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.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

How fun, seeing this now, refreshing memories of Larry, Luis & others crossing the Sierra Madres in the yellow & white van : - )

Thanks, Ed!

Thanks, Geno!!