Duluth, Minn. — Tracy Lundeen has been part of the Duluth music scene since he was a kid. He's played in rock bands, and he's promoted concerts. He's one of the people behind the annual BluesFest in Duluth.
Back in the '70s he made his living as a musician for a few years. No day job. Right here in Duluth.
He says there were a dozen clubs in and around Duluth that had live bands five nights a week. And every Friday night community clubs and schools and churches threw dances. He says a band might make $150 playing a dance in those days.
"But, you have to remember," he says, "My friends at that very same time were working as checkout clerks at the grocery store. So you know they could work eight hours and make maybe $16 or $20, and I could go out and sing for three hours and make 20 to 25 bucks. Plus the girls were after me, and I didn't know about any girls that would follow check-out clerk or grocery baggers around."
A couple years ago, Tracy Lundeen and his business partner started hunting down a bunch of vinyl 45s from those old bands. They had the records cleaned up, and they put 16 of the tunes on a CD they call "Duluth Rocked."
Here's the part that's hard to imagine nowadays: every one of these songs is by a band from Duluth; and every one of them got played on commercial radio here.
"You could still walk in and talk to the program director because the program director at the radio station was actually picking every song that was played on the radio," he says. "You know that "Dreams" by Sound Incorporated was number one on the local chart for 10 weeks in 1970? Every time you turned around that song was on the radio."
When I sang that song in the studio I'd just turned 16. I couldn't even get my mom to let me use the car to drive to Minneapolis to the recording studio. So that was kind of a rush. You know, you're riding around in your car listening to the radio station and all of a sudden, there's my song. That's me. And followed by a song by Paul McCartney. It was pretty neat.
Tracy Lundeen plays on a few tracks that made the CD -- including one of his band's earliest ventures into recording.
"It was a song not unlike what you'd hear kids writing today, protesting or talking about the world around. And the name of the song was, "In a World Full of Fright." Lundeen smiles when he recalls how the band recorded the track.
"When I sang that song in the studio I'd just turned 16," he says. "I couldn't even get my mom to let me use the car to drive to Minneapolis to the recording studio. So that was kind of a rush. You know, you're riding around in your car listening to the radio station and all of a sudden, there's my song. That's me. And followed by a song by Paul McCartney. It was pretty neat."
Lundeen says there is a huge diversity of music on the disc.
"The '70s were a very changing time in music," he says. "So you hear all these different things going on. You have ballads. You still have some things that sound '60s. But also you've got the funk that rock bands tried to play to counter, or to participate a little bit in the disco era. A little hard rock, to just a little Top 40-sounding rock to country rock. So on this CD you'll hear just about all of it."
Lundeen says in some ways Duluth's music scene wasn't that unusual, for the times. He wonders some times though about why some bands made it big while others didn't.
"Every little region in the United States had a music scene, so I mean, you hear these, and you go, boy these are recorded well, they sound good, they're good songs. And then look at Billboard's Top 40. And you think, look at all these good bands. How did these get picked to be the big ones. Because it could have been a lot of these people."
Tracy Lundeen says the "Duluth Rocked" CD is a historical document. None of the bands are still performing together regularly. But many of the musicians are still around, doing other things. One's the musical director for Whitney Houston. Another's an attorney in the music business. One of them co-wrote the theme song for the TV show, "Friends."
These days Tracy Lundeen is a producer and a concert promoter. And he plays music for kids with a group called, "Jungle Sam and the Singing Safari Band."
"And I'm actually Jungle Sam. I perform concerts and fair and theaters, and we have two CDs out, and it's just a ball."
Tracy Lundeen has traded in the long hair and bell-bottoms he wore on stage in the 1970s. Now he sports a pith helmet, and a canteen.
When he's not performing as Jungle Sam, he's working on the next two volumes of "Duluth Rocked." They'll focus on bands from the 1960s. And there's also a plan for a "Valley Rocked" CD. That one will feature 1970s bands from the Red River Valley.