Local Music-Business Giant Daniel Heilicher Dies at 81

Daniel Heilicher, a central figure in several of Minnesota's biggest contributions to the music industry, died this week. He and his brother Amos started in business in the '30s, distributing and stocking jukeboxes. In 1954 they founded Soma Records and started producing records out of Kay Bank Studios at 2541 Nicollet. Eventually a number of huge hits would come out of the effort, including the Fendermen's "Muleskinner Blues," Dave Dudley's pioneering truck-driving anthem "Six Days on the Road," the Trashmen's "Surfin' Bird," and the Castaways' "Liar, Liar." Those latter two singles were the biggest hits from Minneapolis's golden, mid-'60s era of teenage rock, and their success and devil-may-care energy inspired countless heartland high schoolers to entertain dreams of one-hit-wonderdom.

The Heilicher brothers also founded Musicland, and later merged with Pickwick International to expand their distribution business. They sold Pickwick and Musicland to American Can Co. in 1977. Daniel also invented a computer-based sales-tracking system, a precursor to today's Soundscan. For more on Heilicher and quotes form Amos, see the Star Tribune's obituary.

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