Thanks to an interview that Phil Finkelstein made with Leo Fine in 2004, we have the following information on this great Park musician and businessman.
Leo Fine was born on August 23, 1926 and grew up in North Minneapolis. His first introduction to music was at age 7 – he had a cousin on the burlesque circuit, and when he came to perform at the Gaity Theater in Minneapolis, young Leo and his brother came to see the show. Leo wasn’t interested in the girls but the trumpet, and was hooked. His brother was drawn to the drums, and ended up playing for the Minnesota Orchestra.
Leo played his first gig at age 13 or 14. During World War II he performed at the USO Club in Minneapolis, which was above the State Theater. He went into the Army and played in the Army band.
In 1950 he headed out to New York City to study trumpet. He was hired off the street to the Camel Cigarette Show and traveled with the Tommy Dorsey Band. Life on the road was not for him, however, and he returned to Minnesota. He married in 1955, and moved to St. Louis Park in 1957.
PARK MUSIC CENTER
In April 1966, Fine and his partner Morton Kaufman opened Park Music Center at 7200 Minnetonka Blvd. This was during the heyday of local bands, and many of them got their equipment (and lessons) from Park Music. Jerry Lenz of the band Nickel Revolution has posted an homage to Park Music on his blog. A 1967 ad in the Echo noted that instruction was given by Joel Fingerman, Sally Horak, Terry Reents, and Frank Prout of Gregory Dee and the Avanties.
TEEN CLUB KIBOSHED
In October 1966, Kaufman and Fine proposed opening a club that would be open to kids aged 12 through 16. The two had just opened their music store six months before, and were selling instruments to a lot of local bands. They were looking for more places for their customers to play. Unfortunately, the City Fathers saw this idea as scandalous and the idea was squashed. But the following year, an outsider came in and did just that, creating a club called Hullabaloo Teen Scene, which later became the Purple Cigar. And although this club was located in the Skunk Hollow Industrial Area of the Park, it was still a source of contention, and eventually shut down. There is much more about this experiment in St. Louis Park Rock ‘n’ Roll.
In March 1977 Park Music Center moved to the new Knollwood Village complex, immediately next to Target. It stayed there until 1983. From there the store moved to the Texa-Tonka Shopping Center, where it was called Music Plus.
In addition to running his store, Leo was constantly called on to perform at weddings, bar mitzvahs, and other occasions. He played at stage shows with celebrities who came to town, including Nat “King” Cole, Harry Belafonte, Liberace, Billy Eckstine, and Frank Sinatra, Jr. A notable occasion was Bob Dylan’s daughter’s wedding to St. Louis Park musician Peter Himmelman.
Leo Fine has made great contributions to the musicians of the Twin Cities and to the thousands of people whose weddings and other occasions he has accompanied.
Leo Fine passed away on December 28, 2021, at Sholom Home in St. Louis Park at the age of 95.