50 cool facts about the Minnesota music scene

Categories: Lists, Local Music
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Here's a not-so-secret fact about Minnesota music: People love to talk about how much they love the scene here. Musicians from both out-of-state and the Twin Cities have gone out of their way to pen odes to our town and its vibrant community, from Atmosphere to Lucinda Williams Tom Waits to Mark Mallman, who just dropped his new single, "Minneapolis," this week.

What's all the fuss about, anyway? We decided to crack open the history books and a few back issues of City Pages to compile a list of lovable facts about the last several decades of Minnesota music, ranging from the obvious (yes, Prince and Dylan made the list) to some lesser-known facts that just might surprise you. 

Read on, and feel free to leave your own factoids in the comments. We love this stuff.

50. The song "Funkytown" by Lipps Inc. was about the band's desire to leave Minneapolis for New York.

49. Before Epic was an event center it was called the Quest, a club owned by former Prince bodyguard and business manager Gilbert Davison. 

48. The late Sonia Peterson, founder of Hairpolice, is responsible for creating many a rock star's famous 'dos, including that of George Clinton and the lead singer of Information Society (who was her longtime boyfriend).

47. Janet Jackson credits the city of Minneapolis for much of her early success.

46. Ms. Jackson worked closely with production duo Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who rose to fame in the '80s recording Twin Cities acts like Mint Condition and Alexander O'Neal and national musicians like Janet's brother Michael, New Edition, Boyz II Men, and Patti LaBelle in their Flyte Time Studios. Flyte Time was also the name of their early-'80s funk band, which later morphed into the Time.

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City Pages file photo
The Loring Pasta Bar, formerly Grey's Drug Store
45. Before moving to New York City, Bob Dylan lived above what is now the Loring Pasta Bar in Dinkytown, then Grey's Drug Store.

44. In 1969, Tom Jung and Herb Pilhofer opened Sound 80 in Minneapolis, the first studio in the world to engineer and release digital recording. Sound 80 went on to record many Grammy Award-winning musicians, like Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens.

43. In addition to historically being a Midwest hub for genres like hip-hop and indie rock, the Twin Cities also have a rich classical music scene. The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, for example, is the only professional, full-time chamber orchestra in the country.

42. Famous musicians used make appointments with Let It Be Records owner Ryan Cameron to sift through his private collection in the basement of the legendary but now defunct shop on Nicollet. The store closed in 2005 to make way for a condo project that never took off. 

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Andrew Broder and Yoni Wolf as Hymie's Basement
41. Before starting popular hip-hop/indie rock/folk band WHY?, lead singer Yoni Wolf and Twin Cities-based Andrew Broder pioneered a similar eclectic sound in a collaborative called Hymie's Basement. The band was named after Hymie's Vintage Records, a Minneapolis music store where much of their only album was recorded.

40. Prince recorded portions of Purple Rain during a live performance at First Avenue in 1983. Enough said.

39. In the late '90s, Bassgasm promoter Woody McBride, Sound In Motion founder Jack Trash, and Compass booking agent Rich Best (who is now VP of booking at Live Nation) formed a trifecta called "Mile High" promoting DJ parties in the Twin Cities. From 1997 to 2002 (give or take), they threw some of the sickest dance events Midwest and put this region on the rave map. One for the record books: The "Soundburnt" all-night party at Roy Wilkins in St. Paul.

38. In 1968, a Hibbing-born musician outsold the Beatles. The Minnesota-related version of the Fab Four was named Gary Puckett and the Union Gap and bore no relation to Kirby.

37. Sound 80, the legendary studio that gave birth to Bob Dylan's "Blood on the Tracks," is considered the world's first digital recording studio. It's now the headquarters of Orfield Laboratories and home to an anechoic chamber considered "the quietest place on earth."

36. Yanni attended the University of Minnesota in the late 1970s and played keyboards for several local rock bands.



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