Saturday, August 17, 2019

Louis Kemp's Dylan & Me Book Signing: Bringing It All Back Home

Filming for Making It Up North. Chairs and lights set up on the Armory
drill hall stage where Buddy Holly performed January 31, 1959.
L to R: Louis Kemp, Karen Sunderman and cameraman Steve Ash.
Thursday August 15 Louis Kemp, businessman and former Duluthian, returned to his hometown to promote his new book, Dylan and Me.

Kemp arrived in Duluth shortly after the lunch hour with a full schedule ahead of him. His first stop: the Duluth Armory drill hall where he and teen chum Bobby Zimmerman saw Buddy Holly perform on January 31, 1959.

The structure was built in 1915, a drill hall that could be used year round. The stage was added in 1940, from which presidents and countless entertainers spoke or performed. The list of names includes Harry Truman, Bob Hope, Johnny Cash, Liberace, Sonny & Cher,  Diana Ross & the Supremes, Eleanor Roosevelt and a host of other famous persons. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Karen Sunderman, award-winning host of Making It Up North, a show that airs on public television, sat with Louie to discuss his new book about the friendship he shared over a period of 50 years. But first, the author stood near the stage and pointed across the drill hall to the door where he and Bobby entered from the far side and wove through the gathered masses toward the very front.

Kemp shows Armory director Mark Poirier the door he and Bobby
entered that night. The wind chill was 44 below outside.
Louie then pointed and walked over to the spot where he believes that they were standing that fateful night. “As close as possible. There was nothing between us and the stage,” he said. “The goal was to see the concert, not to dance and kibbitz.”

Armory director Mark Poirier brought to Louie a star with the Armory insignia in it that had been created by the Forging Community which is housed in the Armory Annex. The star was placed on this that spot Louie indicated.

Some of what Kemp shared had been mentioned in other stories, how “Bobby listened to the radio stations coming out of the South late at night.” And the story of how Bobby would say he was going to be a rock and roll star. Other stories were new, and the book has many of those. Kemp shared that as teens the tight-knit Jewish community would have a lot of open houses. Many of these homes would have pianos and it wouldn’t be long before Bobby was at the piano, playing. But while playing he’d push the boundaries and, according to Kemp, “Every open house we went to we’d get kicked out of.”

A forged star with the Armory logo was placed on the floor
where the two young chums watched the concert.
While interviewing the author Karen Sunderman kept asking questions about Dylan, and Kemp would always rebuff, stating, “Dylan is a persona. To me he was Bobby.”

“I’ve met lots of big names with big egos. Bobby Zimmerman has no ego,” he said. “He knows he has a gift from God. He’s just a conduit.”

Of the book itself, Kemp states that he wanted people to see the human side of Bobby Zimmerman. He was prompted to write it by a friend who was dying, who had heard many of these stories. “When are you going to write this book? Promise me you’re gonna write this book.”

Karpeles from the balcony. Photo credit: Michael Anderson
AFTER an hour at the Armory there was a trip to the Jewish cemetery where Louis Kemp’s parents and grandparents lay, about 20 paces from the grave marker for Abe and Beatty Zimmerman.

From there we drove to the neighborhood where Louie grew up. The house sits in the middle of the block across the street from a park on the East Hillside. Bobby used to come to this house and visit during their teen years, play in the park or Monopoly upstairs. (I have it on good authority that Bob's favorite Monopoly piece was the Scotty dog.)

A little after 5:00 we arrived at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum for the main event. The former Christian Science church building was already collecting a good crowd by the time we arrived. The reception, sponsored by Valentini's and Super One Liquor, included music by Gene LaFond, Amy Grillo and Dave Bennett while Louie autographed copies of his book.

This was a reunion of sorts, as Gene used to perform with Larry Kegan, who is prominently featured in the book, another friend from Herzl Camp. Gene also had a chance to be on a portion of the Rolling Thunder Revue of which Louie was the producer. (Bob said to him, "You can sell fish. You can sell tickets.)

The event itself was sponsored by the Duluth Dylan Fest Committee and a continuation of the John Bushey Memorial Lecture Series, honoring the legacy of John Bushey, who hosted the Dylan-themed Highway 61 Revisited on KUMD for 26 years. We were calling this an Encore event.

It also signified the final night of Bill Pagel's exhibition of Dylan memorabilia, which included handwritten lyrics to Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues and Desolation Row. It was a nice touch when Gene sang Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues.

August 15 was also the 50th anniversary of the start of Woodstock. In my opening remarks I made note of this and reminded everyone that the emergency room to St. Luke's Hospital is directly across the street, in the event that they failed to heed the warnings about the brown acid.

With that Louie Kemp came to the microphone and spent 45 minutes to an hour reading favorite passages and stories from his book.

His shirt reads, "Duluth Minnesota. It's Where My Story Began."
Bob Zimmerman's story began here, too. Six years in the upstairs of a duplex
in the Central Hillside and where Louie would spend the night.
With Jim and Barb Bushey, brother and sister of the late John Bushey, 
* * * *
Even some of Louie's former employees from Kemp Fisheries came out.
* * * *
Matt Steichen and clan. He and his wife Jennifer met at a Dylan concert.
* * * *
Geno, Louie, Amy and the author of Ennyman's Territory.
Learning something new every day. It's all good.

All the evening event photos were taken by Michael Anderson 
with the exception of the Matt Steichen family.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Woodstock Story in a Bottle: Another Defining Moment of 1969

Insignia that appeared on Yasgur Farms milk bottles.
That summer two men walked on the moon. And in August 400,000 people saw stars.

Just as a good movie is made of memorable scenes, so history is remembered by its defining moments. For Americans, the year "1968" brings Viet Nam, assassinations (Bobby, MLK, Jr), and riots to mind

In 1969, two very different images were impressed upon us, that "one giant leap" for mankind and that escapist utopian dream, Woodstock.  (It's convenient to keep Altamont off-camera when we want to feel good about this Woodstock music and love experience as a culmination of the Sixties.)

There were many ironic features of the event, one being this one: the song we've all associated with it, "By the time we got to Woodstock," was penned by someone who wasn't event there. Joni Mitchell was in New York City to be on TV that weekend.

Here's a second irony. As every Dylan fan knows, Woodstock's most famous resident-in-hibernation, who many considered the hippest cat on earth, was packing his bags to head to England for an Isle of Wight concert.

* * * *
I'm going down to Yasgur's Farm
Gonna join in a rock and roll band
Got to get back to the land and set my soul free

Yasgur's farm was actually 43 miles Southwest of Woodstock, in Bethel NY.
Photo courtesy Bill Pagel.
How many farmers can you think of, besides Old MacDonald, have been memorialized in song? Here's an excerpt from his Wikipedia account, by way of introduction.

Max Yasgur was born in New York City to Russian Jewish immigrants Samuel and Bella Yasgur. He was raised with his brother Isidore (1926-2010) on the family's farm (where his parents also ran a small hotel) and attended New York University, studying real estate law. By the late 1960s, he was the largest milk producer in Sullivan County, New York. His farm had 650 cows, mostly Guernseys. 

Though Yasgur was a conservative Republican, his conscience also told him that older folks need to do something to bridge the generation gap. He was motivated by his principles and did not yield to those who were pressuring him to call off the festival.

* * * *

When I saw this bottle from Yasgur's farm, I couldn't help but think of the Old Testament Psalm 56:8 in which the psalmist/poet writes, "You put my tears in Your bottle." I think of all the tears that were shed during the 60s, from JFK to all the grief and sadness caused by Viet Nam. And sadly, worse was yet to come.

My next thought was even stranger. What were bottles like 3,000 years ago? King David wrote this song when he was captured by the Philistines. Whatever shape they took, for the psalmist it was not a time of music and celebration.

* * * *
Photo by Francisco Moreno on Unsplash
Woodstock took place from August 15 to 18, 1969. The performers most of us remember most were the ones on the album and the film. Some were excluded due to contract issues.

Here are some stories that go deeper and provide more perspective than I have time to produce. If you have time, check them out.

A New York Times account of one of the iconic photos.

A good summing up of Woodstock by the NYTimes

Rolling Stone interview with Bob Weir, who was shocked. (Literally)

Time Magazine published this review of the latest Woodstock documentary

Here were a couple thought-provoking paragraphs from the above.

For those who were coldbloodedly watching numbers, even in 1969, Woodstock simply identified a big, promising segment of the youth market, ready for the commercial exploitation that would ensue almost immediately. “Woodstock Nation,” despite Abbie Hoffman’s hopes when he coined the term, turned out to be a demographic rather than a political force.

This one is also barbed.

But forget the nostalgia. Millennials have every right to point out how Woodstock represented baby boomer privilege in crystalline form. We got a free marathon all-star concert. (I don’t begrudge my $18.) We swarmed a previously unspoiled dairy farm and its surroundings. We absolutely thought we were the center of the universe. And afterward, someone else had to clean up the giant mess we left behind. Insert the global-warming analogy.

You can insert a number of alternative messes here.

Were you there? What was your story?

Related Links
For Carlos Santana, Woodstock was a Trip
Surviving Woodstock, a New Yorker story by Hua Hsu

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Louie Kemp Book Signing Agenda for Thursday Evening at Karpeles

Joan, Louie, Bob and a pooch.
C.S. Lewis, in his book The Four Loves, dissects the meanings of the four Greek words that have been translated as "love" in the English language. They are Storge (Affection Love), Phileo (Friendship Love), Eros (Romantic Love) and Agape (Divine Love).

Friendship love begins as a kind of companionship. What I remember most about Lewis' description of Phileo is how you may go separate ways, but when your lives cross again ten years later, that resonance, that special bond you shared will pick up precisely where you left off.

When I moved to New Jersey in 1964, the year I turned 12, it was the beginning of a companionship relationship with the kid next door who was 11 and a grade behind me. The six years Tom and I were neighbors we shared many adventures, some pretty wild ones. After graduation, his life and mine diverged significantly. I was college bound, he was to become a biker.

Over the course of many decades we may have gotten together once every ten years, but that special bond we built as kids had been established. As different as our lives were--I had a career in advertising and PR, he a borderline outlaw with a heart of gold--it was always good to re-connect.

This is what I saw in Louie Kemp's Dylan & Me. For myself, the big takeaway was how Bobby Zimmerman never got so famous that he was too cool for her Herzl Camp companions Larry and Louie. Their lives were not parallel, but they periodically intersected, most notably in the Rolling Thunder Revue.

* * * *
Duluth Armory, where Louie and Bob went to see Buddy Holly
and the Winter Dance Party.
Tomorrow evening, August 15, Louie Kemp will be speaking at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum as part of the John Bushey Memorial Lecture Series.

The event will kick off at 5:30 PM with music by Gene LaFond, Amy Grillo and Dave Bennett, followed by the lecture from 6:30 to 7:30 PM. Following the lecture Louie Kemp will be on hand to sell and sign his new memoir hot off the press.

Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum is located at 902 East First Street in Duluth. The evening’s agenda is:
5:30-6:30 PM Reception and Music with Gene LaFond and Amy Grillo (includes refreshments and appetizers courtesy Valentini's and Super One Liquor.)
6:30-7:30 PM Louie Kemp Lecture
7:30-8:30 PM Book signing

The event is free.

This will be the last chance to see the 2019 Bob Dylan Exhibit from the William Pagel Archives.
Books will be for sale that evening.

 To learn more about Louie Kemp’s book visit:

Promo Copy from Announcement
This uniquely intimate lecture and memoir of a lifelong friendship with Bob Dylan offers never-before-told stories, behind-the-scenes glimpses, rare photos, and affectionate anecdotes about one of the key figures in American music and letters. With a cast of characters that includes Marlon Brando, Cher, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Dennis Hopper, Louie's mother, and many more, Dylan & Me is a "backstage pass" to Louie and Bob's life, friendships, and music by the guy who was there every step of the way.

* * * *

Karpeles will be Louie Kemp's fifth stop on this Minnesota Tour, having signed books at four locations in the Twin Cities this week. You can read some of the reviews and interviews that have been shared by clicking on the following links:

Bob Dylan’s Best Friend Louie Kemp Breaks Silence With New Book ‘Dylan And Me’

Louis Kemp Memoir Pulls Back the Curtain on Bob Dylan

From summer camp to stardom, his friendship with Bob Dylan spanned 50 years

10 things we learned about Bob Dylan from his friend's book

The Astonishingly Menschy Side Of Bob Dylan . by Dan Epstein

WCCO Interview: Louie Kemp Details Bob Dylan Friendship In New Book

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Director Sara Collins Offers Insights About the Bayfront Art Festival

Sara Collins
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see that Duluth's hospitality industry is a-hoppin'. This weekend, the Duluth News Tribune dispatched a headline that implied tourism had reached a plateau, but a deeper look shows that there was still growth and only the weather (chilly and cold) crimped the tourism a tad.

One of the things that has amped tourism over the years, in addition to the beauty of the region itself, is the quantity of activities here from spring to fall. This past weekend included the Blues Fest, an outdoor art show at Brighton Beach and the Tall Ships event that parks in our harbor every three years.

This coming weekend, among other things, there will be Art in Bayfront Park. As one who follows the local arts extensively, it seemed good to catch up with festival director Sara Collins and learn more about this ongoing August tradition. The photos on this page are of some of the artists who were selected as winners in each of their respective mediums.

Dan Arnold, Wood
EN: Please explain how your event came to be, and how is it different in character from the Park Point Art Fair?

Sara Collins: Three years ago we acquired the festival from the original owner. We also produce the Stone Arch Bridge Festival in Minneapolis. The opportunity to work in Duluth at the spectacular Bayfront Park felt like a no-brainer. The North Shore has a strong history and reputation for supporting the arts which we’ve found to be very accurate. I’m not sure how we differ from Park Point. I think we both have a strong roster of talented artists. Our roster differs a bit with our two speciality markets, The Culinary Arts Market and Vintage & Vinyl Market. Those two additional markets are a lot of fun and really compliment the artists' work, creating a vibrant festival experience.

Daniel Fenn, Glass
EN: What kind of things do event promoters do behind the scenes to ensure a good event?

Darcy Horn, Beadwork
SC: Behind the scenes, our team starts working on the festival in December. Our artists are selected through a jury process. Applications start coming right away in December.

We work hard at creating a platform where artists shine and attendees discover something new. Also this year we joined efforts with Save the Boundary Waters organization and are hosting their fund raising music festival on Friday night. So that added a layer of challenges and great opportunities, too.

EN: What’s your favorite part of Art in Bayfront Park? The setting seems ideal for a show of this nature with its infinite circular walkabout.

SC: My favorite thing about the festival is meeting the artists. They are a never ending source of amazement! Their skills and dedication to their craft is really endearing.

EN: The weather is always a challenge for outdoor arts events. What other kinds of challenges do you face?

SC: The challenges are finding the balance between traditional aspects of an art festival and offering new and entertaining elements. Also we want to be a place for people to discover an appreciation for hand-crafted, one-of-kind art pieces. To attract those folks, we need to reach a broad audience.
David Ettedgui, Mixed Media
EN: Are you an artist yourself? What prompted you to create (if you did) or take over Art in Bayfront Park?

SC: I am not an artist. I am an art lover and art cheerleader! My husband and son are both artists so I “get” artists. I understand that business and art are not always happy companions. I hope our work helps artists reach more people and build their customer base.

* * * *
For more details about Art in Bayfront Park visit their website:

Monday, August 12, 2019

How Much More Can Human Nature Endure?

We often talk about stress and the pressures of modern life. 
When I saw this blurb a few years ago, 
It helped to put things in perspective. 

The world is too big for us, too much is going on, too many crimes, too much violence and excitement. Try as you will, you get behind in the race in spite of yourself. It's a constant strain to keep pace... and still, you lose ground. 

Science empties its discoveries on you so fast that you stagger beneath them in hopeless bewilderment. 

The political world is news seen rapidly, you're out of breath trying to keep pace with who's in and who's out. Everything is high pressure. Human nature can't endure much more.
* * * *
Can you believe it? The above was first published 
in the Atlantic Journal
June 16, 1863

Maybe we don't have it so bad after all.

"Keep on the sunny side..."--Mother Maybelle Carter

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Geno and Amy to Open for Louie Kemp @ Karpeles Thursday Eve Here in Duluth

When I heard that Gene LaFond and Amy Grillo would be performing this Thursday to "open" for Louie Kemp's lecture and book signing, the news struck a chord for me. It was an "oh-so-right" decision.

Louie Kemp will be in Minneapolis this week to promote his just released book Dylan & Me, a story which begins at the Herzl Jewish summer camp when Louie was 11 and Bobby Zimmerman 12. After four book signings in the Twin Cities Kemp will return to his original home town to relive a few moments, and then share his story at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum  on the corner of First Street and Ninth Avenue East.

Kemp's book is a collection of memories and anecdotes beginning at camp and weaving through 50 years. In addition to the Kemp-Bobby Zimmerman connection there emerges a third character who was part of this early saga, Larry Kegan, a friend whom "Bobby" (as Louie calls him throughout the book) also remained loyal to over the decades. 

All this to say that Gene LaFond is a musician and songwriter himself who regularly performed with Larry Kegan in the Twin Cities music scene. 

LaFond first saw Dylan as a teen when Bobby was not yet Dylan. "I used to see him at The Scholar in Dinkytown when I was in high school. I didn’t know him then. He was still Bob Zimmerman at that time. Then I met him in 1975 on the Rolling Thunder tour with Larry."

The Rolling Thunder Revue brought the trio of Herzl Camp trouble-makers--Kegan, Kemp and Zimmerman--together once more. Kemp was producer of the ground-breaking tour (now a documentary by Martin Scorsese) and Kegan was along for the first part of the ride, with Gene LaFond his sidekick. 

For LaFond meeting Bob and being on the start of the RTR was a zeitgeist. "It was amazing to meet somebody that I’d idolized all that time and then to realize he’s just a human being. It was a real eye opener. And it gave me a lot of confidence that I could write songs, too. It was the start of my inspiration to write songs. I’d been playing for years but not really doing a lot of original stuff."

This past week I was listening to Gene and Amy's 2016 CD The Northland Sessions featuring a cover shot reminiscent of a good cop/bad cop pair in Hollywood films. The black and white, grey with a touch of red color scheme is identical to Dylan's Love & Theft. (Not intentional, Gene says. They liked the photo, taken by Geri Johnson Pudrug--an old friend of Amy's-- at the Chisholm Discovery Center.)

Amy Grillo grew up in Hibbing. Gene said, "We met at Dylan days in Hibbing when I brought Ramblin’ Jack Elliott up there to perform. Mutual love of music led us to start writing together. We moved to the north shore about 5 years ago."

Their modest home is walking distance from the Nelson French property just up the road. Music is central in both homes, with French assembling periodic concerts at what he calls Rocky Wall Productions. Courtney Yasmineh was the most recent featured artist there.

Grillo likewise said that music has been the centerpiece of their relationship, "a love of music, songwriting and Bob Dylan."

At least eight of the songs on The Northland Sessions are collaborations between the two. Since I just happened to be reading about how Paul McCartney and John Lennon wrote songs together* I had to ask what the process was for she and Gene. Grillo stated that for her "collaboration is a practice in trying to stay out of the way of each other’s ideas and welcome together the creative spirit when it decides to grace us with a visit." She added, "Gene is a really talented melody maker."

Two of the songs are her own compositions, and many give the impression that they're glad to have found one another later in life.

It's noteworthy how many others contributed to this CD, including the late Lonnie Knight and our dear Northland friend Scarlet Rivera. (No she's not from here but everyone here is always happy to have her be part of our extended family.)

* * * *
Cropped book cover shot.
Louie Kemp's talk and book signing is part of the John Bushey Memorial Lecture Series. It's being billed as a Memorial Encore for the lectures usually held in conjunction with Duluth Dylan Fest each May. The event will run from 5:30-8:30 pm. Here is the FB Event Page for more details.

Related Links
Gene LaFond Talks About Larry Kegan
Louie Kemp's Memoir: Dylan & Me (Grateful Web)
More to come.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

What Happens When We Don't Write Letters Anymore?

As is my periodic custom I am perpetually attempting to organize and downsize. The current prod has been re-doing floors in several rooms of our home, which means I had to remove everything out of my office for a week. Some of those removed files and folders, knick knacks and junk, will not be returned to the small space that is my unique version of a man-cave.

Which means that I am also re-arranging things in the storage area of my garage, so I can still save what I want (and hopefully not all).

All this re-arranging resulted in my finding a number of things I haven't seen in a while including items I had placed on these shelves when we moved to this house in 1993. Hence this photo of letters from my brothers, parents and grandmother, which I discovered last night.

It's strange to think that people seldom write letters any more. Instead we email, call or occasionally Skype. And yes, we do still send cards on special occasions. This letter writing business, however, seems to fallen by the wayside in our new digital world.

Here's something I've noticed. Most people generally don't go back and re-read old emails, unless it's  work related and there's some strategic importance in the communication.

I'm not suggesting that I will proceed to read all these letters just because I found them, but I'm going to place them where I will have them for that future time when I've slowed down a step or two. It's an almost certainty I will not review my old email correspondence from the past thirty years. In point of fact, I wouldn't even know how to find most of it older than two or three years. I had a different email address and am certain any correspondence not printed is lost in cyberspace.

Remember Pen Pals? Nowadays I suppose it's replaced with "Friend Requests." But it's not really same, because the quantity of new "friends" diminishes the possibility of real depth, or the special feeling associated with receiving the next letter in your mailbox.

Many of my letters home from college or when I lived abroad had little personal touches, a doodle in the margin or maybe a drawing I'd done would be enclosed. The dizzying array of emojis is an attempt to make personalization possible, but it's really not the same. Or at least it doesn't feel that way to me.

I'd like to believe that letter writing was more thoughtful than what passes for written communication today (as in texting). Today we dash off a few sentences and hit send. Or maybe we "speak" our message into our iPhone and hit send, often in haste and frequently without even reading it to notice the incorrect (sometimes ridiculous) messages we've just sent.

I decided to ask Google to feed me a few article links regarding this decline in letter writing and it seems I'm not the first to have noticed. One link led to a letter to the editor about this issue, with the following sentiment expressed regarding social media not being quite the same.

"Facebook is akin to being perpetually trapped in small talk at a party."

Another comment in this letter to the editor was how he felt like a vanishing breed of people who could still write in cursive. What is sad about that is that I half wonder if the next generation will even be able to decipher their grandparents' cursive handwriting?

All this to say I've found batches of letters that I'd forgotten I had. I read a few and was touched. I'm curious what the future will bring.