Are you sure this is how Richie Havens got famous? Part X: It could be worser


January 7th, rocked Corner Coffee to the proverbial rafters. MJ Kroll, e.g. bailey, and Sha Cage, Dan and Faith Sullivan all was in the house. With incredible guitarist Mark Dorshak accompanying. Whole lot of healthy applause. Things could be worser.

So much for good news. January 15th, Stanley Kipper and Chico Perez can’t lay down vocals in the studio, because Stan came down with a nasty cold. God bless MJ Kroll for stepping in. At the very last minute. To sing a duet. I want to bear her child.

Between you and me, wonder if I’ll ever see the end of this project, Angels Don’t Really Fly (BeatBad Records; EP). It’s been under neverending construction, like Minneapolis streets only on a miniscule budget. And, actually, is in fine shape except for this one damn song. The title tune. Which, swear to God, I’d scrap, except it’s the strongest one in my repertoire. Problem is, it’s also the hardest to sing. I did the lyrics. Bill Kern, who wrote the melody, leaves my vocal range in the dust. What to do? Bring in a ringer. To help pull it off. Somebody say a prayer.


Don’t bother. Last minute notice didn’t leave nearly enough time for MJ and me to work out stuff like harmonies, backup vocal arrangement. You know, the little things you usually spend, oh, weeks rehearsing to get right? So, out at Winterland Studio, she goes off to run errands and leaves her guitar, this angelic axe, for me to record with. Which I do, working with Joe Salgado at the board to put down rough takes of half a dozen songs. On listening back, they didn’t come out half bad. Come in handy as a demo.

None of which does a damn thing about getting “Angels Don’t Really Fly” recorded. Before MJ and I split up, I make sure she has it on disc. The song’s cursed, I’ve come to realize, but it’s way too late to leave it off the EP. Besides, there’s now the prospect of having two versions, one with Stan and Chico, one with MJ. Aiming for March to go back in. We’ll just have to see.


Next day, MJ comes by, collects me at the crib, and we are off to the VFW in South St. Paul, one of the venerated Eagles Clubs that’re around the Twin Cities. Them places always make me nervous. Not just ‘cause I’m about the only black face I ever see in ‘em, but the folk I do see look they’re straight out of central casting for a flick about white people don’t wanna know from nothin’ black but the squares on their checkboard. Yeah, yeah, y’ can’t judge a book by the cover. Sue me if I still get nervous. Anyhow, despite a sour glance here or there, there’s no tension. And, among MJ’s buddies in the place, the looks are more out of friendly curiosity (after all, I am the only black face there) than anything else. When they learn I came down with her, to sing at the open mic, mystery’s pretty much solved. After I get up, do my thing and come off the stage, it’s practically Old Home Week as I’m profoundly welcome to come down and sing anytime. I’ll happily add, the welcome comes from a couple heavy cats who just happen to have country music running in their veins. See, doing the evening’s regular set are Francis Duxbury III and Bill Travers. With Laura Moe. Later on, Travers even sat with me, playing guitar on makeshift versions of “Know You Rider” and “All Along The Watchtower.” Glad MJ invited me down.

No gigs on the horizon for the time being. So, I’m sending around feelers to this and that venue. Meanwhile, there’s videos at And airplay at Twin Cites Radio and Rock Capital Radio.

Like I said, it could be worser.