Thursday, March 13, 2014

Billy Hallquist Shares the Backstory on Salute To The Music of Bob Dylan and How Dylan Became Significant to the World-At-Large

For the past several years the North Country Dylan Celebration has included a kickoff concert event as a fundraiser for the Armory Arts & Music Center. It was at the Duluth Armory where young Robert Zimmerman saw Buddy Holly's second-to-last concert and, as the legend goes, made eye contact with the evening's star and felt a spark, sensed something had transpired between them.

This year's concert will held at the Sacred Heart on Fourth Street in Duluth's Central Hillside. The show is called A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan, including Scarlet Rivera once again, who seems to be falling in love with our little town on the Big Lake. This will be a fantastic show.

Marc Percansky is the Marc of Magic Marc Productions, the organizer of the event. Another central player is Billy Hallquist, a Twin Cities musician of more than forty years, performing or recording with the K.O. Band (not KO as in Knock-Out, but as in Kevin Odegard, or maybe both) and other musicians through the years. Odegard was co-author of A Simple Twist of Fate: Bob Dylan and the Making of Blood on the Tracks, written from the insider's perspective, as he was one of the musicians who recorded portions of the album including Idiot Wind.

I've been very recently introduced to Billy Hallquist by Nelson French, who serves on the board of the AAMC. Nelson said, "Billy and I met throughout the Guitars for Vets benefit concerts that he has helped organize for 3 or 4 years now. Turns out we have mutual friends, including Kevin Odegard. Billy was a member of the KO Band."

Well, enough for introductions. I asked him to share a little bit about the backstory for Salute. You can read more about Billy Hallquist in this blog post at It's Psychedelic Baby.

EN: How did Blood on the Tracks get started (the show that is now Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan)?

Billy Hallquist: Initially, of course, there were the Sound 80 sessions in Dec. of 73* where Dylan re-cut a number of tracks for Blood on the Tracks (chronicled in A Simple Twist of Fate by Kevin Odegard and Andy Gill) with the rush to release resulting in the MN musicians not receiving liner note credit (still uncredited).

Flash forward to 2001. Paul Metsa throws a Million Dollar Bash 60th birthday party event at First Avenue. Tons of bands and artists appear (including The K.O. Band). Headlining is a reunion of (most of) the musicians from the BOTT sessions performing cuts from the album. To promote his book Kevin reassembles this group on a number of occasions over the years. (Blood on the Tracks Live).

In 2009, Blood on the Tracks Live (BOTTL ) now called Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan, performs at Veterans Memorial Amphitheater in Wolfe Park, St. Louis Park, MN. I participate via a K.O. Band reunion that opens the show and sit in for a couple Dylan/Byrds songs. Bill Berg and Chris Weber are unavailable. Additional musicians added.

By 2010, Kevin, Gary Lopac and I are actively working together to develop a show and opening set of original material. Greg Inhofer is unavailable. Billy Peterson has another commitment and can only participate briefly.

In 2011, Peter Ostroushko is unavailable. Kevin wants to focus on his career at Apple and turns over reins to me. New artists, acts join fold. Town Green in Maple Grove, MN added to schedule.

2012. K.O. performs final gig and officially retires. We introduce the Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan moniker. More new musicians join the family.

2013. BOTTL officially becomes Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan (STTMOBD). We now have more people offering to participate than we can accommodate.

EN: What are the biggest changes you have seen in the forty years you have played music professionally?

Hallquist on guitar, second from right.
BH: Technology and widespread digital delivery has really changed "the business." Sgt. Pepper was recorded on a 4 track, requiring multiple mixes and generations of recording in order to achieve the final result. The transition from 4 to 8 to 16 to 32 and 64 track analog recorders allowed for far more control of sound and instrumentation. The introduction of digital and computer technology had another profound impact. There are now millions of home studios with virtually unlimited capabilities vs. a relatively small number of professional studios manned by an equally small number of talented engineers.

Digital downloading has brought about the near obsolescence of CDs and brick and mortar stores. Although there is a resurgence in vinyl interest among audiophiles. There are now a small number of radio programmers controlling what is played on radio. The other side of that coin is the proliferation of multiple internet radio formats/stations playing everything from a to z. This results in the lion's share of listeners are exposed to a relatively small universe of music choices and the more discerning consumers are diluted among a virtual infinite array of choices.

EN: How is it that Dylan's music became so influential?

BH: There are multiple reasons for the phenomenon that is "Dylan." Among them:

Timing. He came along at a right time. His music captured the attention of a large number of trend setters.

Drive. He was driven to become a success.

Ability. There have been few artists, if any, with the ability to generate a mystique about themselves that created such an avid fan base.

This doesn't even take into account that he is one incredible songwriter and a unique performer. The music had to be there and appeal to people or none of the drive and self promotion could have taken it to where it is.

EN: In what ways has Dylan's music made an impact on you and your life?

BH: When I first heard Dylan at 15, his voice, lyrics, mystique resonated with me like nothing before or since. I can't find adequate words. Admittedly, I am a huge fan of everything up to Blood on the Tracks. In later years, I was busy being a breadwinner and dad and didn't follow him like when I was young. Therefore, I am less familiar/invested in his more recent material.

* * * *

* or around that time


French Family Blog said...

Thanks for a great write up Ed. Want to remind your readers that they can order tickets for this show online now at Tickets $30 in advance - $35 day of show.

ENNYMAN said...

Thank you, Mr. French. That link should have been in the story.