RIP Charley Hallman, co-founder of Twin/Tone Records


On June 11, Charley Hallman died from cancer at 71. He lived many parallel lives: noted sportswriter for the Pioneer Press, veteran, rock critic, and co-founder of Twin/Tone Records. The tremendous fan of local music had four sons: John, Graham, James  and Christian, who died in 2011.

While his name might be most associated with sports reporting (which is covered in-depth here), make no mistake: Hallman made a profound impact on the Twin Cities music scene of the late-'70s and '80s. In January 1978, along with producer Paul Stark and Longhorn DJ/Oarfolkjokeapus manager Peter Jesperson, he helped launched Twin/Tone Records, the label that would define the Golden Age of Minneapolis rock 'n' roll. Hillman’s role wasn’t the most glamorous; he was there for a love of the music and financial support. Each of the three partners had a band they championed. For Stark it was the Suburbs; for Jesperson it was the Replacements; and for Hallman, it was the Pistons.

The Pistons did not enjoy a long and storied career, and their debut album, Flight 581, is the only one Hallman produced. It sold 376 copies. Still, his enthusiasm for that band helped to push the the Twin/Tone forward. In the September 21 issue of the Twin Cities Reader critic DL Mabery covered three Twin/Tone releases: The Suburbs’ Credit in Heaven, Replacements' Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take out the Trash, and the aforementioned Pistons record, to which Mabery said, "Flight 581 is the most diversified and universally appealing of the three Twin Tone releases. It's devoid of the pretense of "serious" music, and cleaner in audio reproduction than the sonic head-banging of the angry young men.” And in a rather weird premonition, the review ended with, “The Pistons may not make Christgau's Best Of List . And they may not be remembered ten years on down the line, but the Pistons' Flight 581 can provide an earphone soundtrack for draggin' Hennepin Avenue on a Friday night.”

You have to admit that’s not a bad argument; the simple love of a sound doing something just because it’s what you wanted to hear. According to his son Graham Hallman, his father's favorite Twin Tone records were Credit in Heaven, Sorry Ma, and Flight 581. Said Graham: "He once remarked that Paul put out the masterpiece, Peter the great punk record and band with the most potential, and for himself, the Pistons - they were the closet thing to old-school rock 'n' roll and British Invasion rock." 

Three men, three distinct visions, one wobbly umbrella for them all.

Originally Twin/Tone was to be a partnership between Hallman, Stark and Suicide Commando Chris Osgood, who decided to bow out after signing his band to Phongram imprint Blank Records. He then suggested Jespersen to take his place. Osgood was also the person who introduced Hallman to Stark. As Osgood explains: “It is funny how the world works. How could a well-respected sports writer from the St. Paul Pioneer Press become an ardent Commando fan and want to start a record label to help us put out our music? By a quirk of fate, he did want to do that and the result was Twin/Tone Records, and the rest is history. Charley, chain-smoking his Camel straights and dishing out his wry sense of humor and unbridled enthusiasm in equal measures, changed the world. Just like that!”

We all live many lives, and it’s a true gift to be able to make an impact, even a small one, in any. Charley Hallman was more than just a guy who helped launch a record label and he was more than a sports writer. He was a friend and a booster that encouraged the people around him. Not just a fan but a genuine supporter for whatever he was passionate about, be it hockey or the Beach Boys or, most importantly, his family.

Services for Hallman will be held in late June or early July and will be handled by Washburn-McReavy Funeral Home, according to his family.