5Q :: Mike Chase returns for another Northland ‘MN Music Special’Former Duluthian Mike Chase collects obscure, hard-to-find music — especially if it was produced in this part of the country — and he shares his finds during annual “MN Music” specials. This weekend he’s back in the Northland. PLUS: A “reprint” of the feature Perrine wrote on Chase when he did a show in town last year.
Along with the unprecedented resurgence of vinyl records as a way to listen to music, there has been an increasing interest in the regional acts that have fallen by the wayside over the years. And that’s where “MN Mike” Chase comes into the picture: The former Duluthian (and almost-Denfeld alumnus) collects those hard-to-find upper Midwest recordings. Not only that, but he also shares his findings in the form of “MN Music” specials. While Chase calls southeast Minnesota home these days, he’s been making Northland editions of his radio specials a yearly thing.
This weekend he’ll be back on Duluth airwaves. To celebrate, we checked up with the music aficionado:
Budgeteer: For our readers unfamiliar with your regional-music shows, how would you sell them?
Music and information that they cannot get anywhere else — I have planned features to relate to the listeners, along with regional and local music that exemplifies the stories. We’ll take requests for Minnesota and upper Midwest music (the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and Michigan) and provide insights on the music and groups. “Professor” Tom Johnson from The Vinyl Cave in Superior will be assisting me, as well as “Jiffy” Jeff Vollman, the host of the weekly show on WKLK 1230 AM and WMOZ 106.9 FM on which I’ll be appearing this weekend. It will be a simulcast broadcast from 9 a.m. to noon this Saturday (March 13).
I’m just curious: How many different records did you cart up to the Northland when you did Jiffy Jeff’s show last year?
Over 1,000 45s and several hundred LPs — as well as over 100 CDs.
Since the last time we spoke, roughly how many new records have you acquired?
My collection now has more than 4,000 song titles of Minnesota and upper Midwest music. Many songs are available in all three forms of media. My collection continues to grow by several hundred selections each year.
And, on that ... does your wife still speak to you?
Yes, but sometimes with hand gestures! This comment was pre-approved by Lisa.
Seriously though, she is supportive and understanding of my passion for Minnesota music and my initiatives to keep the music alive for listeners around the state. There is a significant amount of preparation required to present these “MN Music” specials in a quality manner that delights the listening audience.
No monetary compensation comes to me for these productions, which I’ve been doing since 2000 on KOWZ 100.9 FM (in Owatonna, Minn.) with “The Vinyl King” Dale Siegfreid and now, for the second straight year, with Jiffy Jeff’s “Lost Oldies” show.
Finally, on a lighter note, will you be participating in Grandma’s Marathon again this summer?
This will be my 14th consecutive Grandma’s Marathon. The last three years have been difficult conditions, with high humidity and above-average temperatures, and my finishing times have reflected it. My fastest time (4 hours, 51 minutes) was in 1997 and the slowest was 2009 (5 hours, 54 minutes). I’m hoping to get back under five-and-a-half hours in 2010.
In case Grandma’s Marathon music director is listening Saturday, I’ll be playing one of my favorite running songs, which would be suitable to be played at Grandma’s starting line in Two Harbors: “Run, Run, Run” by the Gestures (a Mankato group). Good tempo, great rocker — Minnesota music at its best. It hit No. 44 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts and No. 1 on the local charts in 1964.
Mike Chase’s latest Northland edition of his “MN Music” specials will air from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, March 13, on WKLK 1230 AM (Duluth) and WMOZ 106.9 FM (Hinckley to Iron Range, Wis.) during the “Lost Oldies” program. Call in to make a request at 879-4534.
Would-be Denfeld grad really likes his ‘MN Music’
Note: This article, also written by Perrine, originally appeared in the Budgeteer May 24, 2009.
Mike Chase isn’t a Denfeld alumnus, but he came awfully close to achieving that West Duluth badge of honor.
“Never got to finish,” said the class of 1969 “dropout” and current Kenyon, Minn., resident. “My dad was the Western Union office manager and he got relocated to Madison, so the family up and moved to Wisconsin my senior year, wouldn’t you know it.
“I still come back every year and run Grandma’s Marathon; this summer will be the 13th time down Highway 61 for me.”
Since leaving the Twin Ports, Chase, a mechanical engineering professional by day, has amassed quite the record collection.
“I have more than 4,000 song titles on vinyl or CD,” he beamed, “enough music where we could play [from] it continuously for several months without ever repeating a song.”
And it’s not just ordinary, average, everyday recordings we’re talking about: Chase specializes in locating the best rock ‘n’ roll the Upper Midwest had to offer, acts like Bobby Vee, the Trashmen, Gypsy and the Fendermen — all the way down to Duluth’s the Titans and the really obscure. (As in: He has three copies of a record that was never even officially put out.)
“I’ve got some expensive vinyl, I’ve got some run-of-the-mill vinyl — but it’s all very clean vinyl,” he said, casually mentioning that the bulk of his collection is exhaustively cataloged in Excel spreadsheets. “I think my wife (Lisa) probably thinks I’ve gone way overboard.
“She understands my passion, though. She’s a collector of Red Wing items, so our standing joke is that the upstairs floor will probably collapse.”
But he wasn’t always that hardcore.
“I still remember my first record; it was the first volume of ‘Best of the Beach Boys,’” Chase said. “… I did have a couple of local 45s I had purchased over the years, but I didn’t get into it in a big way until, probably, 15 years ago or so.
“I’ve been collecting as things come up. I get things off eBay. Some are bargains, some are a little spendy — but it’s all about getting the collection.”
As if his mammoth stacks weren’t enough of a tribute to the thousands of artists whose work he has a slice of, Chase started putting his “black circles” to work in the form of annual “MN Music Specials.”
“I kept requesting records from this local request show in Owatonna, but this guy didn’t have any of those records,” the former Hunter said. “I’d ask for this or that and he didn’t have it, so finally he said, ‘You got some of those?’ I said, ‘Yes I do.’ ‘Wanna come in and do a show?’ I said, ‘Yeah right.’”
But that DJ was serious, and for the better part of a decade he’s been airing Chase’s regional-music specials.
“Typically what I’ll do is have a little story to go with it ... describing the topic of the hour and then, at the end of that, I’ll play a twin-pack of tunes to support what I just said,” he explained.
His last annual show, aired in May, focused on the Upper Midwest’s bygone independent labels. Chase brought up Fargo export Bobby Vee, who got his start on Minneapolis-based Soma Records before being signed by Liberty.
“Who knows, without getting that Soma start, who’s to say if they ever would have picked up on him,” the rock ‘n’ roll historian added.
If you thought his record collection bordered on obsessive, wait ‘til you hear how much a labor of love these specials really are….
“I put, on average, 50 to 60 hours in per show,” Chase said. “And it’s a pro bono effort. I do it as a tribute to the musicians — keeping the music alive. I don’t gain one penny. In fact, it costs me money as it turns out.”
In addition to the music, Chase also orchestrates interviews with key players from the scene(s) he’s fallen head over heels for. Former guests have included Bobby Vee, the late Gus Dewey (from the Gestures), famed Twin Cities DJ Johnny Canton and the Trashmen’s Tony Andreason.
“There’s a pent-up demand for this stuff,” Chase said, mentioning that he’s very accommodating of requests during his specials. “During my May 1 show in Owatonna, there were a number of callers who were less than 30 years of age. It’s gone generational; the grandchildren of some of the folks who are now late baby boomers are into these records ... and sometimes it’s the children who have come around and are tired of the rap crap that goes around on most of the commercial markets.”