May 22, 2009
Would-be Denfeld grad really likes his
By Matthew R. Perrine
Mike Chase isn’t a Denfeld alumnus, but
he came awfully close to achieving that West Duluth badge of honor.
“Never got to finish,” said the class
of 1969 “dropout” and current Kenyon, Minn., resident.
“My dad was the Western Union office manager and he got relocated
to Madison, so the family up and moved to Wisconsin my senior year,
wouldn’t you know it.
“I still come back every year and run Grandma’s
Marathon; this summer will be the 13th time down Highway 61 for
Since leaving the Twin Ports, Chase, a quality-management
professional by day, has amassed quite the record collection.
“I have more than 4,000 song titles on vinyl
or CD,” he beamed, “enough music where we could play
[from] it continuously for several months without ever repeating
And it’s not just ordinary, average, everyday
recordings we’re talking about: Chase specializes in locating
the best rock 'n' roll the Upper Midwest had to offer, acts like
Bobby Vee, the Trashmen, Gypsy and the Fendermen — all the
way down to Duluth’s the Titans and the really obscure. (As
in: He has three copies of a record that was never even officially
“I’ve got some expensive vinyl, I’ve
got some run-of-the-mill vinyl — but it’s all very clean
vinyl,” he said, casually mentioning that the bulk of his
collection is exhaustively catalogued in Excel spreadsheets. “I
think my wife (Lisa) probably thinks I’ve gone way overboard.
“She understands my passion, though. She’s
a collector of Red Wing items, so our standing joke is that the
upstairs floor will probably collapse.”
But he wasn’t always that hardcore.
“I still remember my first record; it was
the first volume of ‘Best of the Beach Boys,’”
Chase said. “… I did have a couple of local 45s I had
purchased over the years, but I didn’t get into it in a big
way until, probably, 15 years ago or so.
“I’ve been collecting as things come
up. I get things off eBay. Some are bargains, some are a little
spendy — but it’s all about getting the collection.”
As if his mammoth stacks weren’t enough
of a tribute to the thousands of artists whose work he has a slice
of, Chase started putting his “black circles” to work
in the form of annual “MN Music Specials.”
“I kept requesting records from this local
request show in Owatonna, but this guy didn’t have any of
those records,” the former Hunter said. “I’d ask
for this or that and he didn’t have it, so finally he said,
‘You got some of those?’ I said, ‘Yes I do.’
‘Wanna come in and do a show?’ I said, ‘Yeah right.’”
But that DJ was serious, and for the better part
of a decade he’s been airing Chase’s regional-music
“Typically what I’ll do is have a
little story to go with it ... describing the topic of the hour
and then, at the end of that, I’ll play a twin-pack of tunes
to support what I just said,” he explained.
His last annual show, aired in May, focused on
the Upper Midwest’s bygone independent labels. Chase brought
up Fargo export Bobby Vee, who got his start on Minneapolis-based
Soma Records before being signed by Liberty.
“Who knows, without getting that Soma start,
who’s to say if they ever would have picked up on him,”
the rock ‘n’ roll historian added.
If you thought his record collection bordered
on obsessive, wait ’til you hear how much a labor of love
these specials really are.
“I put, on average, 50 to 60 hours in per
show,” Chase said. “And it’s a pro bono effort.
I do it as a tribute to the musicians — keeping the music
alive. I don’t gain one penny. In fact, it costs me money
as it turns out.”
In addition to the music, Chase also orchestrates
interviews with key players from the scene(s) he’s fallen
head over heels for. Former guests have included Bobby Vee, the
late Gus Dewey (from the Gestures), famed Twin Cities DJ Johnny
Canton and the Trashmen’s Tony Andreason.
“There’s a pent-up demand for this
stuff,” Chase said, mentioning that he’s very accommodating
of requests during his specials. “During my May 1 show in
Owatonna, there were a number of callers who were less than 30 years
of age. It’s gone generational; the grandchildren of some
of the folks who are now late baby boomers are into these records
... and sometimes it’s the children who have come around and
are tired of the rap crap that goes around on most of the commercial
News to Use
The first Northland edition of former Duluthian Mike Chase’s
“MN Music Special” will air from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday,
May 30, during Jiffy Jeff’s show on WMOZ “The Moose”
(106.9 FM). Bad reception or out of the area? Listen online at www.jiffyjeff.net.