Jerry and Ann at the Mad Ripple Hootenanny, August 22, 2014. (Photo by John Soshnik.)
Jerry and Ann at the Mad Ripple Hootenanny, August 22, 2014. (Photo by John Soshnik.)

The Mad Ripple Hootenanny This Week

June 17, 2015

Dear Good People,

I’m starting work on what I hope will be a forthcoming (next year) collection of my music columns, reviews, essays, and liner notes, with the working titles of Ancient Celtic Banshee Wail and/or Bar Yarns and Manic Depressive Mix Tapes: Jim Walsh on Music and Life, from Minneapolis to the Outer Limits, and I wanted to share what I wrote for the (very rough) introduction the other night.

* * *

I can still see our driveway’s backboard and hoop, the one I used to stare out at from my big brother Jay’s bedroom window in South Minneapolis as I lay there and first fell in love with the unholy act of listening to music alone in the dark. It was the early ‘70s. He had the best stereo and all the good records, and as I plowed through my favorites and dreamed my dreams, I fixed on the dormant net beckoning under the Colfax Avenue alley streetlight like it was a lighthouse to return to as I made my tune travels, happily playing deejay to myself and learning how good it could feel to go so deep with listening.

I started keeping a journal around the same time, 6th grade I suppose, and now that I think of it I’ve been practicing the art of writing to the sound of music in my ears for almost 50 years, much like my father and uncle, both writers and photographers in their day, did before me and here it must be said that the roots of this book are in the love story that happened between my sunny-and-smart Irish-American parents, Ann and Jerry Walsh, who met at the Prom ballroom in St. Paul and who danced to the optimistic post-war big band sounds of the day to the tune of six kids and many, many stories.

I get it from them, as they say; the “it” in my case being the gift of writing from a hopeful heart and a manic-depressive music-loving head and soul. Those two beautiful people planted the creative seed in me, and I’ve intended to honor their love story with my work and life, and even though I’ve fallen short of emulating their perfectly instructive marriage, I am their son and all the words and songs I’ve ever been touched by in some fashion begin and end with them.

I dedicate this book to them, and to you, whoever finds this, wherever and whenever you are, thank you for reading and please consider this an invitation to my heart, that big one pumping hard here on my sleeve. I am the most romantic person I’ve ever come across – about life in general, and about my hometown and its music and people – and I aim for this collection to stand as something of a love letter to my family and all the musicians who it often feels like I was born to write about; like it was dumb luck or destiny that I landed here at this time and place to chronicle what went down in the most elemental definition of the word scribe: I was here when all this amazing music happened in this little prairie town, and, for a few decades and with no end in sight, I wrote it all down as fast and as well as I could.

But before I did, so did my dad. Dig this, from my 18-year-old father writing in his “High School Huddle” column in the 1945 Minneapolis Daily Times, where for just one year he wrote about music and high school life:

“Today the teenagers go mad over boogie riffs and bases and their parents sit back and say, ‘Oh, it’s just a fad. It will vanish in a couple of years.’ But will it? Those who attended the Hazel Scott concert at the auditorium will remember sitting patiently and politely while Miss Scott played some of the classics. Then, in the second part of the program, as she started playing the famous New Orleans walking bass, the crowd gave one joyous moan and from then on the joint was jumpin’.

“Who were these people who went crazy over Miss Scott’s bass rhythms? Was it just another gang of bobby soxers? NO! It was some of their parents, the people who said they didn’t like boogie.

“What I’m trying to say is that when little Johnny Jones comes home from a hard day at school and sits down to listen to some hot trumpet solos, or deep-throated piano rhythms, his mother should leave him be, even if he does play the same record 392 times. Little Johnny is just in one of his musical moods. So in due respect to parents, we ask them to please let us have our jam sessions, record sessions and music magazines in peace.”


That’s all I for now; gotta write. See ya at the Hoot Thursday (6/18)…



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