Minnesota Rock: Gary Burger Album, Gypsy Film Available in Store

While you wait for news on the re-release of Podipto's second album, "Homemade," I have some exciting news to share. 

Gary Burger is well-known to Minnesotans, and by now, people around the world are familiar with the incredible resurgence of his 1960s band The Monks. I recently worked with Gary's wife, Cindy, and Mark Anderson in Bemidji to issue Gary Burger's "BurgerMONK 2010" album on CD via our Northwood Way Productions label. It's available now and is a must-own. You can check it out on the Music page of this site, but if you value our efforts to keep Minnesota music in print and available, please order a CD. We'd love to be able to help unearth more of the buried treasures in the Turtle Town Records archives!

Cover of the newly released album by Gary Burger of Turtle River, Minn.

We are also carrying DVDs of a documentary film about the band Gypsy, titled "Gypsy: Rock & Roll Nomads." Some of you may recall that in the 1960s, The Underbeats became one of the most popular bands in the Twin Cities. When the band relocated to Los Angeles and changed their name to Gypsy in the late 60s, they had the good fortune of landing a house gig at the Whisky-A-Go Go on The Sunset Strip—one of the most important music clubs of the time. Local filmmaker Aaron Goodyear takes us on a trip of discovery of this underrated band and their adventures from the LA club scene to full-on arena rock.

And now for those of you looking for an update on the reissue of Podipto's 1974 LP, "Homemade," we're are hoping to launch a Kickstarter campaign in the coming months to fund the last of the music restoration work we have to do. I've uncovered lots of live recordings from this era, and would love to make as much of it available as we can. Watch our Facebook page for the latest!

Bemidji Pioneer News Article

The Bemidji Pioneer did a nice story on Sunday about the Podipto reissues, and it includes quotes from guitarist Dan Lund about the recording of their albums. The front page is below, they superimposed the new story over a 1974 story from their paper, which is kind of a cool effect. Read the full story at the Pioneer's website. Thank you to Joe Froemming at the paper for taking interest in Podipto's story!

New video for "Mississippi Woman (Studio Version)"

We want as many people to hear Podipto's music as possible, and it turns out YouTube is where the kids listen to their music these days. So we made a video. Check it out, and make sure to share it on all your favorite social media sites!

This is the original studio demo version of "Mississippi Woman," by the band Podipto. This version is featured on Podipto's 2015 two-disc release, The Woodcut Sessions/Live at Chateau Paulette. Dan Lund's wailing guitar work is immensely superior to the version that appeared on their debut LP, which is the work of a session players the studio used to play all of the instrument parts.

Press Release: 1970s Minnesota Band PODIPTO Releases Unearthed Recordings

Josh Collins, josh@northwoodway.com

Secret of “The Wrecking Crew” replacement players finally out in the open; Original demos available for first time

Bemidji, Minn. – Today Minnesota rock and blues fans are privy to an untold story of small-town musicians making it big on a national stage, only to have the rug pulled out from under them by record executives. The story has been a secret for the past 45 years, known only to the band members and a few close friends.

Podipto formed in Northern Minnesota in 1969. Until disbanding in 1975, the band was considered one of the brightest acts to emerge from the Midwest, blending blues, rock, folk and country into a unique sound characterized by a three-singer, two-guitar front line. Podipto refused to let any one genre define their sound, shifting on a dime from dreamy folk to growling blues.

In 1970, the band landed a record deal with GRT Records of Canada that nationally released the band’s first LP—simply called, Podipto. The album’s success led to tours throughout the country and the band performed with Elton John, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, The Carpenters, Kenny Rogers, The Guess Who, Poco, John Sebastian and many others.

However, Podipto’s enthusiasm waned when they became aware of GRT’s plans for their debut record. The band’s managers informed them that session players—members of the now-famous cadre of hired musicians known as “The Wrecking Crew”—would record the album’s instrument parts in an L.A. studio. These would then be mixed with the vocals from Podipto’s recorded demos. 

The band strongly objected to the idea of replacement players, but the label was adamant. The band was told to focus on live performances while session players would re-create their sound “note for note.” When the album was pressed, however, many of the parts bore only a passing resemblance to the band’s vision, leaving them distraught even as they hit the road to promote the album.*

Lead guitarist Dan Lund was allowed to add his unique-sounding guitar parts to the L.A. tracks and made it onto the album with the notable exception of two songs: “Mississippi Woman” and “Can’t Stand To Beg.” The session guitarist’s parts had been captured on the piano and drum tracks, and so they remained despite sounding nothing like Lund’s signature guitar work. The band was asked to keep quiet about the replacement players; record buyers would not take well to the idea of stand-ins replacing the players fans knew and loved. 

Podipto eventually introduced some of the studio’s changes into their shows, such as the piano intro to “(Lola) You Ease My Achin’ Heart.” Meanwhile, the original studio demos recorded in Chicago were boxed and forgotten. After a period on the road, Podipto returned to Chicago to record demos for a second album with GRT that would never come to be. After the departure of a key label executive, the band’s projects were shelved and they were eventually dropped. 

The Woodcut Sessions / Live at Chateau Paulette is now available on CD and digital download in the Podipto.com store.

All of these songs appear on The Woodcut Sessions, the first CD in a two-disc set released today that collects the band’s 19 demos recorded between 1969 and 1973. The set also includes a live concert recorded at Chateau Paulette in Park Rapids, Minn., in June 1973.

In the early 2000s, family members of the late John Collins began gathering dozens of reels of tape, hoping to eventually make them available to fans. Last year they formed Northwood Way Productions LLC in order to restore, re-master and publish these lost recordings. A 45th anniversary deluxe edition of Podipto was released in March 2015. Podipto’s second album, Homemade, was released independently in 1974 and will be reissued later this year along with live concerts from Bemidji State University’s M-100 Hall (late 1973) and the Kahler Motel in Fargo, North Dakota (1974).

Learn more about Podipto and purchase their recordings at http://www.podipto.com.

* Footnote: The musicians known as “The Wrecking Crew” anonymously performed the instrument parts on countless albums, including many of the major hits of the 1960s and 1970s. They are the subject of several books and a documentary film currently playing in theaters nationwide.


2CD Set of Unreleased Studio Demos Available April 14

The Woodcut Sessions/Live at Chateau Paulette

If you've already purchased the deluxe 45th anniversary edition of Podipto, you've had only a taste of the treasure trove of extras that we're pulling out of the Podipto vaults.

The release that we are most excited to get in the hands of fans is at the presses and will be available in just a couple of weeks. The first disc in the set, The Woodcut Sessions, features 19 unreleased studio demo recordings that show the band's unique style emerging and taking hold. Fifteen of these tracks are songs that never made it on to either of Podipto's official albums. 

The second disc features a concert from June 1973, recorded at Chateau Paulette in Park Rapids, Minn. The recording includes banter between songs, and will bring you back to experience the band's live performances.

Here is a preview of the cover artwork and track list. Pre-orders will start next week, only at podipto.com.

First CD at the Presses

Preorder now, shipping begins March 3!

Podipto fans, you've been very patient. We've approved the final proofs of the artwork, and the album is being manufactured here in the Twin Cities, by a local company called Copycats Media. 

The discs will be in my hands March 2, and I will start shipping right away. You can preorder the CD now here at podipto.com. If you prefer to download your albums, you can also buy the digital version on the site. It can also be found on your favorite online music retailers, like iTunes, Amazon and CDBaby. But we recommend buying directly from podipto.com, where we don't give away a cut of the retail price.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, we still have a lot of music to get out there, including a two-disc set—The Woodcut Sessions/Live at Chateau Paulette—that will be available in just a few weeks. The second album will follow later this summer. There is no shortage of work for us to do!

Original Album Artist: Michael Mendel

Today I had the pleasure of talking with Michael Mendel, the artist who did the original wood burning for Podipto's first record. I was trying to track him down to see if he happened to have the original piece of art, knowing it was a long shot. Amazingly, from clicking "search" to reaching him by phone only took about two hours. 

Michael is quite an interesting fellow. Born in Berlin, he fled Germany as a child with his family and ended up in United States where he spent years designing album covers for Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Gladys Knight, Captain Beefheart, Etta James, Stan Getz, Roy Orbison, Tony Bennett, Donovan, Howlin’ Wolf ... and Podipto. 

I tracked Michael down at his home in New York, and we had a delightful conversation about his time working with record labels many years ago. He didn't remember Podipto by name, and couldn't recall the artwork from its description, but after sending him a picture of the cover he had this to say:

"A picture is worth a thousand words they say...... and IT'S TRUE!
"It all came back to me in a flash! I initially designed the front and back covers on a sheet of tracing paper. It took a bit of revising here and there but once the design was approved (by the powers that be, whoever they were) I purchased two flat pieces of either plywood or pine board and a kid's wood-burning kit. The kit consisted of nothing more than a very thick pen with an electric cord attached, which would be plugged into any household socket. Once the cord was plugged into the socket, the point of the 'pen' heated up, burning the wood. The texture and depth of the images were determined by how long you held the pen point to the wood on any particular spot.
"AND THAT WAS THAT! More or less, one drew or wrote with a hot pen! Let me just add that I did quite a bit of practicing before committing myself to creating the final two pieces of 'original art.' There was no erasing one's mistakes!"

However, when he came to the interior arwork—specifically, the wood burn version of the band's promo photos—he had different strong reaction!

"VERY IMPORTANT. I do not recall creating the panel with the five folks! I wouldn't be surprised if that was faked in by someone else, not burned in as the front and back, but drawn or painted later on, trying to match the flavor of the original cover art. The faces could never have been done so delicately with fire!! Neither could the fingers belts, etc. FOR SHAME!
"I've been in this game too long to accept that panel Look at the two original covers and see how bold they are presented and then look at the pale, unexciting poses of the band members. The fake elbow on the head. GIMME A BREAK! Art student stuff!"

So there you have it. The label screwed with the band on the recording, and it seems they screwed with the cover artist as well. 

Read more about Michael Mendel and his artwork, including his current work in watercolors.

Original wood burn artwork by artist Michael Mendel.

Inside gatefold artwork done by unknown artist.

Original watercolor by artist Michael Mendel.

Launching The New Podipto Website and Radio Singles

Welcome to new Podipto website! This week the Mississippi Woman/Restless Soul single is being mailed to radio stations around the region. Hopefully local radio shows and classic rock stations will take notice and give the songs a spin. You can listen to the tracks on the Music page.

This week we finalized the masters for the 45th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of Podipto, and for the two disc set, The Woodcut Sessions/Live at Chateau Paulette. We're wrapping up the artwork now, and will get them off to press very soon, which means February could be the month for giving these new CDs a spin.

This website is built on a much better platform than the last site (which I haven't even had the software to update in almost five years). You'll see there is a Store now, where the reissues will be posted. It's still a work in progress, so check back from time to time. For now, in the store you'll find downloads of two of Dan's solo albums, and John's final solo album. More Podipto and Podipto-related merch is in the works.

So take a look around the new site, sign up for updates, and drop a note on the message board.

A promo CD with studio demo versions is being sent to radio stations.

A promo CD with studio demo versions is being sent to radio stations.

Mastering Almost Complete on Reissues

I've been working with Greg Reierson of Rare Form Mastering in Minneapolis on restoring the audio for the new releases, and I have to say, he is doing an excellent job. My initial plan was to restore them myself, but there is nothing like hiring a real professional to do the work. The music is so good, it deserves to be done the right way. You will all be thrilled with the final product, I have no doubt. 

This is taking a bit longer than planned, but after letting this project simmer for 15 years, what is another month or two? So we're looking at a January-February 2015 release for the first wave of new music.

All of the unreleased music comes from 1/4-inch reels that were sitting in boxes in my mom's basement, and wherever Jack had them stashed. Amazingly, they are in pretty good shape and the handwritten labeling is sort of hilarious. 

Stay tuned for more updates.

Documentary in the Works on Minnesota Bands: The Underbeats and Gypsy

Minnesota (and native Bemidjian) Aaron Goodyear is directing a documentary film about another legendary Minnesota band. Here is his summary:

In the 1960s, The Underbeats became one of the most popular bands in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Founder Jim Johnson left the band in 1966 after he was drafted to serve in Vietnam.  When he returned in 1968 the band left Minnesota and relocated to Los Angeles. 
In 1969 The Underbeats changed their name to Gypsy, landed the house gig at the Whisky-A-Go Go on The Sunset Strip and played with everyone who came through the club in 1969 and 1970.  Learn about the band's bizarre coincidental connection to the Manson Family and follow them as they graduate from the LA club scene to full on arena rock.
Follow Gypsy's endless tours with The Guess Who and their four musically ground-breaking records that went almost completely unnoticed.  This is the story of Gypsy and my quest to find out why they never gained the national attention and notoriety that their music deserved.  We drop in on some former members to see who they are today and how music has shaped their lives.  
Discover one of American Rock & Roll's missing links and find out how one member is still working hard to keep Gypsy's message alive.

The filmmaker still needs to travel to various locations across the country to finish shooting the interviews with former band members, and some famous fans of the band. Please consider visiting his Kickstarter page and chipping in a few bucks to ensure this important piece of Minnesota history isn't lost! And make sure to visit the project's Facebook Page.

In 1968 Twin Cities band The Underbeats headed west and changed their name to Gypsy. This is the story of an important piece of American rock history that has gone largely unnoticed. Follow the band from their Minnesota beginnings to Hollywood's Sunset Strip to international touring with The Guess Who and beyond.

New Podipto Website!

For those of you who have been waiting patiently for the past decade for me to finally reissue the Podipto catalogue, I offer you my sincere gratitude! The rest of my family—John's widow Margy; their eldest child Judah; and youngest child, Anna—are absolutely thrilled to be on the cusp of sharing this with you.

Having been born in 1977, Podipto was always something that my dad had been part of, but it wasn't something I had been around for (some of you may remember my brother at concerts, with his long hippy-child blond hair). More than anything, this project has been about discovering a remarkable part of my dad's story, a part that touched a great many people. For our family, this is something we are doing to preserve the legacy of what my dad and these other amazing musicians made together.

So hold on, we are just a short time away from putting it all out there. And the first step is launching this new website. The previous site was designed in an application that isn't even supported any longer, so I haven't been able to update it in several years. We're rocketing into the future folks, with a keen eye (and ear) to the past. Please enjoy the ride.

Me with my dad, circa 1978.

Me with my dad, circa 1978.