'The bird is the word': MN author to reflect on state's rock music history at Monday library talk
Do you love that old time rock 'n' roll? Does it make you reminisce about the days of old? Then you might want to head on over to the Detroit Lakes Public Library this Monday, Feb. 13, for a free presentation by Minnesota author Rick Shefchik.
Shefchik is the author of "Everybody's Heard About the Bird: The True Story of 1960s Rock 'n' Roll in Minnesota," and his 7 p.m. talk will be all about the Minnesota-grown bands and songs that made it big during that era.
"I'll be discussing the bands that came out of Minnesota that had the most success — which pretty much means recording success," said Shefchik in a Wednesday phone conversation from his home in Stillwater. "There were a lot of bands that had a big following and were favorites in various corners of the state."
But the first Minnesota rock band to hit it big on the recording charts were the Trashmen and their song, "Surfing Bird."
"What I try to do is explain how a band from north Minneapolis was able to reach No. 4 on the Billboard pop charts when no local musician had ever had that kind of success," Shefchik said.
"That success fed into so many other bands going into the recording studio and making records, getting their records played on radio,... a couple of them even hit the national charts."
The years from 1963-67 were "this great period of Minnesota rock and roll," he added, "when local bands could get their records played on the radio and actually have a shot at national stardom."
Shefchik's talk will also include playing snippets from some of the songs — like "Run Run Run" by the Jesters and "Liar Liar" by the Castaways, "which were really massive hits at the time," he said.
Shefchik will also talk about some of the bands that had "lesser success," like the Underbeats, "who did pretty well on the local charts, but didn't cross over to the national charts." Shefchik's knowledge of the music industry goes back to his years as a newspaper music critic, first with the Duluth News Tribune, and later the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
"But this book really goes back to when I was younger," he says. "These were the songs I grew up listening to when I was a kid in Duluth. My older brother was in a rock and roll band, and shared the stage with a couple of these groups.
"This music was a part of my upbringing," he added. "These songs meant a lot to me."
After he retired from the Pioneer Press in 2006, Shefchik says, "I decided I was going to write books for a living."
He started out writing fiction, publishing a series of sports-related novels featuring ex-Minneapolis police detective Sam Skarda, including "Amen Corner" (2007), about a serial killer on the loose at The Masters golf tournament; "Green Monster" (2008), which features an extortion plot involving the Boston Red Sox; and "Frozen Tundra" (2010), which concerns a potential ownership takeover of the Green Bay Packers.
His fourth novel, "Rather See You Dead," is a stand-alone rock 'n' roll thriller based on a possible meeting between Elvis Presley and John Lennon in 1960, and was published as an e-book in September 2011.
In 2012, Shefchik turned his attention to nonfiction, and published "From Fields to Fairways: Classic Golf Clubs of Minnesota," in March of that year. With stories and photos dating back to 1893, it has been called the state's definitive golf history book.
But his love of guitars and rock 'n' roll remained undiminished. "It was always in the back of my head to do a book like this (about Minnesota's rock history), if nobody else did," Shefchik says.
So when he finally decided to write it, he dove into the research head first.
"It's definitely the most fun book I've worked on," says Shefchik. "I got to talk with some people who were music legends in Minnesota... It was a real honor for me to be able to tell their story."
Since its publication in November 2015, Shefchik says that his book "has stimulated some renewed interest in these songs," and given "a new breath of life" to some bands that hadn't been heard from in years.
After his presentation on Monday, Shefchik says he'll be available for questions, including those that address bands and music that weren't covered in his book. While he tried to cover as many bands and songs as possible, Shefchik adds, there is still plenty of material left to mine for future books — though probably not written by him.
"I tried to get as much information into this book, but I had to cut quite a bit," he says. "There were many more bands I would have liked to write about, but I don't really see myself doing a sequel. It's not really in the cards."
Currently, Shefchik is working on a new novel that he hopes to see published sometime late next year. Though he doesn't want to give too much away, he says that it's a work of historical fiction that focuses on the relationship between organized crime and politics in Minnesota during the mid-20th century.
Monday's presentation, which is free and open to the public, gets underway at 7 p.m. For more information, please contact the Detroit Lakes Public Library at 218-847-2168.