Minnesota's Fifty Greatest Hits

The greatest Minnesota-made records of all time

Kico Rangel Band
featuring the Rangel Sisters

Ábrete Sésamo
fromChris Kalogerson Plays Greek and Latin Favorites, Panaural Hi-fi Records, 1953; also available on Música de la Raza: Mexican and Chicano Music in Minnesota, Minnesota Historical Society, 1999
The Rangel Sisters' breakthrough in the 1940s was much quieter than that of the Andrews Sisters, another set of Minnesotan daughters of immigrants. But the Rangels' influence was deep. Encouraged by parents who helped establish Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and the Cinco de Mayo festival in St. Paul, the five girls and the various bands they worked with embraced a range of Latin music, not just the Mexican folk songs taught at home on the West Side Flats, but also the tropical music still plied today by brother Kico Rangel. By the time saxophonist Kico led the Rangel orchestra heard on this rare early-'50s track, mambo was the thing, and "Ábrete Sésamo"jumps out of its context like a hot pepper in a green-bean casserole. The title translates as "open sesame," but the boogie-woogie bottom would kick down any door, regardless. --Peter S. Scholtes

 

The Augie Garcia Quintet
Hi Yo Silver
North Star single, 1955
Augie Garcia came from St. Paul's West Side and formed a quintet with some old neighborhood buddies in the early '50s. The band became a fixture at the old River Road Club, located under the bridge in Mendota. For years Garcia and company played a combination of blues and R&B, eventually adopting a Fats Domino-inspired beat ("a shuffle," as Garcia called it) that largely introduced rock 'n' roll to the Twin Cities area. "Hi Yo Silver" is just one wallopin' song of the four sax-driven singles the quintet released between 1955 and '58. Collectors and fans of the state's early rock 'n' roll scene consider Garcia (an ironworker by trade who always performed in signature Bermudas) "The Godfather of Minnesota Rock." --Ron Thums

 

Dave Dudley
Six Days on the Road
Golden Ring single, 1963
Dave Dudley hailed from Spencer, Wisconsin, but we can sort of claim him, too. After working as a DJ and musician in Texas, Idaho, and elsewhere, Dudley set up shop in Minneapolis, where he formed the Country Gentlemen and, at Kay Bank Studio in 1963, came up with the quintessential truckers' anthem. Though it sounds like the work of men on a mission, "Six Days on the Road" was actually recorded as an afterthought. Dudley and the band wound up with some extra time at the session and decided to try a demo Dudley had of a tune by Earl Green and Carl Montgomery. Spurred on by Jimmy Colvard's ornery twang guitar, Dudley used his great disc jockey bass to revel in the final leg of a long haul down the endless black ribbon. "I'm taking little white pills and my eyes are open wide," he sings, and "I don't see a cop in sight," but of course he's no decadent joy rider, just a workingman with a modest outlaw streak and a hunger to see his lady. Dudley was signed later in '63 by Mercury Records, for whom he recut "Six Days"; the Mercury version, also very good, is the one typically anthologized. The next time you're motoring down 94 on your way back to this little truck stop, put on a tape (it must be a tape) of Dudley's classic and sing along with feeling: "My hometown's coming in sight/If you think I'm happy, you're right!" --Dylan Hicks

 

The Trashmen
Surfin' Bird
Garrett single, 1963
The only thing more punk rock than their name was Tom Andreason's lead vocals, a model of elevated obnoxiousness that surely inspired Jello Biafra. A completely irreverent amalgamation of late-period doo-woppers the Rivington's "Papa-Oom- Mow-Mow" and "The Bird's the Word," the Trashmen's pièce de résistance went to #4 on Billboard in late '63, selling over a million copies and filling as many Midwestern teenagers with dreams of pop stardom, however fleeting. The group reached #30 with the follow-up "Bird Dance Beat," but already their bird had flown. --Dylan Hicks

 

Koerner, Ray & Glover
What's the Matter with the Mill
from [Lots More] Blues, Rags and Hollers, Elektra, 1964
White college kids with chops galore singing, it almost seemed, in blackface, not for laughs or money but out of wide-eyed reverence, in the process helping revive the careers of some of the original practitioners and setting in motion the blues-rock boom just around the corner. Harpist Tony Glover is particularly strong on this ribald Memphis Minnie tune. His harmonica really does sound, as John Koerner put it, like "a nasty bug about to bite someone." --Dylan Hicks

 

The Novas
The Crusher
Parrot single, 1964
High school kids from Edina try to start a new dance--by force. In the process they make history's greatest wrestling-rock record, though NRBQ and Lou Albano's "Captain Lou" later comes awfully close. Made with three chords and duct tape, the song is a tribute to Wisconsin grappler Reggie "The Crusher" Lisowski, who had recently defeated Verne Gagne to become the American Wrestling Association world's heavyweight champion. What you get, then, is a surf-guitar band featuring a teenager impressively suppressing laughter while roaring like the ring's toughest tough--maybe something like the Beach Boys fronted by Murray Wilson in a foul mood. Do the hammerlock, you turkeynecks! --Dylan Hicks

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