In the summer, in Wisconsin, everyone goes up north.
Up north, to cottages that sit under tall pines along the lake.
We sat outside our friends’ cottage near Phillips, Wisconsin, after sunset Wednesday night, the tunes wafting softly from an oldies CD they’d popped in. It sounded a little like FM sound waves originally transmitted in June 1975 had finally arrived at their destination.
That kind of vibe is going around Phillips these days. We read in the Phillips Bee that the rock ‘n’ roll heard there in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s will be heard again next week. Guys who played in local bands back then are reuniting for what they’re calling the “Mid-Life Crisis Tour,” a benefit for the high school’s alumni association.
Just one of their stories: Dale Houdek was a long-haired college freshman when he joined Bridge, a local band, in 1966 or 1967. Bridge was to have played a gig at Phillips High School. However, the principal didn’t like Houdek’s long hair. He wouldn’t get it cut, so Bridge was banned from the school. These days, Houdek is the principal at Phillips Elementary School.
Sounds a little like Pat McDonald. You may remember him from Timbuk 3, the husband-and-wife duo that did “The Future’s So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades)” in 1986. He’s one of our locals. Pat got kicked out of Green Bay West High School in 1969 for having long hair. His parents sued the school board and won. (A great story recounted here.)
Which brings us to Larry O, our host at the cottage. Like Pat McDonald, he’s spent lots of time around Door County, another corner of up north in Wisconsin. As we drove up, Larry popped in a CD. It sounded a little like the Byrds, a little like Neil Young, a little like America, a little like CSN&Y. The band’s name: Dead Miners Union.
Turns out Larry O was in Dead Miners Union when it played gigs around Door County in the early ’90s. These days, one of Larry’s old bandmates has taken the name to Arizona, formed a new band and continues to record as Dead Miners Union.
Larry O encouraged me to check ’em out, so I did. Perfect for a summer night up north. Listen to a couple of cuts, then go get the album for yourself if you’re so inclined.
“‘tion” and “You Don’t Know,” Dead Miners Union, from “Ahem,” 2008. (Follow the album link, then click on “albums” to go get it.)