Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Gene LaFond Talks About Larry Kegan, Dylan and Upcoming Northland Gigs

Gene and Scarlet at Hibbing High School Auditorium
I first "met" Gene LaFond in a phone interview two years ago as he was preparing for the first Weber Hall benefit concert with Scarlet Rivera to raise money and awareness for the Armory Music and Arts Center. At the time our conversations circled around Bob Dylan and Scarlet, travels with the Rolling Thunder Revue and such. But his connection to Dylan came about by means of another connection, Gene's friendship with Larry Kegan, a boyhood friend of young Robert Zimmerman. I was unaware of how close Larry, Scarlet and Gene were until more recently. Larry's story says as much about the kind of people Geno (as he is fondly called by others) and Scarlet are as it does about the boyhood friend who never forgot him.

EN: How did you and Larry meet?
Larry K
Gene Lafond: Larry and I met at a party in college days in about 1969. We hit it off right away and even sang some songs together that night. He called me the next morning at 6 a.m. and asked if I would want to help drive him to Guadalajara, Mexico. I said, “When?” He said, "In about an hour." I was on break from school so I said, "Hell, Yes!" Didn’t know about his friendship with Bob until somewhere in Iowa.

EN: When did you and Larry start performing together? How did that get started?
GL: We just clicked musically right from the start. We began singing and writing songs from the start. We played a lot of benefits and small coffeehouse gigs and a lot of private parties. Larry couldn't scratch his nose but he would go out and sing for people and try to cheer them up. He had amazing strength and charisma as anyone who ever met him would attest.

EN: You’re both songwriters. Do you have a favorite song that Larry wrote? What about your own personal favorite from your personal portfolio?
GL: We wrote together. Favorite song that we wrote has to be "Some Get The Chair." It's on my "WIld Unknown" CD. The line "Won't let nothin' get me down..." says it all. Favorite song that I wrote is the next one that comes floating down the river of songs. If you take the time to reach out and latch on to it it feels like a gift.

Gene and Scarlet putting on a show to remember.
EN: Was the Rolling Thunder Revue your first time travelling with Bob?
GL: Rolling Thunder was the first time I met Bob in person. I do remember seeing him years earlier at the Ten O'Clock Scholar in Dinkytown. It was a beatnik coffeehouse that we used to go to in high school because you could drink "Near Beer" and listen to odd poetry, snap your fingers and hear folk music in a smoky room. Bob was still Bob Zimmerman at the time. In late 1975 Larry called me and said, "Pack up! We're heading east to hook up with this travelling carnival that Bob has cooked up.” We drove all day and all night and arrived in Worchester, Mass in the middle of the show. I remember walking into the venue with the laminates that Bob left for us and seeing him on stage with face paint and that terrific hat brimmed with flowers. He looked like a shaman! Powerful and incredibly confident. We shook hands the next morning at breakfast and Allen Ginsberg, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Scarlet Rivera, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, the whole cast of characters treated us like special members of the crew. What a thrill.

EN: You also left the country with Larry a few times. What was your most memorable or exotic location that you went to together?
GL: Memorable exotic travels? There were many. We went to Belize together twice and all over Mexico. Larry had friends everywhere. He loved to travel and show his friends strange and unusual places that you would never believe a guy in a wheelchair could navigate. But he did it with style.

EN: Do you have a personal favorite Dylan albums that you listen to?
GL: Favorite Dylan Album? So very many. I am really diggin the New Bootleg #10 Cd. A lot of songs are just him and the piano or guitar. Raw, demos. I can just see him sitting at the piano singing with such confidence. Wonder if there is any video of those sessions? Priceless!

EN: When you’re not listening to Dylan who else do you like to listen to?
GL: I have been listening to a band called Shovels and Rope, The Pistol Annies, Jack Johnson but mostly, since I have retired from my day job, I am excited about the new music I have been writing with my friend Amy Lee. So wonderful to have time to work on my music and not just work.

Also, Scarlet and I will be doing at least two duo gigs after the May, 17 Armory Gig. Friday, May 23 at the Green Door in Beaver Bay and Saturday May 24 (Bob's birthday party) at the Gunflint Lodge in Grand Marais. We are also hoping to do an intimate house concert earlier in the week. We will let you know how that develops. It is such a treat to perform with Scarlet as a duo. She is so inspiring.

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Learn more about Geno at

EdNote: This blog entry and others like it have the aim of raising awareness for the upcoming Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan concert which will kick off the 2014 North Country Dylan Celebration in Duluth and Hibbing. Sacred Heart Music Center, May 17, 2014. For tickets to this great event visit

If you wish to help, visit the Salute Facebook page and share with your friends by clicking the Invite button. 

A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan is a presentation of the Armory Arts and Music Center and Magic Marc Productions.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Anyone Want To Buy A Historically Significant Restaurant? Zimmy's Is For Sale

As I walked out tonight in the mystic garden
The wounded flowers were dangling from the vines
I was passing by yon cool and crystal fountain
Someone hit me from behind
~ Bob Dylan, Ain’t Talkin’

That's how it hit me. A rubber truncheon. Point blank, base of the skull. The news that hit me in this unexpected manner was the recent closing of Zimmy's Bar & Restaurant in Hibbing.

Ain't Talkin' is a favorite of mine. As with so many other Dylan songs there's a direct connection vibrating through the lines capturing something real and when you live that something the words burst to life and you know you're not the only one to have felt it.

For year's I'd heard about Zimmy's and finally made it… What a treasure. Owners Linda and Bob Hocking transformed the space into a wonderful Dylan tribute in the heart of Hibbing. Dylan fans from all of the world have been making a trek to Dylan's home town. The house he grew up still stands. The high school stage he performed on resonates with vibes from the era. And Zimmy's seemed to define itself by maintaining the legacy.

The art and the vibe were what struck me the first time we ate there. (OK, the food was good, too.) It became my inward aim to have one of my own Dylan paintings hanging on the walls there with all the other work.

Ironically I finally had a chance to meet Bob & Linda Hocking at a private party this past winter, an acquaintance I welcomed. Good people. Very special people. I began looking forward to this year's Dylan Days more than ever, hoping to contribute a piece to the art event they do each year. Then the news came down. The brightness that Zimmy's gave the world was snuffed. "Every nook and cranny has its tears."

But there's still something worth talking about. Zimmy's is for sale, and not only can but should be preserved.

Here's something to consider. When my family moved to New Jersey in 1964 they bought a house for $24,000. Four bedrooms, partial basement split level. By the 21st century the value of this piece of real estate, on 3/4's of an acre, reached $450 K.

Now get this, for only $475 K you can own this historic dream. I do not know if the art goes with it, but the art is worth half that and more. (I am biased. This could be be hyperbole.) What would you rather own, a house in New Jersey with no revenue stream and lots of taxes, or a historical restaurant which has visitors from all over the world? Having lived in that house in Jersey, I would much rather have Zimmy's.

Across the street: The Androy Hotel
The building itself is historically significant. A sign out front tells this abbreviated version of its story:

“Mesaba Street Railway Power Plant and Waiting Station, 531 Howard Street. During the heyday of mining on the Mesabi Iron Range electric cars rumbled down Howard Street every 15 minutes, picking up passengers from all across the Range who came to shop Minnesota’s new commercial district.

“The Mesabi Interurban Railway Company ran trollies between Gilbert and Hibbing commencing on Christmas Eve 1912. When North Hibbing moved south, one of the most significant events was the rerouting of the Streetcar down the newly built Howard Street business district. Constructed in 1921 by the Oliver Iron Mining Company for the Mesaba Railway Company, this building served as the power plant and western terminus for the 41 mile electric rail line. Passengers purchased their tickets at the ticket office; women and children waited in the “Women’s Comfort Room”; and men socialized in the “Men’s Smoking Room.” Two tracks, large steel doors, and a 49 foot long repair pit accommodated streetcars tied up in the carhouse for the night.

“At the demise of the Railway Company, the building became home to Furlong Oil Co., Shell Tire, and eventually Mancuso Oil.

“In 1983, it was remodeled into the Atrium Restaurant, and its historical architecture was kept intact. In 1990, the Zimmy’s Restaurant was added to compliment the Atrium and to pay tribute to Hibbing’s own music icon/poet laureate, “Bob” Dylan (Robert Zimmerman). As a result of this, Zimmy’s is not only a fine eating establishment, but a restaurant that exhibits “Bob” Dylan memorabilia, and gives customers/Dylan fans, alike, a sense of his influence on this Music industry, as well as, our American culture.

“A project by Hibbing Kiwanis, Iron Range Research Center (IRRRB), Hibbing-Chisholm Rotary, and Central Business Commission.”

Not far away is the house on Howard Street where young Bob grew up, carving his initials into the wall next to the phone. Makes me wonder what evidence of my youth was left in my house inBridgewater.

As for the bygone times of Hibbing in general and Zimmy's in particular, much more could be said, as the town and the building have a well documented history. If you're seriously interested in scoping out more info on this deal contact Larry Furlong at Village Realty. I for one will be glad you did. As long as you keep the name.

Meantime....  life goes on all around you. Embrace it.

EdNote: The painting Don't Look Back pictured above is one of my own and was not featured at Zimmy's. It was only my dream to have it there one day. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Spotlight on Matt Fink, Another Link to the Salute to Bob Dylan

Musicians come in all shapes and forms. There’s the grass roots style of down-home, and there the full production Hollywood style. Matt Fink is from the latter school, cutting his teeth as Dr. Fink, a keyboardist, record producer and songwriter. His involvements as a member of Prince’s backing band The Revolution gained him a Grammy for the album Purple Rain, a record that has sold over 18 million copies since its release.

After a dozen years with Prince he continued to perform in with a number of groups producing jazz fusion and other sounds. In 2001 he released an album called Ultrasound. Today Matt Fink owns and operates StarVu Studio and is one of more than two dozen musicians who will be performing in mid-May at the Sacred Heart Music Center in a show titled A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan. Based on history, his modus operandi and the photos he sent me Matt Fink is a character and will add another dimension to an already exciting show.

EN: When did you first take an interest in music as a career?

Matt Fink: I was around 12 years old when first taking an interest in a career in the music business. I was playing in my first band at that time and as soon as we got paid for our first gig playing at one of our friends' Bat Mitzvahs I knew that I wanted to be a professional musician.

EN: Who have been your biggest influences or mentors in the music scene?

MF: I studied jazz and classical piano with 5 different teachers while growing up in St. Louis Park MN and one of my favorites was Tom Weeklund who was Herb Wigley's partner, both of whom I thought were the best in Minneapolis at the time. I was also influenced by many of the great pop and jazz artists from the 1940's, 50's, 60's and 70's. Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Sinatra, The British Invasion, ie; Beatles, Stones, The Who. Dylan of course. The jazz fusion artists like Herbie Hancock, George Duke, Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul and Steely Dan. Billy Joel, Elton John, and prog rock groups like Yes, Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer. There are too many to mention. Many of those were introduced to me by my parents who were avid listeners of most genres of music. Both of them had also majored in theatre arts at the U of M and were highly active in theatre productions around the Twin Cities. Musical theatre was also a big influence on me as well and I performed in plays growing up thanks to my parents.

EN: How did you first come to take an interest in the music of Bob Dylan?

MF: My first interest in Dylan emerged because I was hearing his music on the radio and found it to be very compelling.

EN: Do you have any especially favorite Dylan songs?

MF: Blowin' in the Wind, Tamborine Man, Like a Rolling Stone to name a few. Again, too many to list here.

EN: What instruments do you play and what is that white keyboard called in your FB backdrop foto?

MF: I am primarily a keyboardist. I also play and program drums in the studio. The picture of the white keyboard on my FB page is an Alesis Vortex Keytar midi controller that my son Maxwell was playing at a program at his high school last year. It has no sounds on board and is used to trigger other synthesizers nearby.

EdNote: This blog entry and others like it have the aim of raising awareness for the upcoming Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan concert which will kick off the 2014 North Country Dylan Celebration in Duluth and Hibbing. Sacred Heart Music Center, May 17, 2014. For tickets to this great event visit

If you wish to help, visit the Salute Facebook page and share with your friends by clicking the Invite button. 

A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan is a presentation of the Armory Arts and Music Center and Magic Marc Productions.

For more information on Dr. Fink visit .   

Local Art Seen: Another Rewarding Weekend

Mark Anderson @ Goin' Postal
Where does one begin? This was an exceptional weekend for experiencing art. Yesterday I share images of student art. It seemed a few other highlights were in order from the Fourth Annual Spring Art Show at Goin' Postal to the other things seen about town on Art for Earth Day.

The highlight was Friday night's Goin' Postal Show which attracted continuous traffic throughout the evening. Like most people who guess crowd sizes I may be off by 25% one way or the other but I estimated at least 200 people passed through the doors there to see what was going on. The walls were filled with plenty of new work, in all media. The artists stayed busy sharing themselves with friends. The renovated underground studio held its own as a new venue in town, a private party open to the public.

Most impressive to me is the caliber of people involved with and attending the show, from a retired judge and business executives to people walking by on the street stopping in to see what's happening.

Revelation by Brokke
Mark Anderson played a soothing jazz guitar in the background while people mingled about the space that is by day Andrew Perfetti's shipping store. New work and old intermixed, just like the crowd.

On Saturday I commenced with the Phantom Galleries -- Superior, first stopping at Adam McCauley's and Sarah Brokke's exhibits in the New York Building. Brokke's show, on the left side of the pop-up gallery, was titled Shift. She's a painter's painter and does wonderful canvases. McCauley's loose grid shapes reminded me a bit of Mondrian, not in the colors per se but in the collection of squares and rectangular shapes. Both painters have a love of color, and a distinctive evolving style.

Sarah Brokke
Galleries in the Canal Park area include Art Dock, Siiviis and Waters of Superior. The latter has an upscale feel and always wonderful examples from some of our better known artists and photographers. It is the "home gallery" of Craig Blacklock, I believe.

Siiviis featured the work of Marian Lasky and Rick Allen of Kenspeckle Press, as well as their usual assortment of works. Adam Swanson was present with his uplifting hot air balloon and windmill-themed paintings.

From there I went to UMD and eventually home to work on projects, but "Oh the Things You'll See" if you visit our galleries. Here are some pictures I took this weekend.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Need to step in out of the weather somewhere, choose an art gallery!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Local Art Seen: Student Art Shines in Art for Earth Day Gallery Hop

Kailyn Sieler's Mermaid
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau

I was able to explore at least half of the participating Twin Ports galleries in this year’s Gallery Hop, and repeatedly rewarded. The other day I shared pictures from the Duluth Art Institute's First Spark student show and thought it might create a nice echo to share a few more pictures of student art that I saw Saturday in Superior and at UMD.

Black and white and wonderful.
The Phantom Galleries – Superior exhibit is titled Seeding the Next Generation, assembled from Superior High School Students by Jeredt Runions, a real connector in the grass roots sector of our arts community. This show is in the New York Building on the 1400 block of Tower Avenue.

Art plays a variety of roles in our lives and in our communities, from therapeutic to social to aesthetic. It’s always exciting to me when I see young people exploring new ways to express all that nebulous “stuff’ of adolescence that is whirling about inside. I am certain that with Runions’ guidance many of young people will have developed new ways of seeing, both themselves and the world around them.

Across the bridge and atop the hill the doors and halls were opened wide for visiting the studio spaces and UMD arts facilities. From painting and drawing to digital and beyond I saw much that was thoroughly engaging. I saw playfulness and seriousness, unpredictability and plenty of material demonstrating that deeper thought was taking place.

The art of print making.
Having immersed myself in the arts program at Ohio University, I experienced some nostalgic moments, especially when I explored the printmaking room with its litho stones, intaglio and the presses.

Learning how to express oneself is a critical part of growing up. Getting exposed to the wide variety of tools for expression is a useful experience. Making art is one channel through which many leaders once traversed, whether it be visual, musical or literary.

“Be yourself, because those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.” – Dr. Suess

There was also a juried student show on display in the Tweed Museum along with a whole raft of other activities to mark the day. Here are some other things I saw in the corridors of the U and in the museum gallery. I got a kick out of the pantone colors served as cookies.

I still have more to share about the other work I saw Friday and Saturday, but for now here are a few snapshots from the students' shows, a worthy excursion.

“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” – Steve Jobs

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Five Minutes with Actor/Artist/Musician/Songwriter Barry Thomas Goldberg

Barry Thomas Goldberg is a veteran Twin Cities musician and songwriter who later took up acting and has essentially spent a lifetime in creative pursuits. Some of his music is currently available on CD Baby, but can also be found at his website Goldberg is one of more than two dozen musicians who will be performing in mid-May at the Sacred Heart Music Center in a show titled A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan.

EN: Have you made your living in music or is that something you shared with another career? 
Barry Thomas Goldberg: Occasionally I have. But recently even musicians with ”hit“ records (Whatever a hit is now) don’t make a living from the music business.

Music has lost much of its sales value because of all the social media and technology that allows it to be disposable. The Wu-Tang Clan is trying to make music an art again and more valuable by treating it like a piece of art, like a painting. They are only selling one copy of their new album. It’s an interesting concept but I doubt whether it will catch on. We’ll see.

I have done a number of gigs and released a lot of albums. In January I signed a contract with the Seattle and LA based “Light In the Attic Records” to reissue my very first solo album “Misty Flats” from 1974. So financially that helps for the time being.

Also I’m finally starting to sell some of my paintings that I have done in the past few years.

EN: Mid-life you took up acting. Have you been involved in theater?
BTG: Yes. Starting in1999 to 2001 I did two independent movies “Flutterblast” and “Mystagogos” with Jay Lee and Arne Fogel in which I wrote the music, acted and wrote the screenplays for. Unfortunately, the director for some reason, refuses to release them to the public. I don’t know what he is waiting for.

Then in 2010 I started doing an internet variety show called “Headquarters and Dimes” which was Gretchen Seichrist’s project. That culminated in a show at the Loring Theatre in Minneapolis.

I also wrote, directed, acted and composed the music for a 17 minute silent comedy short titled “Incidental Slapstick” with Arne Fogel in 2011. You can see excerpts of the two movies on Youtube. You can see all of “Incidental Slapstick” on Vimeo or Youtube.

EN: How did you first come to take an interest in Bob Dylan? 
BTG: I was a late-comer to Dylan. I enjoyed his singles of course, but I wasn’t a huge Dylan fan. I was immersed in the Beatles and the British sound. I also loved American bands like Lovin’ Spoonful, the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield to mention a few. It wasn’t until the early 70’s that I really became influenced by Dylan and his taste in poetry and his philosophy in life. Mainly, he opened the door to the poets Rimbaud, Verlaine and Ginsberg for me.

EN: Do you have some favorite Dylan songs you like to perform? Why these, if yes? 
BTG: My favorite Dylan songs have way too many lyrics for me to remember at this stage of my life. Billy Hallquist kinda suggests songs for me and I do them. So I really enjoy that.

EN: What other kinds of music do you like to play? 
BTG: From the very beginning when I started recording in 1966, I never was a musician who played a lot of cover songs. I’ve always played my own compositions.

EN: What are the biggest challenges of being a songwriter? 
BTG: In 1967 I co-wrote “Twenty Years Ago in Speedy’s Kitchen” for T.C. Atlantic, which was a national hit. I made very little money on that. I also co-wrote several other songs that were either local hits or at least were with major labels and publishing companies. I started going to New York City in 1975 where I tried to become a song plugger. I was a miserable failure at it but I did get a production company to pay for the recording of my 3rd solo album. And then in the 90’s I tried to write country songs. The feedback for these songs was really good but they all said I had to move to Nashville, which I had no intention of doing.

So I guess the challenge really is – are you willing to put it all on the line to go to Nashville, LA, or New York with passion and sacrifice? I have written many songs through the years and I hope in the coming years other artists will take a second look at these songs.

EN: How did you connect with and become part of A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan? 
BTG: The Salute to Bob Dylan originally was the musicians who played on Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks” album. I’ve been a friend of Kevin Odegard’s for many years and he was the one, along with Billy Hallquist, who initially asked me to join in.

* * * *

EdNote: This blog entry and others like it have the aim of raising awareness for the upcoming Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan concert which will kick off the 2014 North Country Dylan Celebration in Duluth and Hibbing. Sacred Heart Music Center, May 17, 2014. For tickets to this great event visit

If you wish to help, visit the Salute Facebook page and share with your friends by clicking the Invite button. 

A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan is a presentation of the Armory Arts and Music Center and Magic Marc Productions.


Friday, April 25, 2014

Local Art Seen: First Spark and Goin' Postal

Dusty Keliin
There's more to show than say here, so I will keep words to a minimum. Tonight is the 2014 Goin' Postal Spring Art Show and I thought I'd show some of what I saw last night as Andy Perfetti and friends were re-arranging the walls and halls and setting up. There's plenty of new work to see again as well as some new artists in the mix including AJ Atwater, Lee Englund, Jeff Peabody and Nicole Sippola.

The usual circle of Jeredt Runions, Becky Buchanan, Dusty Keliin, Eric Horn, Tara Stone, Chelsey Miller, Tal Lindblad, Sharon Rogers, John Heino, myself and others all have new things on display. Weather permitting this will be another great night of toasting the arts, eating well, and enjoying good music.

There will also be surprises. Ask me when you see me tonight. 816 Tower Avenue just across the tracks. 6 p.m. till whenever.

John Heino
Lee Englund
AJ Atwater
Nicole Sippola
In the event you missed the closing for First Spark, here are some images from that show which was on display in the Steffl Gallery at the Duluth Art Institue in the Depot through last weekend. The show featured work by students from area schools, K-12. It was inspiring.

Forecast for the weekend: Saturday will be the nice day weather-wise in the Twin Ports. The Gallery Hop will be a good excuse to get out. Save your chores till next weekend.

Enjoy the shows. On both sides of the bridge.