluth looks as if he’s about to be ingested by the “Moonwalk” at the Mighty Thomas Carnival in Duluth on June 16, 1983. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)

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Carnival-goers line up to buy ride tickets at the Mighty Thomas Carnival in Duluth on June 19, 1981. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

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Sea Dragon riders (left to right, front row) Shayne Renaud, Jackie Duvall and Dawn Duvall and (back row) Jodie Blegen, Tracey Myers and Kelly Archambeault enjoy the ride at the Mighty Thomas Carnival in Duluth on June 9, 1989. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

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A carnival worker named “Gliff” signals kids to board the Super Himalaya ride at the Mighty Thomas Carnival in Duluth on June 10, 1986.  (John Rott / News-Tribune)

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Seven of the 400 members of the Duluth School Police Patrol show varying emotions while riding the Sea Dragon at the Mighty Thomas Carnival in Duluth on June 9, 1986. (John Rott / News-Tribune)

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For more on the carnival, including its history and a look at all the other places it’s traveling this year, visit its website.

Share your memories of the Mighty Thomas Carnival by posting a comment.