Would-be Denfeld grad really likes his 'MN Music'

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 ...

The Vinyl Cave
Some of Mike Chase's prized 45s on display for the grand opening of the Vinyl Cave in Superior. Submitted photo

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 quality-management 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 catalogued 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."


The first Northland edition of former Duluthian Mike Chase's "MN Music Special" will air from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 30, during Jiffy Jeff's show on WMOZ "The Moose" (106.9 FM). Bad reception or out of the area? Listen online at .

"MN" Mike Chase
Former Duluthian Mike Chase does an annual show in Owatonna specializing in rarely heard rock 'n' roll gems from the Upper Midwest scene of yesteryear, and on May 30 he's bringing his "MN Music Special" up to WMOZ. Submitted photo

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