Odd, obscure, historic, humorous, random and/or relevant items from the archives of the Duluth News Tribune. Duluth News Tribune and Herald file photos are copyright Duluth News Tribune; direct questions to akrueger(at)duluthnews.com.
Duluth’s Homegrown Music Festival, which opened Sunday, celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. Here is a gallery of News Tribune photos from – or associated with – Homegrown Festivals of years past:
Galynn White of the duo Gabel and Galynn sings Thursday night at the Red Mug in Superior during the 2008 Homegrown Music Festival. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Andy Gabel of the duo Gabel and Galynn performs Thursday evening at the Red Mug in Superior during the 2008 Homegrown Music Festival. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Galynn White of the duo Gabel and Galynn plays the violin Thursday night at the Red Mug in Superior during the 2008 Homegrown Music Festival. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
The Keep Aways perform at the NorShor in April 2005. The all-girl punk band will be performing at the 2005 Homegrown Music Festival. (Amanda Odeski / News Tribune)
Zach Stofer fronts the Hardcore Jollies during the semi-final round of Grandma’s Sports Garden’s “True Music Nights” competition in April 2004. The Hardcore Jollies also will play their first Homegrown Music Festival. (V. Paul Virtucio / News Tribune)
Pizza Luce is one of several stops for people attending the 2002 Homegrown Music Festival. (Renee Knoeber / News Tribune)
People groove to the music of Super D and the Double Chucks at the Norshor Theater in April 2002. The Norshor will be one of several venues for this year’s Homegrown Music Festival. (Renee Knoeber / News Tribune)
Mayfly performs during the 2001 Homegrown Music Festival at the NorShor Theatre. (V. Paul Virtucio / News Tribune)
Al Sparhawk of the Black Eyed Snakes grits out a tune as Brad Nelson drums in the background during the 2001 Homegrown Music Festival. (V. Paul Virtucio / News Tribune)
The band Both performs at the NorShor Theatre during the 2001 Homegrown Music Festival. (V. Paul Virtucio / News Tribune)
Ann Forsman belts out a tune while Jason Loop accompanies her during their band Mayfly’s performance at the 2001 Homegrown Music Festival. (V. Paul Virtucio / News Tribune)
Bryan Johnson (left) breaks into a solo on the congas during a performance by the band Crazy Betty in front of a tightly packed crowd at the Norshor Theatre on Friday night. Crazy Betty is one of 10 Duluth bands that will perform in the first Homegrown Music Festival at the NorShor in spring 1999. (Josh Meltzer / News Tribune)
Zack Cannon, whose rap name is simply “Cannon,” performs early Friday morning at Twins Bar in Duluth as part of the 2007 Homegrown Music Festival. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
A sign at Twins Bar reveals the lineup for the opening night of the 2007 Homegrown Music Festival. For Thursday, the Twins Bar would host hip-hop bands from the Duluth area. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Adam Baumhardt of Smokey Bogart plays the guitar late Thursday night at Twins Bar in Duluth, MN as part of Homegrown Music Festival 2007. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Jiggity Jaze (left) and Bliss (right) perform as part of Kritical Kontact early Friday morning at Twins Bar in Duluth, MN as part of Homegrown Music Festival in 2007. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Kritical Kontact performs early Friday morning at Twins Bar in Duluth as part of the 2007 Homegrown Music Festival. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Mike Hietala of Smokey Bogart gets into the music Thursday night at Twins Bar in Duluth as part of Homegrown Music Festival 2007. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
DJ Derek Delgado works on the turntable while rapper Cannon, whose real name is Zack Cannon, performs Thursday night at Twins Bar in Duluth as part of the Homegrown Music Festival in 2007. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Eeirearq’s Amy Ugstad (right) bangs away on the drums as Bret Walczynski and Jason Szumowski play at the Red Lion in Duluth on Friday night during the 2006 Homegrown Music Festival. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)
Dylan Kesti, drummer for Anti-Anne, attacks the cymbals during their performance at the Electric Fetus Friday night during the 2006 Homegrown Music Festival. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)
Low’s Mim Parker shares a quiet moment with Al Sparhawk before they take the stage at the NorShor Theatre on Thursday night as part of the 2006 Homegrown Music Festival. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)
Sam Rodman of Anti-Anne plays during their set at the Electric Fetus Friday night during the 2006 Homegrown Music Festival. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)
A large crowd turned out to watch Low perform at the NorShor Theatre’s reopening after an 8-month closure imposed by the city for fire code violations Thursday night as part of the 2006 Homegrown Music Festival. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)
The NorShor Theatre re-opened Thursday night, May 4, 2006, for the first time in eight months after being closed for fire code violations. The theatre played host to Low and the Homegrown Music Festival. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune staff)
“It’s tough to celebrate someone dying, but the figurehead of terrorism is gone now,” said Adam Depre (left) of Duluth in reaction to late-night news of the killing of Osama Bin Laden. “Now it’s time to look at the underlying reason for terrorism.” He was getting his hair trimmed by stylist Diane Fernholz of Duluth after attending a 2011 Homegrown Music Festival concert at Pizza Luce late Sunday night. (Bob King / News Tribune)
Coyote band members Marc Gartman (from left), Jerree Small, and Matt Mobley perform Friday evening at Sacred Heart Music Center in Duluth as a part of the 2011 Homegrown Music Festival in Duluth. (Clint Austin / News Tribune)
Leane Marie performs Thursday evening at the Red Mug in Superior during the 2008 Homegrown Music Festival. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Mike Wilson will be playing three instruments in seven bands during the 2008 Homegrown Music Festival in Duluth. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Doug Lefebvre of Die(ode) enters a shaft of light Thursday night at Twins Bar in Duluth as part of the 2007 Homegrown Music Festival. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
You may notice that the captions are pretty sparse on a few of these photos; if you can provide any names where they are missing, please post a comment.
Duluth native Lorenzo Music uses the studios at Minnesota Public Radio in downtown Duluth in April 1998 to tape commercials and other voice-over roles. “Cartoon (characters) are very hard to do remote,” he says. “Everyone has to be sitting in the same room. You really have to react to each other. That’s one thing I no longer have a shot at. But I’m willing to give it up to be here in Duluth. It’s worth it for what I have instead.” At the time, and for many years, Music preferred not to have pictures taken that showed his face. (Bob King / News-Tribune)
THE VOICE IS FAMILIAR, BUT WE CAN’T QUITE PLACE THE FACE
By Chuck Frederick, News-Tribune staff writer
In a downtown Duluth recording studio, Lorenzo Music snaps a headset over his ears, smooths out a script and leans into the microphone.
“Do you wanna know what I’m wearing,” he teases as producers and engineers in both Los Angeles and Duluth wiggle patch cords and adjust sound levels before taping a radio commercial.
A voice from California considers Music’s question. Her short, startled laugh spills out of the overhead speakers and fills the Minnesota Public Radio studio inside the Holiday Center.
“Uh, let’s see,” she says. “Hawaiian shirt?”
“Hey, this is Duluth!” Music declares, smiling broadly.
“Oh yeah,” she says. “Denim?”
Lorenzo Music has been wearing his comfortable jeans and loose-fitting denim shirts a lot lately. He has a Duluth Pack slung over one shoulder, a spectacular view of Lake Superior over the other, and in between, the contented, easygoing smile of a man at home.
One of Hollywood’s hottest sitcom writers of the 1970’s, Music left the grind of L.A. in December to visit his old hometown.
And now, like someone reluctant to trade in a favorite pair of sweatpants after a long weekend, he’s finding it hard to leave.
The man who helped create “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” who co-created “The Bob Newhart Show” and “Rhoda,” whose voice is that of Rhoda’s never-seen-but-beloved Carlton the doorman and later of Garfield the cartoon cat, is rediscovering his roots.
He also is writing his autobiography and a slim volume of poetry and he is working as a voice actor, taping commercials and voice-overs in Duluth via digital telephone lines.
“I came back to Duluth because I wanted to remember my memoirs,” said Music, whose visit in December was a birthday gift to his wife, a chance for her to visit her mother, Margaret Johnson, in West Duluth.
“I just felt so good here,” he said. “This place is where I was formed and it’s so far removed from the stress of L.A. I felt I could come here and be here. (A friend’s) house was available on the lake. All I had to do was write and listen to the waves — and be here. I had to do it.”
Duluth roots are deep
Music came to Duluth for the first time in 1942. He was 5 years old then and had moved from Brooklyn, N.Y., with his parents, Harry and Sophie Music. A master mechanic, his father worked in the Superior shipyards during the war and played a drum in the company band that marched each time a new ship was launched.
Performing and comedy filled the Musics’ home in Central Hillside. “I was even forced to entertain as a child — or they wouldn’t feed me,” Music deadpanned, slipping into that goofy, Carlton-like, singsong voice of his. “I was a stand-up baby.”
He graduated from Central High School in 1955 and went to the University of Minnesota-Duluth to study speech and English.
But he spent more of his time playing banjo and performing comedy in the UMD cafeteria. He also performed for the Owl’s Club, the Eagle’s Club, pretty much anywhere that would have him, even the faculty wives’ tea.
He took to acting, too. During rehearsals for “Guys and Dolls” at UMD he met Myrna Johnson, the West Duluth woman who would become his wife.
Jerry and Myrna Music pose for a publicity photo in 1961, they year the former UMD students appeared at the school’s Homecoming dance in October. They later changed their names to Lorenzo and Henrietta. (News Tribune file photo)
Chases his dream
“I remember wanting to be an actor when I was 7, or maybe a comedian,” said Music, 60, a short round man with a smooth head and a quick wit. “I always knew I was a performer.”
In 1959, he chased his dream to Los Angeles and then to San Francisco. One night, he watched the yet-undiscovered Smothers Brothers perform.
“I can do that,” he thought.
The next morning he auditioned, performing the same little folk music and comedy act that had underwhelmed the Owls back in college. It went over better this time. He landed the nightclub gig.
“It was a cute act in the UMD cafeteria, but I didn’t know if I could do it in front of the Smothers Brothers and the owners of the club,” Music said. “To me, this was the big time.”
Hours before his first performance, he blacked out with fear. His bride-to-be fed him chicken soup and helped him dress. She drove him to the club and literally pushed him onstage.
He was a hit. The two were married, and not long after, she joined him on stage.
Together, though, the act didn’t gel. It was hard to tell who was funny and who was playing it straight, Music said.
The club fired the Musics. They hit the road, intent on making another run at the limelight. They played coffeehouses and nightclubs across the country. They toured with the USO, doing shows in the Far East, Europe and the Mediterranean.
By 1967, they liked their act. It was good. It was ready.
But it was too late.
The Byrds were hot and the Beatles had all that hair. Rock ‘n’ roll was in. Their folk-music-and-comedy act was out.
Myrna and Jerry Music use a Japanese tea service they brought back from their USO tour of the Far East, during a visit to Duluth in fall 1963. (News-Tribune file photo)
Lands Smothers Brothers job
The Musics wound up in Las Vegas, opening for Julie London. On the other end of the strip, the Smothers Brothers were on the verge of mega stardom. They had been signed by CBS to do a weekly series and were looking for writers. They remembered Music. He had never written professionally, but accepted the job.
“I didn’t think you needed to be professional to be a good writer,” Tommy Smothers said from his car phone in Burbank, Calif. “I flavored the writing staff with new guys. We all learned our craft as we went along.”
Music was one of 15 writers for the Smothers’ show. Others included Steve Martin and Rob Reiner. In 1969, they won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy Writing.
“(Music) was one of the fun guys,” Smothers said. “I was a big fan of his. I always loved his delivery and his act. I figured he’d be a good television writer because he was funny. He and his wife had a great act.”
Two and a half years later, Music left “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” to become head writer of the new “Glen Campbell Good Time Hour.” He bounced to another variety show and also started moonlighting, writing in evenings and on weekends with longtime friend David Davis. Davis had been a director of “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” and associate producer of the spy spoof “Get Smart.”
The moonlighting paid off. The new writing team sold scripts to “Love, American Style.”
Helps create ‘Mary’
And in 1970, when Davis was asked to produce a new show based in the Twin Cities about an independent-minded TV newswoman, he brought Music along as his writing partner. For 2 1/2 years, Music and Davis wrote or contributed to nearly every script of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
“Everyone working on the show was from somewhere not Minnesota,” Music said. “I was their Minnesota expert. Things like, ‘How long does snow stay on your shoulders after you come in out of a storm.”‘
“He didn’t even have a desk at first,” Davis said of Music. “He sat in my office and I pulled out one of those boards that come out of desks for your typewriter. That was his area.”
“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was a huge success. The network was eager to cash in. “Why don’t you guys come up with another show,” a CBS executive asked Music and Davis. “If you guys could write a new show for any actor, who would it be?”
“Bob Newhart,” they said in unison. They had written for him before, including a sketch he performed on the Smothers Brothers’ show. They knew his stammer. And they loved his dry, straight humor.
“He was easy for us to write for,” Davis said of Newhart. “I had grown up with him on the radio.”
So they started writing, back at the same secluded Santa Barbara, Calif., beach hotel where they had written their first Mary Tyler Moore episode and where they would later write the pilot for “Rhoda.”
“The Bob Newhart Show” was another hit, thanks in large part to Music and Davis, the show’s star said.
“If their concept hadn’t worked, the show wouldn’t be on the air. It wouldn’t have done so well,” Newhart said from Los Angeles. “The best tribute is it’s still on (in reruns). It’s still being watched and it’s finding a new audience.
“Being a writer myself, I always felt the most important thing in the world is the written word,” Newhart said of Music’s and Davis’s scripts. “If you don’t have the words on the page, nothing is going to work. And this show worked.”
Lorenzo (Jerry) Music, right, the Duluth Central High School graduate voted “wittiest” of the Class of 1955, returned home in June 1976 to give the commencement address for his alma mater at the Arena. He was welcomed at the Duluth airport by a delegation which included, from left, Central Principal Richard Carlson, Joanne Maddox and Mary Forseth. (News-Tribune file photo)
The show also prompted one of the 1970s more unusual and talked-about drinking games — “Hi Bob.” To play, participants took a drink each time someone on the show said Bob’s name or “Hi Bob.”
Music insists he and Davis didn’t invent the game, though they may have helped it along. They did write all those “Hi Bobs” and “Bobs.”
But for good reason, Music said. Actress Suzanne Pleshette had a habit of calling Newhart, her on-screen hubby, “honey.”
“The ‘honeys’ bothered us and we thought they’d annoy the audience,” Music said. “She put them in when we didn’t write them and they made her character sound whiny, so we started writing fewer and fewer ‘honeys’ and more and more ‘Bobs.’ “
Rhoda and Carlton
Newhart was a ratings machine, and CBS was hungry for more. The executives wanted a Mary Tyler Moore spinoff based on best friend Rhoda Morgenstern. They tapped Music and Davis to develop and produce “Rhoda,” a show that forever changed Music’s life.
It was based in New York and needed a New York feel, Music said. The characters lived in an apartment building. And down in the lobby, there was a doorman — Carlton the doorman.
In the debut episode, Carlton’s now-famous slow, somewhat-drunk-or-stoned voice stumbled from an intercom box in the apartment of Rhoda’s sister, Brenda. “There’s a woman here who says she’s your sister,” Carlton said. “She doesn’t look anything like you.”
“The lines weren’t necessarily funny,” Music said. “It was the way they were done. The guy was gooney. He was out there. I do good gooney, I guess.”
Music and Davis had tried to hire a different actor to deliver Carlton’s lines. But no one did it quite right. They either played him too big. Or too drunk.
Music delivered the lines during rehearsals. “You should have seen him,” Davis said. “He was practically falling over, he was trying to do the lines so sleepily. The first time he did it, everyone just busted out laughing.”
With auditions going poorly, it was Mary Tyler Moore who finally suggested Music stay with the part. She was a guest star on that first episode.
Music did. And got huge laughs from the live studio audience during taping.
Carlton’s appeal can be traced to the days before television, when families huddled around the radio. Imaginations painted pictures of the characters. Carlton allowed Americans to do that again.
“It was a fun thing that people tuned in for. I thought it was hilarious from the very beginning,” actress Valerie Harper, who portrayed Rhoda, said from her New York home. “Lorenzo was great. He’d do the voice live on the side with a microphone so the audience could hear. And it was always incredible. I can’t remember a line from Carlton that didn’t work. I don’t remember Lorenzo ever bombing out.”
One hot doorman
Carlton the doorman was one of Hollywood’s hottest stories that television season of 1974-75. An air of mystique surrounded him. Who was he? What did he look like? A fan club started. Several hundred fans joined.
In the final episode of the season, “Rhoda” viewers thought they’d finally get to see the mysterious character.
A knock on Rhoda’s door. It was him. Rhoda cracked open the door but didn’t unhook it. Upset with Carlton, she delivered a severe tongue-lashing. When she finished, Carlton, played by Music, stuck in his arm, extended his hand and asked, “Will there still be a tip?”
The two characters worked well together, Harper said. The contrast of the out-of-it, laid-back Carlton against the high-strung, speak-her-mind Rhoda made for many comic moments.
“It was another character to play off, another super, funny character,” Harper said. “He just had a terrific voice for Carlton. He didn’t do a trick voice. He did a character. He used his own voice and that’s what helped make it work. It was honest.”
In 1976, Music was on top of the world. He had four hit shows on his resume and two Emmys, the second for an animated CBS special he created and produced called “Carlton Your Doorman.” He returned to Duluth that summer a hero, the guest speaker at graduation for his old high school.
But just three months later, the bottom fell out. “The Lorenzo and Henrietta Music Show,” a syndicated daytime talk, comedy and musical variety show starring Music and his wife, fell flat.
It was a “suicide run,” Music said. “It was a total disaster. An absolute bomb. I was always good on my feet, but I wasn’t that good.”
The show was canceled after six weeks, its ratings abysmal.
Lorenzo and Henrietta Music in a publicity photo for their short-lived “The Lorenzo and Henrietta Music Show” in 1976. (News-Tribune file photo)
Now a top voice actor
About that time, Music’s phone rang. It was an agent who provides voice actors for radio commercials, cartoons and other voice-overs. He said he had been getting requests for the Carlton the doorman voice. Was Music interested?
Two decades later, Music is one of the top voice actors in the business. Of the thousands of actors available to do voices in the Los Angeles area, Music is one of only a few who works consistently, said casting director Carroll Day Kimble.
“He’s a love. And he’s very well respected in the business,” said Kimble, who runs Carroll Voiceover Casting Co. in Los Angeles. “He’s extremely creative behind the microphone. He can change a couple little things and really make a spot sparkle. He’s a genius in the booth.
“And in the advertising world, people love to know they just booked Carlton the doorman,” she said. “They like to say, ‘Hey, I booked Garfield the cat.”‘
After Carlton, Garfield is probably Music’s best-known voice role. In 1983, he won another Emmy Award for co-writing a Garfield TV special. And from 1988 to 1995, he provided Garfield’s voice for the Saturday morning cartoon series.
Music’s other voice characters have included a crash test dummy in those you-can-learn-a-lot-from-a-dummy public service announcements that encourage motorists to buckle up, and, more recently, a store announcer on “The Drew Carey Show.”
“I believe voice actors should be heard and not seen,” Music said. “If you don’t know what I look like, I can be the crash test dummy. I can be Garfield the cat. I can be anything. But if some kid knows what I look like, then Garfield becomes me, and I don’t want to be Garfield. Garfield should be Garfield.
“As a voice actor I can be an ugly frog or I can be a handsome prince,” Music said. “If I worked on-camera, I could only be the handsome prince. You know?”
All of which helps explain why Music doesn’t like his photograph published. And why he was reluctant to be interviewed for this story.
He craves anonymity. It’s good for his career, he said, to maintain that mystique about his identity that started with Carlton the doorman.
Music wants you to know the voice, not the face. It’s the voice, after all, that puts lunch in his box, gas in his car and his kids in college.
“All I need is a studio, and this is the studio here,” Music said between takes at Minnesota Public Radio. “We have everything we need here. And this is all I need to bring. A pencil and my reading glasses. And if I didn’t bring a pencil, it wouldn’t matter.”
He doesn’t even read the script before arriving.
The radio commercials he is taping this day are for a casino near San Diego that’s giving away a pair of Volkswagen Beetle cars. Music portrays an excited caller who asks an exterminator if they’d heard about the bug infestation.
His head bobbing, his hands waving, his eyes popping to emphasize certain words, Music performs the lines. Between takes, he sips from a glass of milk left over from lunch. After one run-through, he pauses.
“At the ‘heck no,”‘ he says into his microphone, talking to the producer in California, “I feel like I could do that line a different way. Should I just do what I feel is best?”
“Always,” says the producer.
And the next time, Music does it differently. He drops some words, adds others, changes the emphasis. He does the lines better. No question.
“This is feeling really good,” the producer says. “The character sounds fine. The acting sounds fine.”
One more time.
“Wonderful. That was awfully good,” the producer says. “I can’t imagine anything else I’d want. Except for you to come back to L.A.”
Music smiles again.
“Oh, please don’t make me come back to L.A. just yet,” he says.
And this time, there’s not even a hint of teasing in his voice.
— end —
Lorenzo Music died from cancer on Aug. 4, 2001, at age 64. He was survived by his wife and four children.
Here are a couple of YouTube clips featuring Lorenzo Music’s voice acting. The first is from the pilot episode of “Rhoda” – you can see his name in the opening credits, and then hear him as “Carlton the Doorman” at about the 1:10 mark:
And here’s a short “Garfield” clip from the 1980s:
Share your memories and stories by posting a comment.
The Heartland Band, a Northland country music group, as seen in February 1982 – clockwise from lower left: Mark Russell, Steve Johnson, Al Oikari, Greg Brown, Jack Purcell and Craig Erickson. (News Tribune file photo)
Heartland Band lifts area’s country music profile
By Bob Ashenmacher, News-Tribune staff writer
Maybe it’s just that its audiences are so polite. Why else would country music’s profile be so low in this area?
After all, it may well be the most popular kind of music between Pine City and the Canadian border. Consider: It’s big news when a rock act like Loverboy sells out Duluth Arena, but routine when the Staler Brothers do it (or Kenny Rogers, although these days he’s about as genuinely country as Ralph Lauren).
Country radio stations like Hibbing’s WKKQ-AM and Duluth’s WDSM-AM have been enjoying very healthy ratings in the local market for a good while now, with no signs of slipping.
Finally, there’s the recent experience of Jim Nostrant at WKLK, Cloquet’s country radio. His station and half a dozen others around the state recently sponsored a country talent search. Each region’s winner has been chosen and the state finals will be in Cloquet’s middle school gymnasium at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“We for sure had the most entries of any region in the state,” Nostrant said.
“Some of the other contests had like 13 entrants. We had 42, and after the cutoff time something like another 50 wanted to sign up.”
The contest had to be conducted over two Sunday afternoons, rather than the orginally planned one. Its site, the Register bar in Scanlon, was filled with upwards of 400 people each day, Nostrant said. The would-be stars wanted a shot at $50,000, a televised performance in Nashville and a recording and bookings contract. That’s the top prize in the national competition, sponsored by Wrangler Jeans.
The local entrants ranged from a 7-year-old singer to a 67-year-old former logger who played the harmonica and guitar. The winner was the Heartland Band, a sextet formed specifically for the contest.
“We’d been talking about getting together anyway,” said organizer Greg Brown of Carlton. “This seemed like the perfect opportunity. I’d worked with a lot of these guys before.”
Brown supplies vocals and plays guitar and fiddle. The rest of the lineup is Steve Johnson or Grand Marais, guitar and vocals; Al Oikari of Grand Marais, piano, guitar and vocals; Craig Erickson of Cloquet, bass and vocals; Mark Russell of Duluth, steel guitar; and Jack Purcell of Cloquet on drums.
The band’s sound is highlighted by its harmonies and instrumental variety, according to Brown. It won its chance at the state championship by doing an old Cajun tune, “Diggy Liggy Lo,” as a warmup, and Rusty Weir’s “Don’t it Make You Wanna Dance” as its to-be-judged song.
The winner of Friday night’s state finals gets $1,000, a trip to Nashville, an appearance on a televised show with Ray Price and a chance at the top prize, performing on the show and the above-mentioned 50 grand and recording and booking contracts. Tickets to the state finals will cost $6.50. “But some of the other states, I know, are charging eight bucks,” Nostrant said.
And all the talent won’t be homegrown. Nashville’s Legarde Twins will perform and emcee, and Texan swing band Texas Tradition will play backup to solo acts who want accompaniment.
— end —
Do you remember the Heartland Band? Does anyone know if they advanced to the national competition? What other long-ago local bands should we search for in the News Tribune archives? Share your memories and suggestions by posting a comment.
Michael Aguirre, alias Velvet Sam, performs a song-gram for Tom Pratchios (left) as Scott Campbell watches on Dec. 18, 1980. (Bob King / News-Tribune)
This music man turns songs into gifts
By Ann Glumac, News-Tribune staff
Guitar slung over his shoulder, music stand in hand, Velvet Sam heralded his arrival at Natchio’s Restaurant in Duluth by shouting for the owner: “Is there a Mr. Tom Pratchios in the house?”
Pratchios smiled as Sam — alias Michael Aguirre — set up the music stand before him. He laughed as Sam began singing the personalized song-gram chronicling — humorously — Pratchios’ life story. He was laughing, crying and kissing friends when Sam ended the song.
Pratchios’ friends ordered the “Unforgettable Gift Delivered Anywhere” from Velvet Sam’s Song-Grams, an enterprise begun a month ago by Aguirre, 27, and his wife Kitty, 22, of 17 W. Oxford St., Duluth. They have since delivered about 10 song-grams for $21.50 each, plus mileage.
Practhios’ reaction isn’t unusual, Sam said. “People just sit there in awe. It’s such a surprise. All of a sudden, their past is being revealed to all those people, but it’s a happy embarrassment.”
Song-grams can be written for any occasion — birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, thank-yous and I-love-yous, Sam said. The recipient of the song-gram receives a copy of the lyrics, also.
When a prospective sender calls, Kitty Aguirre said, they sell themselves as well as the song-grams. “We get the people into it and get information out of them,” she said. “We really dig to get neat things, but they’re all meant with love.”
The recipient’s history becomes the subject of the four- to five-verse song Sam takes about two hours to write. “The songs have a country flair because country music is fun, jumpy music,” Sam said. He forms a mental image of the person before he writes, picturing what the person looks like and even what kind of clothes the person wears.
Velvet Sam does his thing at a birthday party for Tammi Marshall at Duluth’s Town Crier Restaurant on Feb. 11, 1985. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)
A song-gram delivered to a UMD medical student during a lecture detailed the student’s habit of eating in his sleep — information provided by the student’s wife. Pratchios’ message included incidents from his military career.
Many of the songs contain “connotative adult humor,” which Sam said he grew to appreciate while writing comical songs for a Los Angeles television show.
“A lot of people have been helping us,” Kitty said, including an artist friend who designed the logo for the song paper. “They wanted to make sure we weren’t just talking. They wanted to see it happen in Duluth.”
“We have so much fun with it,” Kitty said. “I like the laughing while writing the songs and the anticipation because you know it’s a good song.”
Sam likes the reactions. After several years of playing original music in nightclubs with smatterings of applause, he enjoys being the center of attention, even if it’s only for five minutes.
“This is like a five-minute concert and you get a standing ovation every time,” Sam said. “You feel like you wrote a Top 10 song in the country. You have the number one song in that room at that moment. You leave, and you can still hear the people laughing.”
Sam’s wardrobe includes a tuxedo, a messenger’s uniform, and his cowboy outfit. He’s hoping to make enough money to buy an array of costumes to fit any occasion.
The customer chooses the costume. But, Kitty said, he or she must choose some costume — “Sam won’t strip.”
Sam won’t sing a nasty song-gram, either, he said. “I wouldn’t want to insult anybody or hurt anybody’s feelings. These are all sent with love.”
He’ll travel long distances to deliver the song-grams, although the customer must pay mileage costs. Long-distance song-grams are also offered at a lower rate, with the customer paying the telephone costs.
Michael Aguirre continued to perform as Velvet Sam in Duluth through at least the mid-1980s. He’s the father of pro snowboarders Mason and Molly Aguirre. The family moved from Duluth to California in 2001.
Share your stories and memories by posting a comment.
Joyce Campbell (from left), owner of the Recycla-Bell in Duluth, stands in front of the building with regular visitors Malahn Amend, 20, Genevieve Gaboriault, 16, and Leah Smith, 17, in February 1996. (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune)
RECYCLA-BELL PATRONS FIND FUN, RESPECT AT OLD BUILDING TURNED MUSIC VENUE WHERE DRUGS, VIOLENCE AREN’T TOLERATED
By Zita Lichtenberg, News-Tribune staff writer
Cutting lyrics and a raging electric guitar blast through giant speakers. In a room with black walls, a band is pounding out music and a group of kids are “moshing” — pushing against one another, trying to get to the center of the group.
In the other room the kids are more subdued, sitting and talking in booths that look like leftovers from a ’50s diner.
This is the Recycla-Bell in Duluth’s Endion neighborhood, and on this particular Saturday, around 200 14- to 20-year-olds have come to listen to music, talk and just hang out.
Once a Northwestern Bell telephone building at 1804 E. First St., it’s now a music venue for Northland bands and the only place in the Twin Ports these young people feel belongs to them.
A young woman in flowing clothing with glitter in her eyelashes stands next to the booths talking to Joyce Campbell, the Recycla-Bell’s owner.
She is Michelle Pesek, a 20-year-old pre-med student at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, and she is thanking Campbell for keeping the Recycla-Bell open.
“There’s a feeling of peace and camaraderie and the freedom to be ourselves here,”‘ Pesek said.
Despite minimal supervision — Joyce and her husband, Chris, are the only chaperones — the crowd at the Recycla-Bell is calm and self-controlled.
“The owners are very good-hearted and respectful, and the kids don’t feel they are being repressed,” Pesek said.
“If they are repressed, they will rage against it,” she added, “but if they are treated like thinking, respectful teen-agers, they will act like thinking, respectful teen-agers.”
Some of them have dyed their hair unnatural colors and pierced their bodies in socially incorrect places. Others look like the kid next door in flannel shirts and blue jeans.
Regardless of their fashion statements, they defy some of the negative stereotypes adults hold about today’s young people.
Recycla-Bell patrons dance to live music in the dance area in January 1996. Young people of all ages crowded the dance floor. (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune)
Freedom through responsibility
Recycla-Bell kids cooperate with and appreciate the Recycla-Bell rules: no alcohol, no tobacco and no drugs.
“It just doesn’t fly if you break the rules,” said Joel Hardesty, 19, whose band played at the first concert at the Recycla-Bell in 1991.
There is one compelling reason: the music. It is one of the only places teens in the Twin Ports can see local bands, along with occasional groups from Canada and other parts of the United States, playing music they like — rock, alternative, punk or ska (the precursor to reggae).
The young people here know they will decide the fate of the club themselves, and nobody wants to mess things up.
As insurance, John Stone, a Recycla-Bell regular, acts as the unofficial bouncer. He has kicked out people only one or two times. Drugs, alcohol and violence are not problems, he said.
Besides making sure the moshing doesn’t get out of hand, Stone, 20, recruits bands and runs the sound system. He said it’s important that the music and the environment at the Recycla-Bell are largely controlled by people under 21.
There is no decor except for a few posters, and the music room’s black walls and empty floor provide the perfect backdrop for bands and dancers who are attempting to escape the trappings of the adult world — if only for a few hours.
Besides having the minimalist atmosphere they crave, young people say the Recycla-Bell is a place to go and feel respected and accepted.
“It’s a place where kids can be in charge while still respecting some rules,” said Joel Monsaas Kilgour, 19.
“Anyone who comes in here isn’t labeled,” said Jessie Huard, 17. “The Campbells accept any group.”
Superior High School students Adam Frink, 14 (left), and Amy Brandt, 17 talk with their friends, seated behind, at the Recycla-Bell in Duluth in February 1996. (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune)
Owners’ attitudes key
“Young people need what we all need: love, respect, hope and to feel like we have some choices. I started with this basic premise,” Joyce Campbell said.
She and her husband bought the old Northwestern Bell Telephone building in 1991, made an apartment for themselves on the third floor, and turned it into an activist center for anti-violence and environmental causes and a music venue for young people on the weekends.
Joyce often plays the part of mother to the “Bell kids,” as she calls them. She knows many of them well, gushes with praise over their accomplishments and snaps their pictures, telling them to pick them up the next time.
The kids smile or fidget with embarrassment — many of them are not used to having an adult earnestly compliment their dyed hair and eccentric outfits.
“My opinion has always been that hair color or length and clothing styles are some of the safer choices that young people trying to figure out who they are can make … they don’t have the dangers of other choices like drugs, alcohol, sex and violence,” Campbell said.
Political activities still take place at the Recycla-Bell, but they are separate from the concerts, the Campbells said.
There are some political signs in the building promoting peace and opposing a couple of military programs, but most kids are oblivious to them and say the owners have never tried to open political conversations with them.
But Campbell does live by her principles, and tries to instill a sense of respect in the young people who go there. Besides the anti-drug, tobacco and alcohol rules, she will not tolerate ill treatment of others or discrimination.
Setting such rules and still giving kids room is a delicate balancing act. Campbell described one band she prohibited from playing because it had what she considered a sexually explicit, offensive name. But she gave in when the band changed its name, for one night, to “Appeasing Joyce.”
The kids respect her authority and her flexibility, and Campbell has had little need for discipline.
The music stops playing around 10:30 p.m. and, with few exceptions, the kids shuffle out quietly and are gone by 11 p.m. Many of them call their parents on a bright orange phone, Campbell’s private line, that sits on a piano in the main room.
Campbell has had parents call her on that same phone, asking what the Recycla-Bell was all about.
She always invites them to stop by, and many of them take her up on it.
“I’m really happy about it,” said Roxanne Stahl of Duluth, whose 14-year-old daughter frequents the Recycla-Bell.
Stahl went in to check the place out for herself and said she was glad the crowd was young, explaining that she felt uneasy when her children went to places where the patrons were older.
“If there’s a place these kids can go and hang out for a few hours, then I’m all for it.”
A surprising number of Recycla-Bell kids share Stahl’s relief that there is an “under 21″ place to hang out.
Ask around, and the majority of them will tell you they are glad there is no smoke or drunken people to deal with (and most of them say they have experienced both at parties elsewhere).
Coffeehouses and cafes, the only other places in the Twin Ports where under-age people can enjoy live music, are all filled with smoke, complain many of the kids at the Recycla-Bell.
Recycla-Bell visitors move about the large gathering room on a crowded Saturday night in January 1996. (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune)
Community rallies to protect the ‘Bell’
The hangout almost disappeared a few years ago when the city of Duluth brought charges against the Campbells of disturbing the neighborhood and of committing zoning violations for running a commercial establishment in a residential zone.
The disturbance charge was dropped quickly as people in the neighborhood, rather than complaining, rallied to support the Campbells. The Duluth police had only a couple of complaints about loud music while Campbell was able to produce letters of support from several neighbors close to the Recycla-Bell.
Supporters wrote letters to the city and Mayor Gary Doty, and young people collected more than 1,000 names on petitions supporting the Recycla-Bell.
Campbell argued that she was running a charitable operation, which is allowed in her neighborhood. She makes no profit from concerts and spends her own money to keep the place heated.
Nearly two years and seven court appearances later, the Campbells were informed in April 1995 that the city had dropped all charges “in the interest of justice.”
City Attorney John Smedberg said one of the deciding factors was the overwhelming support of the community. He said the message he heard was that, in this day of gangs and drive-by shootings, it made no sense to close down a place where kids gather peacefully.
“Yeah, you do listen to stuff like that,” Smedberg said.
The police department has not experienced any trouble with the Recycla-Bell since the lawsuit.
“As far as I’m concerned, we feel they’re trying to do a great thing there,” said John Christensen, license officer for the Duluth Police Department. ““For a group of young people, that age group, they don’t have anyplace else to go to be together, listen to music, dance and hang out.”
Mark Kuiti, bass player for the band “Lift”, plays and sings at the Recycla-Bell in Duluth in late December 1995. (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune)
Recycla-Bell looks for real support
With the legal difficulties past, the Recycla-Bell is back to the business of being the music scene for young people.
The Campbells are there every concert night as chaperones, counselors, supporters — whatever the “Bell kids” need.
Support from the community is great, but Joyce Campbell says she wishes some tangible support would back it up.
“We are committed to keep doing what we are doing and we are going broke,” said Campbell, whose income is from two small “Ma and Pa-type” motels she and her husband own.
“The kids, who organize and plan events, usually give us a donation from money collected at the door, but this small amount doesn’t begin to touch our expenses,” Campbell said.
She strongly encourages the bands to keep admission down to $3 per person to keep the concerts open to all income levels.
Campbell said if the Recycla-Bell were run by an organization such as a church or the city, it would not be as free and open as it is. But that lack of affiliation also means lack of regular funding.
If she had one wish for the Recycla-Bell, it would be that adults in the community who support it would get involved — stop by to help chaperone and clean up. Give a few financial donations. In the past two years she has received only around $100 in private donations.
“The typical parent says, ‘I’m really happy for what you are doing for the kids,’ ” Campbell said. “My response is usually, ‘Get involved, we could use some help.’ ”
Most have yet to accept her invitation.
— end —
Joyce Campbell sits in one of the booths at the Recycla-Bell before the visitors arive on a Saturday night in March 1996. Behind her are some of the many political messages that some of the visitors have put up on the walls. (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune)
Here’s one more article from a couple months earlier – Jan. 6, 1996:
ANYTHING GOES IN MUSIC, DRESS AT DRUG- , ALCOHOL-FREE RECYCLA-BELL
By Zita Lichtenberg, News-Tribune staff writer
If you have nothing to prove and don’t take your fashion statement too seriously, check out the live music and atmosphere at the Recycla-Bell in Duluth.
Fluorescent dye-jobs mix easily with baseball caps and bandanas at this all-inclusive gathering place which features live bands in an environment free of tobacco, drugs and alcohol.
The rules may seem conservative, but the atmosphere and the crowd are not. The music ranges from loud rock to alternative, and the dancing ranges from too-cool-to-move to moshing and body passing.
Walk in the door and you’ll probably see a fair share of black leather and dredlocks but you also will see representatives from the sweater-and-jeans crowd and some who would be hard to put into any group.
The lack of group identity is the main pride of regulars at the Recycla-bell. They get especially annoyed if you call them “alternative.”
“Alternative is almost popular now, like preps and jocks are,” said Jessie Huard, 17, who has been coming to the Recycla-Bell for about three years. “We are very much our own selves.”
The only people who would feel out of place at Recycla-Bell, according to Malahn Ament, are those who put down a certain group or style — or those who might come in looking for drugs.
“We are not trend-setters. The only statement we try to make is that we’re not drug users,” said Ament, 19.
The Recycla-Bell building, in a quiet East End neighborhood, was owned by Northwestern Bell before Joyce and Chris Campbell bought it and transformed it into a meeting place and music venue.
Two rooms in the basement are open when bands play. One is jammed full of booths right out of a ’50s diner where people gather to talk. The other room is usually dark except for the stage lights that illuminate the bands and the giant American flag hanging over the stage. The only other noticeable decor: a few political signs promoting peace.
The bands are a mixture of local high school and college groups, and traveling bands from the Twin Cities and elsewhere.
The Recycla-bell is only open for concerts. The next is Jan. 27 and will feature several “ska” bands including Flux Capacitor and Slapstick. The music is a mixture of reggae and punk.
On Feb. 17, several alternative bands will play including Puddle Wonderful, Blind Shake, Life of Riley and Omega 2000.
Doors at Recycla-Bell, 1804 E. First St., usually open about 6:30 p.m. with music from 7 to about 10:30. Doors close at 11 p.m. Cover is usually $3 but may go up a dollar or two depending on who is playing.
— end —
Carla Garber, 15, laughs with some of her friends after returning from the dance and band area at the Recycla-Bell on a Saturday night in January 1996. (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune)
I’ve been meaning to do an entry on the Recycla-Bell, also listed as the RecyclaBell and the Recyclabell – for some time. I was reminded by a recent Perfect Duluth Day post about a reunion concert coming up later this month.
The News Tribune does have some earlier material on the Recycla-Bell, in a folder I set aside a while back – and now can’t locate. When I do, I may post some more items.
The paper’s electronic archives don’t contain any more full articles all about the club (there’s no mention of when the Recycla-Bell closed), but they do have a number of mentions of the club in passing, noting upcoming shows. Here’s a sampling of bands and DJs who played the Recycla-Bell in the 1990s:
December 1995: Puddle Wonderful, Fromundas, Sourpuss and Omega 2000
May 1996: Flux Skapacitor
January 1997: Acidine Solution, U.S.V., the Riff Randells and the Krammies; Ferd Mert, the Rydells and Edible
February 1997: House of Large Sizes, Puddle Wonderful, Unbelievable Jolly Machine and The End; Doutang, the Swingtones and Alex Mac; O2, J. Hendrixson, MVP, Stonz’, DJ Boo and Elam
March 1997: The Dames; Area 51 (mister e and grandmaster kevin), Xaq from the Shack of Xaq, the House of Tod and Demonica Del Rio from the S & M Mausoleum; Blind Shake, Apathy, the Dames and Da Sonics
April 1997: Shapht vs. Shaft and Buggin’ Out
Spring 1997: The Sellouts
As always, share your memories by posting a comment.
Former taxi, truck and ambulance driver turned disc jockey Joseph “Little Joe” Laznick keeps watch over his nighttime family in this photo from April 1966. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)
Little Joe Spins Night Away
By Wayne Wangstad, News-Tribune staff writer
A world of grooved plastic spins away the time for a nightworker who entertains the restless during the early hours of a new day.
Between those midnight to 6 a.m. hours, KDAL radio’s “Little Joe” plies his trade as a disc jockey, keeping watch over what he calls his nighttime “family.”
Little Joe – the moniker follows the parallel of Robin Hood’s Little John, only with reference to girth – has never used his own name, Joseph M. Laznick, on the air. He prefers to be known by the self-selected name that leaves little else to be said.
Most radio listeners tune their ear to an announcer’s voice, then come up with an image of what he looks like. A woman, for instance, may hear a deep, resounding voice and, in her mind, view the man as a handsome fugitive from Muscle Beach. Oh, the disappointment when she sees he’s a scrawny, crow-like 98-pound weakling.
An image had been formed before the interview with Little Joe. But the graying, skinny, guitar-carrying man was not to be found. Looking younger than his 32 years, the DJ was surprising only because the “Little Joe” analogy had not registered. The most important thing, that friendly, smiling voice that see other nightworkers home, was there, however.
A former taxi, truck and ambulance driver turned radio announcer, Liitle Joe concurs with other nocturnal working types. He likes night work – and has more than 10 years of it under his Jackie Gleason-like belt. “Jackie Gleason,” Little Joe jokes, “and I would have something in common except that I’m fatter and he makes a million dollars a year.”
Armed with a folksy resonant voice touched with a slight nasal twang, which sometimes sounds as though he were rhythmically rolling marbles from one side of his jowls to another, Little Joe works alone yet has the company of hundreds of other nightworkers.
“Night is a lonely time,” he said with his sincere, homespun inflection. “Any person who works nights must (he emphasized that word) be a night person himself. And he must understand the motives of this type of person,” he insisted.
Little Joe’s musical format, as he describes it, is “everything.” That means he plays everything from country western to the long-hair stuff, including listener requests.
KDAL nighttime DJ “Little Joe” Laznick in the studio on Oct. 15, 1978. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)
Explaining that his show is best described as “public service radio” – news, weather, sports and music – Little Joe says he keeps in touch with an after-sundown family composed of doctors, lawyers, steelworkers, police and firemen and insomniacs. Unable to get desired information from the morning newspaper, which has not yet arrived, or from television, then no longer on the air, they call the night disc jockey.
Two particular occasions brought a flood of phone calls, the radio announcer revealed. Steelworkers concerned over a threatened strike phoned for information, as did parents of men stationed in Alaska when an earthquake spread trembling havoc there.
The phone calls, Little Joe asserts, make up his “family.”
“Night people are a funny family,” he offered. “Women may call me up and tell me about their husband’s job promotion, or that he got fired. Or they may want advice on a job transfer.”
No all of the “family” calls are congenial, however. “Some of the family cal me up and bawl me out when I do something wrong,” he revealed.
“These people are not kooks,” Joe said as a bit of the friendly homespun air in his voice was replaced with fiery conviction. “These people are lonely. … If they have a problem of if they’re crying, I usually try to find time to talk to them and try to help them.”
A night nurse at a Duluth hospital, Little Joe explained, is typical of the callers. “She phoned and said ‘I won’t be calling the next three nights because I’m off (work)’ ” the DJ said.
Anything unusual about the night work? “The oddity of this type of work,” the announcer insisted, “is the closeness of strangers. You have a bond that’s probably best explained by a mutual dependency.
Several Twin Ports mothers, for instance, have a certain dependency on Little Joe when their children refuse to go to bed. “They’ll ask that I tell the kids to go to bed. Surprisingly, most of the mothers call back and explain that the kids have done what they were told after I’ve talked with them,” he said.
The rotund disc jockey, who races stock cars as a hobby, stands aside from most other nightworkers’ waking-sleeping hours. Off at 6 a.m., he usually goes home then has breakfast and stays up until 3 p.m., when he goes to bed. Then it’s up at 10:30 p.m. to meet his on-air deadline when the hands of the clock are straight up. Unlike most after-sundown workers on the slumber angle, he is like others in that he can participate in most social activities because of his late working hours.
What’s his retort to the sunshine workers? “At 2 p.m., when the sun is highest, you can’t go out for a ride, but I can. And when it’s midnight and you’re just going to bed, I’m just starting to have my fun,” was his prompt reply.
In radio for nearly 2 1/2 years now, about a year of it at KDAL, Little Joe fill several slots in his solo night trick. Shagging records for requests, checking sources and preparing stories for upcoming newscasts consumes a good share of his time. Occasionally, he will interview a recording artist or entertainer on his show.
The DJ’s longest stint, 7 p.m. Saturday to 3 a.m. Sunday, is followed by his only night off.
Any conclusions about working when most people are sleeping? Little Joe used that friendly, folksy voice to paraphrase something he’d mentioned earlier. “You have to be genuinely and seriously interested in – and understand – night people.” Just what he meant by that was not clear, but it was evident that he was talking about that undefinable thing which he likes so much, his radio “family.”
Joseph “Little Joe” Laznick, February 1974 (News-Tribune photo)
In February 1980, the Duluth Herald reported that Little Joe Laznick, then hosting the all-night “Vacationland Calling” show on KDAL, had “received a substantial bequest from an anonymous listener.”
Under conditions of the 71-year-old woman’s will, Laznick was not allowed to give her name or reveal the size of the bequest. But he said he was told the woman left him the money “because I comforted her by playing music on the radio and chatting with her on the phone” during his all-night broadcasts.
He continued on the all-night show until about 1984, and also played bass and sang with the local band the Du-Als. In June 1987, the News-Tribune reported that Laznick was suffering from kidney disease and needed a transplant; friends organized several benefits for him. He died on Dec. 14, 1987, at age 54.
The crowd at Johnny’s Bar in Superior twirls to the sounds of Rawhide in November 1981. (Duluth Herald file photo)
Rawhide plays to tough crowd at Johnny’s
By Bob Ashenmacher, Duluth Herald staff writer
Parked in front of Johnny’s Bar in Superior on some nights is an old Comet Cyclone, red except for one black door.
The car has that sexy boxy shape; the sharp-edged lines of a mid-60s Plymouth Satellite that make it look like it wants to leap forward even when it’s just sitting there. Taped to its dash are Polaroids of the driver’s family.
Johnny’s Bar itself is a bit like the car: a little sharp-edged at times (the clientele leans toward grain truckers and sailors who are built like trucks and ships), and always exciting to be in. But it has the right interior touches to feel comfortable.
The touches include the “homemade pasties” sign above the bar and the TV above the pool table showing “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”
And the house band, Rawhide, the professional vehicle of ElDean Johnson. The 37-year-old singer-guitarist has seen it through many personnel changes in nearly five years at the club. He now has things pared down to his wife Linda on bass and Mike Badden on drums.
ElDean likes it that way. Apparently the crowd does, too: a hand-lettered cardboard sign by the dance floor warns, “Not responsible for any accidents while dancing with your shoes off!”
The stage is small, with a purplish fluorescent “black” light hanging above. The ceiling is so low that when ElDean jumps to end one of the faster numbers, his straw hat brushes it. The crowds are lively people from many walks of life. Plenty of grain truckers and sailors.
Asked to describe a typical Johnny’s crowd, ElDean says: “Well, they’re a fun-loving bunch. Sometimes they do surprising things, but they have fun and in the end that’s what matters.”
He laughs. “I know so many of them now it’s pretty familiar.” Like the trucker who often stops by on weekend nights to climb up on stage: “His specialty is Red Sovine songs. Always gets a big hand for ‘Giddyup Go.’ ”
Sometimes the strangers are a kick, too. There was the night a boatload of Greeks came in. “One fella gets up there and starts singing away, and we tried to back him,” ElDean recalls. “I couldn’t understand what he was saying and didn’t know the song. But he looked happy when he was through. Kept smiling, anyway.”
ElDean pauses. “I like playing at Johnny’s. You can go to work and watch the show, you know what I mean? It’s out there on the dance floor.”
Rawhide plays a mildly progressive country show, with some ’50s rock and any requests you care to hear thrown in. ElDean’s strong suit as a vocalist is moderately paced songs by the likes of Waylon Jennings, Moe Bandy, Gene Watson and the Gatlins. His smooth baritone has a nice way with ballads.
ElDean plays a slightly nicked black Fender Stratocaster. His guitar style is in the jumpy, snazzy manner popularized two decades or more ago by guys like Duane Eddy – an early idol – and Carl Perkins. On the rock-flavored things such as “Wipeout,” ElDean shows a Ventures influence. He likes to use a lot of echo and wah wah pedal – “my gadgets” – through his Fender Twin Reverb amp. He plays a mean rendition of Juice Newton’s “Queen of Hearts.”
Linda, who handles that vocal, is a blonde not much bigger than the Fender bass she plays. She sings plenty strongly, and shows a charming touch with things like Lacy Dalton’s “Takin’ It Easy” and Gail Davies’ “I’ll Be There.”
Mike the drummer’s big number is “Kaw-liga,” the tom-tom thumping Hank Williams tune. Sometimes when he goes on a run from snare to tom-toms he ends up where he’s going faster than the rest of the group. But they catch up quickly.
Rawhide is at Johnny’s only three nights a week. He has an upholstering business and he and Linda have a small son. “It’s almost hobby playing. And you know, I like it that way,” he says.
A lot more than in the early years. He was based in Rochester but spent most of his time in a station wagon and motel rooms. The groups came and went along with gigs throughout the nine states between Michigan and the Rockies. He cut an album in Nashville.
“The record company promptly went broke. The famous Nashville swindle. When I hear the name of that town my hair still stands up. But that’s all right. I still like the music.”
Eventually ElDean (“I know it’s unusual,” he says, adding “No idea” before asked why his parents chose it) ended up in Duluth. He played a number of years with the Country Gentlemen.
“I liked it all right, but eventually I was getting into things like Waylon Jennings and they all wanted to stay more traditional. They had steel guitar, you know. The sounds we wanted were different.”
So five years ago he used his CB handle to name his new group.
“I could tell you stories about my life,” ElDean says, “but you couldn’t print ‘em. When I try to think of ones you could print, that makes it tougher.” He scratches the stubble on his face.
“I could write a book.”
Johnny’s Bar, 1508 N. Third St. in Superior, as seen in September 1985. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune & Herald)
The members of Rawhide in January 1993, from left: Jack Rygg (drums), Linda Johnson (bass) and Al Johnson (lead guitar). (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)
I found a file of break dancing photos in the News Tribune Attic, and oddly enough every single one of them was from 1984. It seems like that was the year break dancing really took off in Duluth, at least for a while.
Here are a few photos from “The Icebreakers,” a break dance show staged by students at Washington Junior High in December 1984:
Willie Kruger rehearses a solo dance from “The Icebreakers,” Washington Junior High School’s break dance show, while Ebony Carter and Kim Ouillette watch on Dec. 4, 1984. Kruger is one of about 15 dancers who have been rehearsing since early November for the show, which will premiere before the student body Friday. (Bob King / News-Tribune)
Mike Rojas “takes it to the floor” during a rehearsal of a break dance show, called “The Icebreakers,” at Washington Junior High School in Duluth on Dec. 4, 1984. To the left are Scott Daugaard and Steve Miller; to the right is Jeff Jegloski. (Bob King / News-Tribune)
Here are some photos from March 1984, which accompanied an article headlined “Break dancing makes it to Duluth”:
Make a “wave” in the halls of Washington Junior High in March 1984 are, from left, Alvon Carter, Ollie Grant and Chet Pepper. Carter learned break dancing from relatives in Ohio. He taught Pepper, who taught others, and so on. (John Rott / News-Tribune)
Sean LaFontaine break dances at a Washington Junior High School dance in March 1984. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)
Terry Goods break dances at a Washington Junior High School dance in March 1984. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)
And then there were these photos with an article that ran on September 19, 1984:
Alvon Carter, 16, takes David Gerber, 10, through some “floor rocking” moves during break dancing lessons at the Duluth YMCA on August 23, 1984. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune & Herald)
Young dancers breakin’ parents tradition
By Marc Perrusquia, News-Tribune & Herald staff writer
Some women in black leotards were finishing an aerobic dance lesson when the children rushed into the gym, crowding around the exercise mat in the Duluth YMCA.
A Michael Jackson song blared from a tape deck: “Billie Jean’s not my girl…”
The women seemed to enjoy it immensely, smiling as they twisted their torsos side-to-side in an exercise that would make a belly dancer groan.
The kids didn’t appear impressed with the older generation’s gyrations. They were waiting for the “old folks” to clear the mat so they could get down for the real hit of the day – break dancing lessons.
A group of the youngsters gathered around their instructor, Shockwave.
The first lesson of the day was this: Shockwave is the street name for Alvon Carter, a 16-year-old Duluth break-dancing enthusiast.
Picking a street name is the first and simplest step to becoming a break dancer. All you do is take a name you like and give it to yourself, as many of Carter’s friends have done: Reflex, Sonic D, Space Cowboy and Baby Breaker.
The second lesson is this: The name must be “fresh.” Fresh is the equivalent of “cool” or “with it.”
For example, it’s doubtful a name like Melvin Podiovak would be fresh, but Marvelous Mel just might be.
Lesson three is similar to lesson two: Along with the right name, you must have the appropriate music.
Carter shook his head as he watched the women finish their Michael Jackson-inspired lesson.
“No, it’s just not fresh enough,” he said, nodding toward the aerobic exercisers.
Carter brought his own music by little-known groups like Grand Master, Sugar Hill Gang and Electric Kingdom. The music features a lot of of bass playing, lightning-fast lyrics and, most importantly, a quick beat.
Some youngsters try break dancing during lessons at the Duluth YMCA in August 1984. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune & Herald)
After the women cleared the mat, Carter’s 25 young apprentices climbed on.
The first step Carter showed them was the “Joker Kick.”
To do it, you squat to the floor, bend a leg beneath your seat and, alternating with the other leg, thrust it forward like a Russian gopak dancer – except here the dancer isn’t really leaving the ground. …
Some of the students of the students were taking spills, so Carter watched them individually.
“What are you guys doing here?” Carter asked.
“It’s too hard,” said little Jim Kubiak, 7. He and some boys were sitting on the edge of the mat, watching the others.
Unlike a fresh name, fresh dancing never is achieved easily.
“Go like this,” Carter said, demonstrating. “I’ll bet you can do it.”
The boys mimicked Carter. Still they weren’t up to his level, but they were a bit better. When Carter left, the boys sat down again.
“I seen break dancing a lot on TV and I like it and stuff,” young Kubiak said. “Mostlty on ‘Beat It’ (the Michael Jackson video).”
Unlike their instructor, most of the students have a greater fondness for Jackson.
So do many of their parents.
“When Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ tape came out he (her son, Justin) started break dancing by himself, so I mentioned they had classes and he said yes,” explained Wendy Eld, 29, who was watching from the edge of the mat. “I like it. I’m glad he’s into it. I try to do it myself, but he says I do it wrong.”
“When we were young, we were doing the twist and jerk,” said Terri Reilly, 28, Eld’s sister. “It was Elvis, then.” …
The stars and the dancers have changed since then, but the enthusiasm of these youngsters is just as intense as it was for their parents.
Back on the mat, Justin was going through some steps.
He stumbled and fell, but got up and continued. …
Carter doesn’t demand that his students be good, only that they try.
“You can make things up if you just practice it,” Carter said. …
Carter discussed many other break dance moves: popping, top rocking, ticking, and hand spinning. To describe them would take more words than Michael Jackson’s gloves have sequins.
But if you feel up to it, the break-dancing lessons are continuing at the YMCA at 4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. The cost is $16 for four weeks.
Do you recognize anyone in these photos? Share your memories by posting a comment.
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.
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)
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.