Another player contributing to program is musician and singer/songwriter Gene LaFond. LaFond grew up near the Twin Cities and was in high school during the big folk boom of the late fifties and early sixties. These were the days when coffee houses were a central hub for live music and served as a hangout for beatniks. Gene and his friends would often go listen to a young Bob Dylan at a coffeehouse in Dinkytown called The Ten O'Clock Scholar near the University of Minnesota. (If you think you're one of Dylan's longest running fans, let's see you top that.)
EN: We usually talk about you and Bob or you and Scarlet... Did you ever cross paths with Eric Andersen and what was that like? Any stories or first impressions?
Gene LaFond: I have never met Eric personally but have heard of him & enjoyed songs covered by others over the years. Scarlet told me it was a joy to reconnect with him at their recent gig in LA.
EN: Do you remember the names of your first album and first 45?
GL: My first record was Elvis' 45 of "Don't Be Cruel". Played it endlessly. Wish I still had it. First album was Bob's first. Wore it out! Laid on the living room floor with my ear glued to the console record player my folks had. Remember thinking "this is the brother I've always wanted." Way before I met Larry Kegan & Bob personally.
EN: How old were you when you got your first guitar? What kind was it and who were you trying to be?
GL: First guitar was a Framus nylon string when I was 14. But I when I was 10 I used to babysit for my older brother and play his gold Fender Les Paul. That was the beginning. My parents then bought me a new, 1962 Martin D28 when I was 16. Still have it. Best guitar I ever played. A real treasure! I used to play with my ear against the side of the guitar just to hear how sweet it sounded. It was all about folk music at that time. Pure and simple.
EN: You had a chance to travel on the Rolling Thunder Revue with Larry. What was the RTR like when you were part of it? Which leg or legs of the RTR were you at? What were some highlights for you personally?
GL: Larry Kegan & I caught up with the RTR In Worcester, Mass. Bob on stage in full war paint. Thrilling! Meeting him the next morning. Realizing he was a real human being. Not the idol I had made him in my mind. Meeting Ramblin' Jack Elliott & Scarlet ( both friends ever since), Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg & all the great musicians in the RTR. The vibe was electrical! And the film crew for Renauldo & Clara was always in the background rolling film. Even in Larry's handicap van with Bob & Scarlet & Larry in the back. Bob playing my guitar & singing with Larry as I drove us overnight to the next venue.
EN: What amazes me is how Dylan can project such a "presence." How does he do this? What is it that makes him so mesmerizing and gives him such power?
GL: Bob has the most charisma of anyone I've ever met. Maybe because I love his music so much. He walks into a room & it goes silent. A heavy load to bear I'm sure, but he was always friendly & helpful to us.
EN: You're currently living here in the Northland and performing with your partner Amy Grillo. Do you have a website where you announce your upcoming performances and schedule?
GL: I love collaborating with Amy! Over the years in my previous bands I was always the lead singer so I never got a chance to sing harmonies, which I love. Having Amy to sing and write songs with has been a real dream come true. We have just finished our first CD of 12 original songs & hope to have some personalized, pre-release copies available at the 7/23 concert with Eric & Scarlet. We have named it "The Northland Sessions". We were joined by a stellar group of musicians including Scarlet Rivera on 5 songs, Lonnie Knight, Willie Murphy, Rich Mattson, Dan Lund (& his son Todd), Ralph Dacut & several others. So excited to get to share it with our terrific circle of supporters. Our gigs are always posted on our Facebook site (Gene LaFond & Amy Grillo), my website has history and background on both of us ( a new one for both of us is being worked up). It is: www.genelafond.com.
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Upcoming gigs for Gene & Amy:
7/23 with Eric Anderson & Scarlet Rivera & Lonnie Knight; AAMC Benefit Concert
7/25 - Gunflint Tavern, Grand Marais: 8 to 11 p.m.
7/29 - Sir Benedict's, Duluth: 5 to 8 p.m. - Gene's rare solo gig.
7/31 - The Breeze Inn, Duluth: 4 to 7 p.m.
Purchase tickets for Saturday's concert here at Eventbrite.
Follow Gene and Amy here on Facebook.
Meantime, life goes on all around you. Embrace it.