The musician John Fogerty was on an infamous career skid when he found himself in a rural country cemetery in Mississippi.
The writer of stone-cold classics such as "Proud Mary," "Fortunate Son," "Bad Moon Rising" and, ironically, "Wrote a Song for Everyone," had an historic bout of writer's block and stage fright, his talent and charisma sucked dry by bad contracts and greedy record companies, and an acrimonious split with his former bandmates (and brother) in Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Fogerty, a pure artist, allowed his gift to atrophy in response to his distaste for what happened to his career and his music (and his songwriting royalties, and his publishing ...). His mind and body rebelled against it all.
So here he was, soaking in Mississippi Delta humidity and history, at a rumored burial site of blues guitar legend Robert Johnson, who died decades before, in 1938.
"Cross Road Blues." "Love In Vain." "Hellhound on My Trail." "Sweet Home Chicago." "Dust My Broom."
Fogerty thought of Johnson's songs, the very foundation of popular American music.
Then, as Fogerty has told in interviews and stories, it hit him: Only hardcore music fans knew the details of Johnson's life and recording contracts. Everyone else just knew the music.
No matter who owned his, Fogerty thought, his songs were an extension of him. They were him -- and the world owned them now. Somewhere, a Fogerty-penned CCR was being played on the radio, at a bar or on a turntable.
He immediately began the second phase of his career, returning to songwriting, performing -- and even playing those Creedence songs he vowed to never play again so as not to line the pockets of the lawyers and record men who had done him wrong.
This story crossed my mind here at the end of WE Fest 2019 in Detroit Lakes.
In coming to the Tribune, I was excited at the prospect of covering WE Fest. My job is not to get bored by these annual events, it's to maintain my enthusiasm and interest on behalf of our readers. This festival seemed rich with possibilities.
But leading into this first hot August weekend, I was surprised by the lack of interest (at best) and outright disdain (at worst) by many local residents to WE Fest.
The thing I kept hearing was, "It's not local anymore."
Not only was the event owned by out-of-towners -- Townsquare Media bought the fest from Minnesota promoters in 2014 -- but they had seemingly shut out the local community that literally made WE Fest.
The people who set up the stage. The people who ripped tickets. Who sold food and drinks. Who did all the grunt work. The people who supported this little festival when it was nothing more than an impossible dream.
In so many stories -- in the paper, in our archives, or in conversation -- you hear about "back in the day." That magical time when everyone had fun (sometimes too much), the tickets were cheap and the whole thing was a big family reunion with top-notch entertainment.
It was "ours," as they say.
But it's not impossible to see where the current owners are coming from.
They might not want 100,000 people at their festival (there comes a point when the crowd is so big that you lose money; their profit might be maximized by entertaining a smaller crowd).
They hire outside workers to set up the staging, run security, etc. (the liability if an employee or a concert-goer were hurt makes the risk not worth it).
I can even understand why ticket prices are the way they are, why there aren't so many local vendors, why these festival people swoop in, make their money, and leave just as fast.
But to the people of Detroit Lakes, it's more than that.
When I told my South Dakota friends I was moving up here, they said the same things: "We are coming to WE Fest!" "You get to cover to WE Fest!" And, "Hope you have room on your couch for us WE Fest weekend!"
To them -- and to the thousands of guests in this area -- it doesn't matter who technically "owns" the thing. If Townsquare decides to up and sell the festival tomorrow (as the town gossip- and rumor-mill suggests), it's still WE Fest at Soo Pass Ranch in Detroit Lakes, Becker County, Minnesota.
What matters is the music, the memories, the friendship.
Like Fogerty realized about his own music, Detroit Lakes owns "WE Fest."
And nobody can take that away.