ROCK ‘N’ ROLL IN THE PARK

By Jeanne Andersen, From the Re-Echo, Fall 2003

The 1960s saw a proliferation of local bands in the Minneapolis area, and St. Louis Park was definitely part of the action. Prominent Park musician David Rivkin played in several bands, including the Chancellors and Stillroven. He was also a member of the High Spirits, which had five members from the Park. (Rivkin’s brother, known as Bobby Z, was Prince’s drummer in the eighties.)

One of the biggest rock ‘n’ roll events took place in the Park on Halloween night, 1963. WDGY DJ Bill Diehl promoted a dance at the Roller Rink featuring the Trashmen. The Trashmen were a tremendously popular surf band and would soon release the national hit “Surfin’ Bird.” They were one of the top bands in the area, and when word got out that they were playing at the Roller Rink, 2,100 kids showed. The enthusiastic crowd shattered the building’s glass front, and the police had to be called to control the crowd. Even at $2 a head, the promoters made buckets of money. It was an unforgettable night.

The Beatles came to Minneapolis in 1965, and St. Louis Park’s Westside VW dealership had a part of the ensuing Beatlemania. The dealership had a spinning Volkswagen bus on top of its building, and the owner, Archie Walker, decided that the bus should have a Beatle wig. The task was given to Hoigaard’s, which made the oversize wig out of dyed mop heads. St. Louis Park had its own mop top.

Elvis came to town in 1956, and (almost) nobody showed up. Mother’s Day, a tornado watch, and probably the fishing opener were to blame. Similarly, the Rolling Stones played Danceland at Excelsior Amusement Park in 1964, and the crowd was sparse and unimpressed, to the point where items from the farmer’s market were hurled at the surly Brits.

Twin Cities teens were fiercely loyal to their hometown bands, but national acts apparently left them cold, at least in that era.

Thanks for Bill Diehl for sharing his memories. See Twin Cities Music Highlights for much more on this topic.