Many of the musicians who brought the Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan to St. Louis Park’s Wolfe Park each summer for years plan to celebrate a particular summer from 50 years ago.
Kevin Odegard, who played with Dylan on his “Blood on the Tracks” album, worked with New Primitives drummer Stan Kipper, who has played with music greats like Chuck Berry and Little Richard, to create a show focused on the Summer of Love in 1967. While the concert Saturday, July 29, will include some Dylan songs, the show will feature a broad array of bands popular that year.
“It was a summer like none before or since, with unforgettable music coming from our radios, TV shows like ‘Shindig’ and ‘Hullabaloo,’ and the 12-string guitars of local bands, jingle-jangling the message of peace and love in a difficult time of unrest,” a statement about the show says.
The Summer of Love Concert celebrates the San Francisco sound, Odegard said.
“We both grew up in Minneapolis playing those great San Francisco bands,” Odegard said of himself and Kipper, who first met at a festival in 1969. “There was never a year like 1967 on the Billboard charts in our lives, anyway.”
Odegard recalled that he had been fired from his first job as a deejay in Princeton that year after playing “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” too many times in an hour.
Bands offered deejays across the country many other songs that year to play.
“We’ve been looking over the charts for months, and we just can’t believe how packed they were with music,” said Odegard.
Kipper added, “There were so many great songs on there it was hard to believe. You had The Turtles on there one minute and then you had Stevie Wonder and Aretha (Franklin) on the same chart. All that music was on the same station if you were in the Midwest. Hard rock. Acid rock and stuff. Instruments. Buffalo Springfield and all that stuff. Jefferson Airplane. It’s a great vibe, man, so we’re trying to bring that vibe back.”
Kipper indicated that such an atmosphere is necessary during a period of division.
“Everybody needs to have a really good time,” Kipper said. “There’s a lot of weird turmoil going on.”
Odegard said, “We’re putting on a happy show. It will be very upbeat – no statements of any kind. Just a night to make everybody smile.”
The organizers are bringing in a choir and a large ukulele club to perform during the show. They will also present a new, 15-minute song called the “Summer of Love Suite.”
Odegard said, “It celebrates joy and happiness and the feeling that music gives you at its very best.”
He had the idea for the new music after reading a memoir by Mark Thomas Odegard, a Vietnam veteran who is not a direct relative.
Odegard, the musician, said he dreamed about the basic structure and content of the “Summer of Love Suite” and wrote an outline the next morning that fictionalized names, dates and locations.
Kipper will sing the part of a soldier modeled after Mark Thomas Odegard’s memoir. Musician Barbara Meyer will sing the part of a girl left behind in Vietnam. Odegard, the concert organizer, will sing the part of a narrator visiting California’s Marin County from Minnesota. The experiences Odegard will sing about include a mix of his actual history going to see Janis Joplin in San Francisco and playing a 12-string acoustic guitar and a fictionalized account that accompanies the song’s story.
“It takes you on a trip, like the magic carpet ride of 1967,” Odegard said of the song.
St. Louis Park resident Marc Percansky, who will serve as master of ceremonies, said of the song, “It’s really amazing. It sums up the whole time period. He’s really worked hard.”
Percansky, who also emceed the Dylan tributes, said the concert is “a whole new show.”
He stressed the concert’s theme.
“Love everybody,” Percansky said. “They want to bring that back. It’s kind of a peace and love thing, but that’s what the country needs today. We’ve got to think positive, and that’s the message that Kevin and Stan want to present.”
Along with the original music, the Summer of Love Concert organizers have about 20 songs planned for the show.
“It’s a greatest hits show,” Kipper said. “A lot of these songs people are going to know.”
He referenced songs by The Birds, Jefferson Airplane, Sonny & Cher, Eric Burdon & The Animals and Dylan.
Percansky said people born after 1967 will still recognize many of the tunes.
“We grew up with this music,” he said. “It’s ingrained in our heads. Anyone who’s a music lover knows these songs. The new stuff sounds like you’ve heard it before. It’s that good. It feels like you’ve known it. It’s hard to present new music to a crowd, but they’re going to pull it off.”
About half of the performers have participated in the Dylan tributes, Percansky said.
Among other musicians, Odegard’s fellow “Blood on the Tracks” performer Peter Ostroushko plans to return to Wolfe Park for the concert. Ostroushko has appeared multiple times on “A Prairie Home Companion.”
In honor of longtime Dylan tribute guitarist Lonnie Knight, who died in May, the concert will include a rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
Like the past Dylan salutes, Guitars for Vets will participate in the concert. The Milwaukee-based nonprofit helps veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder by providing them with guitars and programming. The nonprofit’s official band, Kharma Shotgun, will open the concert.
Organizers anticipate surprise guest musicians will also participate.
St. Louis Park’s impact
The event will also honor St. Louis Park, the city that provided a space for the Dylan tributes for years, Odegard said.
Although he no longer resides in St. Louis Park, Odegard credited the city with helping him get his life back on track.
Odegard wrote in an email, “I landed, stranded in St. Louis Park in 2006, broke and divorced, living in a series of halfway houses after losing everything but my bicycle. The friendly people and environment of St Louis Park fostered my turnaround. I found a job working with developmentally disabled adults in Eden Prairie and rode there every day on my bike from St Louis Park, rain or shine.”
He discovered Wolfe Park’s amphitheater during a late summer walk.
“I heard the faint sounds of live music, and followed it, finding the Wolfe Park Amphitheater with a few listeners scattered about on the concrete benches,” Odegard wrote. “On stage I recognized Greg Andersen, the gifted pianist I had written a song with on my first album. As I looked around I felt a new sense of discovery and wonder coming over me. My new life had begun to spring back from the ruins of too many yesterdays right there in Wolfe Park.
“I imagined the park filled with happy families as mine had once been, and wondered silently if I could ever pick up a guitar and play again, maybe even in a beautiful setting such as this, surrounded by lush greenery and trees.”
He and Kipper, with whom Odegard had worked in Los Angeles and Minnesota over the decades, brought Blood on the Tracks Live to the amphitheater in 2009 “before a capacity crowd of happy families,” Odegard wrote.
“SLP Parks and Recreation Director Rick Birno had taken a chance on me and won,” Odegard wrote. “My fortunes were improving, and by September I was married to Susan Casey and living the happy life I thought I’d lost forever. Susan’s warmth and hospitality brought many old musical friends back into my life. I was my old, old self again; the one who jammed with Stan and played free concerts for the joy of music alone. Thank you St Louis Park. Thank you Stan Kipper. I love you Susan Casey.”
As for the upcoming concert, Kipper said, “If you aren’t in love with someone, that would be a great time to fall in love. It’ll be a great night.”
The concert will be 6:30 p.m. Saturday, July 29, in Wolfe Park, 3700 Monterey Drive in St. Louis Park. There is no cost to attend. In the event of rain, the event will move from the amphitheater to the new Recreation Outdoor Center, or The ROC, in the northwest corner of the park.