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August 2008 Archives

Make Mine Minnesota Moonshine

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Lew Fisher, Buddy and some MN 13 Moonshine.JPG Louie Fisher and a pooch with some hooch.

6 p.m. Aug. 27----

I have sailed down the Mississippi River in a pontoon from Alton, Ill. to New Orleans. And I hang glided over Illinois farmland. I danced a merengue in a dark shack outside of Santo Domingo, D.R. and traveled to Tokyo to watch the Cubs open a season.
But I never heard Louie Fisher tell me how to make "Minnesota 13" moonshine.
With his French Poodle Buddy sitting in his lap.
And a jug of moonshine on a table.
That was the scene as the night wound down at Fisher's Club in Avon, Mn., not far from the mighty Mississippi that shoots through St. Cloud. Louie, 80, had taken a tumble earlier in the day, but his compatriots at the club brought him over to participate in the festive evening. His left leg had a huge gash but his memory was as sharp as ever.......

Sally Fisher & Bobby Vee Sing

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A clear view from the back deck of Fisher's Club. Memories are made of this.

11:30 p.m. Aug. 26-----

Bobby Vee had nearly 40 hits in the 1960s, including "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes" and "Come Back When You Grow Up," the latter which will never be covered by R. Kelly. But Vee's collaboration with Sally Fisher, 83, is tender and truly from the heart. Sally is the daughter-in-law of George "Showboat" Fisher, the founder of Fisher's Club, a quintessential supper club on Middle Spunk Lake in Avon, Mn. Vee (born Robert Veelline) has a home Rockhouse recording studio in nearby St. Joseph.
Sally wrote "47 Wonderful Years" as an ode to the supper club and her husband "Junior" not long after they sold the restaurant to a group of investors that included Minnesota author/journalist Garrison Keillor. Here's Sally and Bobby Vee:

47 Wonderful Years

"I didn't have to help her out much," Vee said from St. Joseph. "We pressed some up and gave them to her friends. It was so much fun for us to do that for her---it meant everything. After that she said how she had 15, 16 songs she recorded on a little tape recorder so we dubbed them down to CD. She's a saucy little singer."
As people in Avon (pop. 1,114) know, it's a small world.
Vee had just heard about Paul McCartney's trip down Route 66.....

Beatle in Branson

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withlouise.jpg Louise Harrison with her Liverpool Legends from Branson. The George guy looks like Beatle Bob from St. Louis.

5 p.m. Aug. 25----

Of the many mysteries surrounding Paul McCartney's now completed journey down Route 66, my final question is:
How did Sir Paul get his '89 Ford Bronco back to the Hamptons?
Several reports had Paul and his girl friend Nancy Shevell abruptly ending their '66 trip in Flagstaff, Az. because Paul flew to London to be on hand when his daughter had a baby. Paul and Nancy allegedly had sentimental attachment to their old truck because it was one of the first places they made out. Did someone else drive it back? Did they have it shipped back? Did they sell it?
I rented a car when I did the entire Route 66 in 1991. I had to fly back to Syracuse, N.Y. to meet my brother. We were taking in the induction of Bill Veeck into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. I had a sentimental attachment to Veeck's maverick incongruous nature.
There were some McCartney Route 66 sightings I still find impossible to believe. They harken back to the Elvis stories in the old Weekly World News. I checked out every sighting I reported on this blog, and on Aug. 3 he was in Branson, Mo.
That's just plain weird.......

Edgewater Hotel, Madison, Wis.

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UPDATED Aug. 18, 2008

[Archived from April 2, 2006 Chicago Sun-Times; this is one of my top three favorite hotels in America]

MADISON, Wis. -- The best hotel creates a community within a borrowed city. You are no longer a stranger in town. You have arrived. This was not lost on the Elvis Presley entourage, who knew something about weird road trips.

Anyone who has paid attention to a tour of the Lisa Marie airplane in Memphis will notice a closet that has a wooden hanger from the Edgewater Hotel in Madison. During the mid-1970s Elvis and his pals took over two floors of the Art Deco hotel on the shores of Lake Mendota.

Someone wanted to keep this borrowed moment.

Gibraltar Rockets in Madison

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Sunset Pier.jpg This is the view from the Edgewater Hotel Pier. Go see the Gibraltar Rockets out here before the lake freezes over.

9:30 p.m. Aug. 17---
Updated Monday afternoon

On Thursday night I made my annual summer stop at the Edgewater Hotel in Madison, Wis. The hotel is on the shore of tranquil Lake Mendota [full details in Hotels We Like in my Favorite Links]. Last summer I was there on a Friday, I think.
I often do my deepest thinking by a lake.
This summer I took in the hotel's regular Thursday night Pier Party that runs from 5:30 until sunset. A cool breeze came in from the lake as I thought about last summer, the newspaper business and the Cubs --in no particular order. The calypso-reggae band was the Gibraltar Rockets. It was a five piece band of guys at least over 35. I was prepared for Jimmy Buffett and Bob Marley covers.
I was happily wrong.....

Native Americans & Paul McCartney

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CEREMONIAL.jpg Paul McCartney is somewhere in this crowd.

6:00 p.m. Aug. 12----

During his journey down Route 66 Paul McCartney is finding out how easy it is to get lost in America.
No one knows that better than our vanquished Native American population.
On Saturday night Paul and his girl friend Nancy Shevell attended the 87th Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial at Red Rock Park, 15 miles east of Route 66 in Gallup, N.M. According to long-time ceremonial announcer Sammy Chioda they blended into the crowd of 6,000 that sat in seats which surround the arena.
There was no VIP seating or special treatment. More than a dozen Native American groups dance at the ceremony where the western horizon is defined by reddish-brown sandstone bluffs of the Red Rocks.
I asked Chioda the same question I am asking everyone on my Route 66 BeatleBlog......

In Memory of Isaac Hayes

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11:30 p.m. Aug. 11--

If any black cats were coooler than Isaac Hayes, they didn't cross my path.
The hot buttered silky smooth singer-songwriter died suddenly Sunday at his home in Memphis. He was 65. I spoke to Hayes a few times over the years, touching on his appearances as Chef in television's "South Park" and his restaurant operations in Chicago and Memphis (both since closed). But on April 3, 1988 I spent more than an hour with Hayes at a hotel near the Atlanta (Ga.) Civic Center. He was part of a disorganized package tribute to Stax Records that included Luther Ingram, Johnnie Taylor and Rufus Thomas. They are all dead now, too.
Hayes was on the comeback trail 20 years ago. His record sales had slowed and his "Shaft" imagery was out of time. But eye to eye, I saw how soul embodies the man.
Here's an edited, up-to-date version of my time with Hayes..

Accompanied only by an imposing bodyguard-driver, Isaac Hayes swaggered into the gazebo of a hotel on the outskirts of downtown Atlanta. The barrel-chested Hayes wore a loose fitting red Gold's Gym sweatshirt and tight, mirrored sunglasses, which he never removed. His head was as smooth as a newborn's bottom and his easy baritone boomed like a full moon in Dixie.
Sir Isaac Hayes was one the most once-in-a-lifetime figures in pop music........

Paul McCartney's Route 66 Cowboy Room

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7:40 p.m. Aug. 8----
When I drove down Route 66 in 1991, part of the fun was choosing roadside motels at random. Some of my favorite stops were the Wagon Wheel Inn ($15 a night) in Cuba, Mo. and the funky Oatman Hotel high atop Oatman, Az.--which I've also done as a day trip from Las Vegas.
Of course I'm usually alone so there's no debate about suspicious neon signs.
Apparently this hasn't been the case for Paul McCartney and his girl friend Nancy Shevell as they holiday down Route 66.
They made reservations for Wednesday night's stay at the Ambassador Hotel, 3100 I-40 West in Amarillo, Tx. The luxurious 20-year-old hotel is about 10 blocks off of Route 66. "The only request they made is that they are vegetarians," hotel general manager Phyllis Payne told me on Friday............

HEY JUDE! Sir Paul in Amarillo, Tx.

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5:05 p.m. Aug. 8--
It is not who you know, but where you stand.
That's one bit of maverick advice I would give my wonderful 5-year-old nephew Jude. It worked out for Don Dunavin, the owner of the Record Rack used CD and record store in Amarillo, Tx. Dunavin was hanging around a convenience store off of Route 66 on Wednesday evening when he heard that Paul McCartney was in town.
Dunavin called his wife Lori and they headed to the Ambassador Hotel where McCartney was staying on his Route 66 trip with his girl friend Nancy Shevell. Lori brought along their 4-month old son Jude..........

Paul McCartney Route 66 Songs

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Paul McCartney.jpg

2:05 p.m. Aug. 8----
I have some road tune ideas for Paul McCartney's home stretch down Route 66.
But first here's an interesting comment from roadie Carolyn Hasenfratz, who writes: "On the McCartney Years DVD set, in the commentary section, Sir Paul said that his song "Helen Wheels" was intended to be a British version of Route 66. The tune is nothing like it, but the lyrics mention place names in England like Route 66 mentions place names in America. Maybe he's been thinking about doing this for a long time. "Helen Wheels" is from 1973. To read lyrics to "Helen Wheels: go to:

"Helen Wheels" was the name he called his Land Rover, according to legend.
If Sir Paul catches this report, here's my Route 66 Road Mix he might consider (in east to west geographical order):

A Beatle in The Dust Bowl

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12:45 p.m. Aug. 7---
So I woke up around 6:30 a.m. wondering, what if by some minute chance, that really isn't Paul McCartney traveling Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica, Ca. Paul was dead once, too. On deadline I checked all my facts, assembled time sequences and asked hard questions. I e-mailed McCartney's management in New York and the United Kingdom---no response as of yet.
Everything added up and I stand behind my story.
Still, it is a silly concept that in this day and age, Sir Paul would take to America's backroads without any apparent security.
But then he wrote "Silly Love Songs."
I figured a museum staff would work hard to confirm a McCartney sighting...........

Paul McCartney Gets Kicks On Route 66

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7:20 p.m. Aug. 6

The everlasting memory of my 1991 trip down Route 66 was the way I reconnected with the basic goodness of people. I was 36 and maybe something of a hot shot. The summertime trip from Chicago to Santa Monica, Ca. was a refresher course on how to listen to strangers, trust your heart and slow down.
How great is it that Paul McCartney and his girl friend Nancy Shevell are checking out Route 66?
Maybe I'm amazed.
Cultural disconnect has always been a problem with famous artists and songwriters. Rod Stewart was one of my favorites--until he settled in Los Angeles. Jack Kerouac? Maybe he only had one good novel in him anyway. Route 66 is a good way to reclaim your roots. Macca could be working on a song about Henry's Route 66 Rabbit Ranch (Hare it is!) in downstate Staunton............

Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. His collection of Sun-Times travel columns, "Ticket To Everywhere," was published in 2000 by Lake Claremont Press. He was lead writer for "Farm Aid: Song for America" (Rodale Press, 2005) which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Willie Nelson inspired effort.
He won a 1987 Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick O-Type Award for Column Writing. Hoekstra wrote and co-proudced the WTTW-Channel 11 PBS special: "The Staple Singers and the Civil Rights Movement," nominated for a 2001-02 Chicago Emmy for a documentary program/cultural significance.
He lives in Chicago.


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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from August 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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