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Mullet River Boys Bring the '20s to Spearfish

Mullet River Boys

The music of the Mullet River Boys harkens back to the fiddle and jug bands of the 1920s. The Minnesota-based band is led by Jack Norton who plays banjo, ukulele, guitar, trumpet and harmonica. The Mullet River Boys also mix in washtub bass, washboards, kazoos, slide whistles, tuned bicycle horns and more - all with the goal of corrupting audiences with pleasure.

Although only in his mid-20s, Norton grew up listening to the records of his great-grandfather, who was a vaudeville performer. The old 78s included songs by Al Jolson, Rudy Vallee and Bing Crosby. As a kid growing up in south Minneapolis, his neighbor was Tiny Tim whose act included playing the ukulele and singing old songs like "Tip-Toe Through the Tulips." While Norton was in elementary school, another artist specializing in music from the early 2oth-century, Leon Redbone, showed him how to play ragtime jazz on the guitar.

Jack Norton joined Dakota Midday and discussed his band's music and some of his more contemporary music pursuits, including his children's group, the Zinghoppers.

The Mullet River Boys perform at the Matthews Opera House in Spearfish on Friday evenings. The Zinghoppers present a children's concert Saturday morning. For details click here.

Karl was born to northeastern South Dakota crouton farmers, but was orphaned as a toddler during the Great Salad War (1966-67). Rescued by a flock of chickadees, he grew up in the woodlands of Sica Hollow. Legends of a bird boy living in the trees attracted the interest of renowned ornithologist and amateur bandoneon repairman Dr. Vogel Gehrke. With a handful of suet, Dr. Gehrke coaxed the timid boy down from the trees. He adopted him, named him Karl and taught him not to molt on the carpet. Dr. Gehrke’s book, The Bird Boy of Sica Hollow, was a best seller and Karl became a minor celebrity and teen idol. He appeared as a guest star on numerous television programs, most notably an awkward role on The Love Boat as the boyfriend of Captain Stubing’s daughter, Vicki. After critics panned his 1980 album, Bird Boy Does Disco, Karl retreated from public life and returned to Sica Hollow. Living in an isolated tree house, Karl achieved a reputation as a mystic. Pilgrims and seekers from around the world came to ask him about the meaning of life and for vinaigrette recipes. Growing tired of answering questions, he climbed down from his tree, shaved his massive white beard and took a job as the host of SDPB Radio’s Dakota Midday where he could ask the questions instead. After three years in that position, he ran out of questions and became host of Jazz Nightly instead. Karl makes his home in Vermillion with his charming wife Kari and three delightful children, Kodey, Kasey and Spatula. His hobbies include reciting the alphabet, combing his hair and doing volunteer work with delinquent songbirds.
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