Category Archives: Minneapolis

The Midnight Riders

Brian Tolzmann and John Petersen

Brian Tolzmann wrote this history of his adolescent group, the Midnight Riders, featuring what I can guarantee is the most bizarre version of Hanky Panky you’ve ever heard.

The Midnight Riders, which was active in 1966 and 1967, consisted of:

Brian Tolzmann – guitar, vocals, organ
Terry Selleck – vocals
Tracy Tolzmann – vocals
John Petersen – drums
Mike Petersen – bass

I bought a guitar on August 21, 1965 at ‘B’ Sharp Music in Minneapolis, the very same day that ‘B’ Sharp Music presented Beatles guitarist George Harrison with a Rickenbacker 12-string guitar, when the Beatles were in town to present a concert.

The members of the Midnight Riders were ages 13, 12, 11, 9 and 7 in 1966, when the group started playing birthday parties and Muscular Dystrophy carnivals around town. The musical repertoire included the normal garage band fare, with Kinks, Dave Clark 5, Paul Revere & The Raiders tunes coupled with some Brian Tolzmann originals.

The photo shows me on the left and John Petersen on the right. The fact that John’s zipper is partially open is rather amusing. Back in those days we really didn’t take many photos, which is really different than things are today. I have another of John and myself playing guitars.

One day in July of 1966, the Midnight Riders played a neighborhood concert, complete with a dozen screaming girls. Unfortunately, that concert took place at the same time as a funeral was being held at a church a half-block away. The screaming girls could be heard at the church, leading the band members to later dub this event “The No Respect For The Dead Concert”.

We used electric guitars at the end of 1966, but the recording actually has non-electric guitars. The song on the tape is “Hanky Panky”, which we actually did as kind of a joke. At one point in the song our youngest member, Mike Petersen, can be heard singing,”She was a standin’ there, pickin’ her nose.”

I brought a recording of that concert to Sweden in December of 1966 when my family vacationed there. One of my relatives worked for Swedish Radio in Stockholm. We had stayed at his home for a few days. He thought his fellow workers would get a kick out of the tape as a novelty. The tape wound up being played by Sveriges Radio in Stockholm late in 1966 and early in 1967. The tape was marked only with my name and hometown of Forest Lake on it. Some Radio Sveriges staffers looked Forest Lake up on a map, and saw that Highway 61 ran right through the town. Bob Dylan’s famous “Highway 61 Revisited” album had just come out a few months earlier, so the Swedish disc jockeys dubbed the Midnight Riders as “The Highway 61 Boys”. The “Highway 61 Boys” were said to have been the youngest band to have its music played on Sveriges Radio up until that time.

The young ages of the group kept the Midnight Riders from performing at additional venues, and it would be a few years until Brian Tolzmann, Tracy Tolzmann and Terry Selleck went on to form the rock band Phreen in 1969. Phreen had the thrill of having their 1971 recording of Cream’s “I’m So Glad” played for Eric Clapton himself in March of 1981, when Clapton was hospitalized with bleeding ulcers in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Brian Tolzmann and Tracy Tolzmann went on to form the rock band Liberty in 1972. Liberty won that year’s “Summer of Sound” battle of the bands, beating more than 200 other bands from around the U.S., including early amalgamations of such famed groups as Kansas and REO Speedwagon.

Thanks for your help in preserving the “legacy” of the Midnight Riders!

Brian Tolzmann, 2009

The Sandmen

Sandmen Studio City 45 I Can TellCalling themselves the Sandmen was the right move, ’cause you’re likely to be hit with a wave of sleepiness while listening to these dragging versions of “I Can Tell” and “You Can’t Judge a Book by Looking at the Cover.” They managed to make Bo Diddley tunes sound boring twice in one session. Should have laid off the cough syrup before hitting the studio!

I’m sure I’m being too harsh – I know some people like this 45, so judge for yourself. Cut on the Minneapolis, Minnesota Studio City label in 1965.

Almost certainly not the same Sandmen from West Bend, Wisconsin, who cut the excellent World Full of Dreams on Night Owl.

The Del Counts

This is the same Del Counts of Minneapolis who had a couple 45s on Soma, “Bird Dog” / “Let the Good Times Roll” and “What is the Reason” / “With Another Guy”. They also recorded a full album at Dove Studios that was never released.

Charlie Schoen, bass player and vocalist, wrote both songs on this 45, produced by their manager, Marsh Edelstein. I really dig “Ain’t Got the Time” with its whining guitar bends, fast beat and drum break. The flip is the less convincing “Don’t Ever Leave”.

The Del Counts had a long career playing at the Marigold Ballroom and around the Minneapolis area. They continued into the early 70’s, releasing a final 45, “Who Cares” / “Don’t Let the Green Grass”, in 1972, and were still playing live in recent years.

Charles Schoen contacted me about the band recently:

Members were Steve Miller on guitar, Bob Phalen on bass, Kelly Vincent on drums, myself on keys and vocals. What Is the Reason sold over 20,000 in the first two weeks it was out because the District Manager of Musicland Records told me that we had a four star pick in Record World magazine with a bullet. That was just Minneapolis and St. Paul MN.

Sources include: Birdland Revisited article in City Pages.

The Motifs

Another band about which I know nothing, other than the fact that they were on the LeJac label of Minneapolis, Minnesota. I don’t believe there’s a connection to a band called the Motifs in Idaho, and they sound nothing like the New Jersey group with that name.

“Someday” is excellent upbeat garage pop with nice drum breaks and guitar solo. “Telling Lies” is more conventional but worth a listen if you like “Someday”. Both songs credit the band as songwriters.

One member was John Rusinyak, according to Jay, who had played with John in another group in the 1980s and 90s. He reports John passed away at the age of 58.

LeJac and Agar Records discographies

Ron Gjerde owned the LeJac and Agar labels of Minneapolis, Minnesota, using his basement as the studio.

Partial LeJac discography (any help would be appreciated):

3002: Denny Dale – Mr Moon / Why Did You Leave Me (9/1965)
3003: Denny & Jack – One More For The Road / Love You Everyday (9/1965)
3004: Motifs – Someday / Telling Lies
3005: The Peers – Once Upon a Time / Palisades Park
3006: The Bedlam Four – Watch It Baby (Dick Pogue) / Blue Blue Feeling
JK-1942/3: The Transplant – Broken Engagement / With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm (1968)

1001: The Starliners – Live at Papa Joe’s Northern a Go Go (1966)

The first two LeJac releases are by Fendermen bassist Denny Dale (Dennis Gudim), with the second featuring Jack Kollodge of the Starliners.

I haven’t yet heard the Bedlam Four on LeJac. Originally known as the Echomen with one 45 “Long Green” / “Chocolate Chip” on Fox, the Bedlam Four recorded ten or more songs at LeJac over the course of a year, most of them cover songs. They had a later release “Hydrogen Atom” on Armada and two later songs “No One Left to Love” / “Psychedelic Mantra” that were finally released by Caped Crusader Records in the ’80s.

The Jokers Wild

The Jokers Wild later trio lineup, from left: Denny Johnson, Pete Huber and Lonnie Knight
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Jokers Wild Metrobeat 45 I Just Can't Explain ItThe Minneapolis area was home to a great music scene in the 60’s. The Jokers Wild were one of the most progressive groups of the era.

Original lineup:

Dave Wagner – vocals
Gene Balabon – lead guitar
Dave Middlemist – keyboards
Denny Johnson – bass
Pete Huber – drums

Original lead vocalist Dave Wagner (Dave Waggoner) and guitarist Gene Balabon formed the Jokers Wild after leaving the Aardvarks (“Josephine” / “Reminiscing” on the Bell Concert Recordings label). Neither would be in the group by the time they recorded. Gene was the first to leave, replaced by Bill Jordan.

In 1967, their booking agent/manager David Anthony organized an interesting switch of personnel. He took Dave Wagner and Dave Middlemist from the Jokers Wild and joined them with Dick Wiegand, Larry Wiegand and Harry Nehls of the Rave-Ons to form South 40. Lonnie Knight of the Rave-Ons joined the Jokers Wild on vocals and guitar.

Lonnie Knight – vocals and lead guitar
Bill Jordan – guitar (replaced by Dale Strength, then Danny Kane)
Greg Springer – keyboards
Denny Johnson – bass
Pete Huber – drums

The Jokers Wild as a trio, clockwise from top left: Denny Johnson, Pete Huber and Lonnie Knight
The Jokers Wild as a trio, clockwise from top left: Denny Johnson, Pete Huber and Lonnie Knight
Lonnie Knight had been in the Castaways before they hit big with “Liar, Liar” then joined the Knights with the Wiegand brothers and Harry Nehls, the band name eventually changing to the Rave-Ons. They had three great 45s on Twin Town and Re-Car plus some unreleased songs cut at Dove Studio. Lonnie left the Rave-Ons partly because he wanted to pursue a more folk-oriented sound. He would get to that in the early ’70s, but not before spending a couple years with the Jokers Wild, a heavy, progressive rock group! (Read the Rave-Ons full story in Lost and Found #3).

The Jokers Wild first 45 was released on the Metrobeat label. “All I See Is You” is a good original by Knight, given as Lowell Knight on the label. “I Just Can’t Explain It” reminds me somewhat of the Who, and was written by guitarist Bill Jordan.

To me their best moment comes from their second 45, “Because I’m Free” / “Sunshine” on the Peak label – anyone have good scans of this 45, or a copy to sell?

They had one more 45 on Peak, “Peace Man” (also written by Knight) and “Tomorrow”, produced by Tony Glover. There’s also a light pop-psychedelic number “All the World’s a Copper Penny”, unreleased until the Best of Metrobeat LP in the 1990.

The band was down to a trio of Lon Knight, Denny Johnson and Pete Huber when the time the group broke up in the fall of 1969.

45 releases:
All I See Is You / I Just Can’t Explain It (Metrobeat 4451)
Sunshine / Because I’m Free (Peak 4456)
Tomorrow / Peace Man (Peak 4459)

Sources include: Lost and Found #3 (Rave-Ons article by by Jim Oldsberg and Mark Prellberg), Lonnie Knight’s website and an interview with Lonnie Knight by Ray Stiles from