20th Century, Americana, Folk, History, music, Uncategorized

Bob Dylan before his First Album

Bob Dylan Music as a Child. ca. 1953-57. Fizz.net

1961
Hibbing’s Bob Dylan, once a play-for-free minstrel at bars around the University of Minnesota, releases his first album. He takes folk into rock and rock into politics, and becomes a legend of American music. Born Robert Zimmerman, he assumes a new name that pays homage to Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. *

So many words have been spilt attempting to uncover the mystery of Bob Dylan. As an historian of Minnesota, I don’t want to play musicologist, but rather focus on a few early relational aspects of his youth that may have contributed to his character which may have contributed to his epic impact on the 20th century.

Louie Kemp began his friendship with Bob at Herzl Camp near Webster, Wisconsin during their preteen years. To his recollection, he witnessed Zimmerman’s first concert at camp in 1954 as an 11year old. The boys hung out in their teen years around Duluth, Minnesota where Kemp grew up. Dylan played around the U of M when Kemp when in attendance there. He likened their adventures to “a modern-day Jewish version of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.” **

Out of respect, let us allow Mr. Dylan to tell his own story of his Minnesota roots.

“My brains and feelings have come from there… The earth there is unusual, filled with ore,” Dylan said in a 1978 Playboy interview. “There’s a magnetic attraction there: maybe thousands of years ago some planet bumped into the land there. There is a great spiritual quality throughout the Midwest. Very subtle, very strong, and that is where I grew up.” ***

Now we turn to You, Adonai, and listen to Your music. You spoke and created. Did the music of Your voice assemble the matter of this universe? Only You know. Yet we remember, today, the place that writing and music has in Your heart! May we sit with You and watch this moment, Eternal Father? May we listen with You to this exciting beginning when You laid the foundation for Bob Dylan’s artistic release?

We remember first the importance of Herzl Camp. A place with the stated goal of the formation of lifelong Jewish friendships. We remember another after Your heart, David, who bound himself to Jonathan “in close friendship”. (I Samuel 18:1-5) We remember this place and thank You for its contribution in bringing root friendships into the lives of many. Will You bless and keep it in perpetuity?

Next, we thank You that friends give us the place to become. When we are safe, when we are accepted, we begin to believe that we have a self worth knowing. What a treasure You put into us; the longing to know and be known! We praise You that these boys, Louie and Bob, could experience this kind of brotherhood.

Additionally, we thank You for the importance of place and context to Your people and Your Kingdom. You made the tabernacle a place to intersect with Your Presence. You rescued Israel from the famine and placed them under Joseph in Goshen. You gave Your nation Canaan and established Jerusalem. And You gave Bob Dylan the context of Hibbing?!

Yet, in Your economy of purpose, it all makes sense; Hibbing is a place of great contrasts. It’s surrounded by silence and the noise of the largest iron mine on earth. It’s both “Anysmalltown, USA” and significant to the world. Maybe it’s like the writing of Dylan: compact, expansive, verbose, but not over-baked in its turns of phrase? Perhaps it’s like Your storytelling: only honesty, robust, mysterious, prophetic, and believable?

In any case, we remember and applaud this memory of Mr Dylan’s first record to You. We thank You of the inheritance and richness brought to Northern Minnesota through the Jews of Lithuania and all Eastern Europe. We commend You for seeing the talent of an 11 year old, in the middle of the woods, next to the largest open pit mine, in the center of a continent.

We thank You that this young poet participated in many of the most significant events of the next decade, but did not lose his identity. For some reason, Dylan could explore subjects that were misconstrued as political, but not yield to the generational political pressures of the Greenwich folk movement or the hippies. Similarly, though critics tried to place him in a religious box, he always seemed to know the secret of the Messiah; faith is an internal freedom and a permanent hat tip to the Eternal One.

Will You forgive the misbeliefs, unbeliefs, and offenses against You through the folk movement of this era? Will You commend the honest questions of this generation, and bring the inward as well as external peace they sought? Only the Messiah can radiate and impart such healing to our stumbling and prideful race because You know our brokenness, yet still CHOOSE to love us.

Will You speak words of life to this generation and the next and the next as You did through Bob? Will You bring chesed through the music of Minnesota?

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.” ****

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20th Century, Americana, History, Uncategorized

Casey Jones on the Air

Roger Awsumb a.k.a. Casey Jones, lunchwithcasey.com

1954 to 1972

Lunch with Casey Jones (Roger Awsumb) becomes a noontime tradition for Twin Cities youngsters—and later for their children. 

Casey and his cast of regulars—including Joe the Cook, Roundhouse Rodney, Carmen the Nurse, and Clancy the Cop—will entertain kids with skits, songs, guests, and cartoons until 1972.” * 

Maybe the first thing you notice about Casey Jones is his big, resonant, but always friendly voice. Roger’s interests began with a love of radio. (Strike that, he was known to be an entertainer as a kid during the Depression making shows and programs with and for his neighborhood friends.) He began in “show business” as an announcer on WBOM at Macalester College of Saint Paul, Minnesota about 1948, and went on to become the station’s program director and manager. ** 

From there, he branched out into the exciting new world (then) of television: first at WCCO as a floor director, and then at WMIN in 1953 also as “floor man” and announcer. He got wind that the station was hunting for talent for kids programming. Hearkening back to childhood neighborhood shows, he pitched the idea for “Lunch with Casey”; inviting boys and girls to “join him for lunch, skits, songs and cartoons.” ***

Always one to include others, both on and off the air, some of Casey Jones TV friends were real life buddies of Awsumb’s. The first character of import to join the host, “Joe the Cook”, was played by Chris Wedes. Wedes also graduated from Macalester, and went on host his own shows: “Cartoon Carnival” and later J.P.Patches. This real life friendship and natural chemistry fueled the careers of both men. **** 

Similarly, the show would not be the same without the physical gags and antics of Lynn Dwyer a.k.a. “Roundhouse Rodney”. This manic and fun character, physically fit from years as a professional skater in the Ice Capades, often played the comic to Jones role as the “straight man”. Rodney would not back down from a challenge, and the breadth of his side character’s prooves it playing: Lippy Lois, Jimmy Durante, Grandma Lumpit, and comical spoofs of Superman and Tarzan. ***

To personalize the impact of “Lunch with Casey”, I rarely missed an opportunity to watch as a child. Sometimes, I would even be allowed to eat my lunch in front of the TV!? (in those days, this was a “privilege” and not a “right”.) I think I could feel the heart of Roger Awsumb to provide local Minnesota kids with an opportunity to learn something, laugh with someone, and sing-long with a kind grown-up who cared.

So, we turn to You, and remember the impact of this moment in Minnesota’s history. We start with acknowledging that You, first and foremost, model this heart of fathering and joy! You invite us each day into discovery and adventure, and look forward to meeting with us each day! You are a generous friend who gladly introduces us to others, and enlarges the circle of our relationships! Blessed are You, O Lord our G-d, King of the Universe!

Roger Awsumb was a reflection of this aspect of Your heart. Through his life, You molded into him the desire to be a loyal friend, connect with others, and bring joy to the world. We commend these moments to You; both the advent of kids television, and “Lunch with Casey Jones”.

We thank You that people like him envisioned using the new medium for the benefit of our young. We thank You that he had already caught Your wisdom that an ordinary day in an ordinary job can be an adventure if one looks for it! We thank You that Roger modeled friendship, both on and off the screen, and his genuine enthusiasm for others was contagious. We thank You for the years he actually worked shoveling coal in a rail yard as a teen. *** Somehow, he learned that hard work can be a lot of fun! 

Will You honor the way this man, and the pioneers at WCIM, (now KARE 11) extended right relationship to kids through TV? Will You bless their portrayal of the importance of meeting with kids daily, and somehow making that sack lunch into a feast? We ask that You bless the future of Children’s programming in Minnesota. We ask that You perpetuate in our actors, directors, storytellers, TV  networks the soul-deep revelations of Casey Jones: our children know what we believe by our daily habits, by sharing our lunch with them, by singing and laughing with them, and by showing them what friendship looks like! 

“As oil and fragrances give joy to the heart, so is he that is sweet to his neighbor in the counsel of his soul.” Proverbs 27:9 Aramaic Bible *****

* P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm 

The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!

** http://www.pavekmuseum.org/Awsumb.htm

*** http://lunchwithcasey.com/main/about-casey-jones/

**** https://jppatches.com

***** https://www.biblehub.com/proverbs/27-9.htm

****** Listen to one “I Love Onions”; one of the songs made famous through this show?

******* The “Happy Birthday Song” was a staple of this show. Listen and hear the fun! 

Roger Awsumb, lunchwithcasey.com
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