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An Interview with Minnesota's The Boss Tweads!
By Mike Dugo, 60sGarageBands
(more articles from this author)
2001-03-19
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Best known for "Goin' Away," the Boss Tweads--35 years later--are back and, hopefully, here to stay! Original Tweads Paul Larson, Sheldon (Shelly) Severson, Tim Hofstad, and Gene Miller shared recollections of their teen garage band with The Lance Monthly. Like many other great local bands of the '60s, the Boss Tweads have reunited and have plans to once again write and record in 2001. With a little luck, we'll be hearing more from the Boss Tweads throughout the year.

[Lance Monthly] How did you first become interested in music?

[Paul Larson] (By) seeing the bands that came into the Madison, Minnesota Armory, City Hall, and other venues around Madison. [I] started by seeing local garage bands from Appleton--[a] band called the Vangards--and from Ortonville--the El Camino's. From that experience, I bought a bass guitar and took lessons from the owner of the music store. Then [by] hearing the touring bands that would be announced on KOMA in Oklahoma City: The Flippers, The Red Dogs, The Blue Things, and local Minneapolis talent such as the Underbeats, T.C. Atlantic, Stillroven, and the Marvelous Mauraders out of the Canby and Marshall, Minnesota areas. To make a long story short, it was the emergence of all these bands; it was cool to attend these dances and [it] was the thing to do as a teenager in the 1960's. Dances were very popular with live music in those days.

[Shelly Severson] My Dad played a bit of guitar . . . mostly country western. He had a lot of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers music books [and] I spent a lot of time singing the songs in them and watching Gene Autry and Roy on the tube. This would have been about 1955 and TV was not too old then! I was five years old.

[Tim Hofstad] As a child, my mother, a church organist, (started) my interest. [She] taught me [the] piano, [which] led to my interest.

[Gene Miller] When I was about 12 years old, I received a flat top, brass string guitar from my parents for Christmas. I loved it. I took two lessons from a lady in town then struck out on my own. I mastered three chords and played stuff like "Michael Row" and other folksy stuff. A year later, I talked my parents into buying me a Sears Silvertone electric guitar with a combination case and amp in one. You took the guitar out, stood the case up on end, plugged your guitar in and you were ready to ROCK!! After Shelly, Stan, Brian Schweer and I moved our singing interest from the high school chorus room to Shelly's bedroom over the B&B Cafe, I quit high school band and traded my trombone in for my first real guitar - a Fender Telecaster!!!

[LM] So you all had some musical experience prior to joining the Boss Tweads?

[Paul] I was involved with a local band in Madison, Minnesota made up of friends from Madison. We practiced in my basement and played for a few dances but were not able to stay together. Next I was asked to be the bass player for the Cavaliers in Appleton, and that also lasted for a short time. We did play a few dances and on top of swimming pools, etc. Then the Boss Tweads came calling. They had been together for some time and asked me to play bass for them. I played for the Boss Tweads from 1966 until 1968. The Boss Tweads were the best band I had been associated with. Gene, Shelly, Tim, and Stanley were a tight bunch and had some good musical presence and knowledge.

[LM] What can you tell me about the Madison band?

[Paul] My local band in Madison was called a couple of names, and if my memory serves me correct, Estrons was [one of them]. We played for a very short time. We probably started practicing in 1964 and played in 1965 and maybe into 1966. We were not very good but had a great time. I was the only one who went on, next with the Cavaliers and then onto the Boss Tweads. I was familiar with the Boss Tweads and heard them play in person and was very impressed. I did not talk with them and when [I was] asked to come over to one of their practices, [I] was very excited. Our bands never played with each other, and did not cross paths.

[Shelly] I took piano and guitar lessons and played in the school band in about the 4th grade. Then things got better because Gene Miller, my kindergarten friend, and I would sing in music classes together and eventually in choir and glee club in high school. Somewhere around 6th grade we decided we had to be in a band.

[Tim] [I performed in the] church choir.

[Gene] Singing in a high school boys quintet with Shelly, Brian, Stan, another guy I can't remember and myself. We wowed the Junior High crowds in the cafeteria sock hops with stuff like "Talkin' To The Angels in The Sky" and "Mostly Martha!" There was something about harmonizing with other voices that was very satisfying and intriguing to me at that time.

[LM] Please tell me the complete name's of the individual members of the Boss Tweads. Which instruments did each play?

[Paul] Gene Miller played rhythm guitar; Shelly Severson, lead guitar; Tim Hofstad, drums; Stanley Berg, Keyboards; and I played bass.

[Gene] Brian Schweer [originally played] bass guitar and vocals. Brian was later replaced by Paul Larso (it was a parent thing that was out of Brian's control). We originally didn't have a drummer until we found Tim Hofstad in Montevideo. We were ready to rehearse!!

[LM] Where did the band typically practice and play?

[Tim] [We practiced at] Gene's dad's workshop and the local theater. [We played in] South Central and Western Minnesota, and South Dakota.

[Shelly] [We practiced] at our houses until we would get kicked out for being too loud. [We also played] at the radio station in Montevideo, Minnesota, KDMA. And then at the movie theater in downtown Monte. I think it was the Hollywood Theater. We Played at Battle of the Bands, at high school dances and Proms, in armories, at swimming pools, and in talent shows.

[Gene] For those first few formative months we practiced in my dad's heated workshop. I would spend some time sweeping the place up and the boys would come over and we would practice . . . sometimes all day. I believe our first official "gig" was at a pool party held at the Clarkfield Municipal Pool and sponsored by the Luther League! We went over like gangbusters! We were all hooked at that point.

[Paul] To my knowledge, the only place[s] the Tweads practiced was at the B & B Cafe owned by Shelly's parents; Gene Miller's garage in Clarkfield, Minnesota; and the Hollywood Theatre in Montevideo, Minnesota. We did practice in the Willmar Auditorium leading up to the Battle of The Bands in Montevideo, maybe our last performance. Venues we played involved numerous school dances, such as homecoming, proms and special dances like Valentines, etc. [We] also played some dances at venues like National Guard armories, City Halls, and some dance halls located in Minnesota. Playing at a girls reformatory in Sauk Center, Minnesota was a different gig. We also played at an outdoor movie theatre in Montevideo many times with other bands before the movies started. That was a blast. [And we] played KCMT-TV in Alexandria, Minnesota during a show called "Welcome Inn."

[LM] What do you recall about the 'Welcome Inn' appearance?

[Paul] Teenagers going to Alexandria with no parents and our equipment to appear on Local TV. Remember . . . we only had three TV stations in the Clarkfield, Montevideo and Madison areas. We had a captive audience, and the local people back home really got a kick out of that. This was before cable TV and 60 stations. We were so excited we stayed overnight in a downtown hotel and had quite a night. We were very excited about playing on TV . . . too excited to go home.

[Shelly] It was a lot of fun and [we] got to meet the TV stars (local stars, that is). The sound in the TV station was terrible and I was disappointed. Also, those cold winter nights in old Alexandria, Minnesota froze the finish on my Gibson guitar. I had left it out in the trailer [that] we rented to carry our gear.

[Gene] Being scared stiff comes to mind. We actually got to meet Glen Flint, a local TV legend at the time! We came, we set our stuff up, we played, we acknowledged the applause of the six technicians and Shelly's mom in the studio, we tore down and we left thinking we were the greatest thing to hit central Minnesota since . . . Frankie Yankovic! It was fun! We then returned to our family and friends who gave us the "boy...ya...well...man...like you guys were...ummm...really something!" Which I'm sure we were.

[LM] Paul mentioned the Battle of The Bands in Montevideo. It seems every '60s garage band has a Battle of The Bands story to tell. What was the experience like?

[Paul] We were all born in 1950 and we all graduated from high school in 1968. With Vietnam, we all knew how serious it was to get to college. You had two choices: Vietnam or college. Gene and Shelly did marry their high school sweethearts (not right away) and--with college, girlfriends and jobs--we thought we could take a giant step [so we] purchased some dynamic equipment and geared for the big Battle of The Bands [that was] to be held at the Hollywood Theatre in Montevideo. Other bands that appeared were the Prime Authorities, P.J. and the Sleepers, Intersantims, Sofisticates, Shauntays and the Black Ides. Booking Agent Dave Anthony of Minneapolis was present to observe the various groups. [We] practiced very hard and we thought that would springboard us to a career in music. We lost. We started second guessing [ourselves], and the bickering that followed put an end to the group. We returned the equipment and we went on our separate ways.

[Gene] Actually I think we competed in a number of band battles. We usually finished very well. I think the pre-Rolling Stones fans liked the mellow tuneful kinds of stuff we did. But I remember the heartbreaker was the battle at the legendary Hollywood Theatre in Montevideo where we lost a major battle and a trophy to a group who modeled their act after Mick Jagger and the Stones! My God, they even had the lead singer shaking maracas! It spelled the beginning of the end.

[LM] Well . . . what was the Boss Tweads' live act like? What songs comprised a typical Boss Tweads' set?

[Paul] What was the Boss Tweads live act like? What a question! We were good but we never were the top group in Minnesota. Tight harmonies were a must for the Boss Tweads, and tight music was a thing we were very good at. Gene Miller kept the beat with his strong rhythm; Tim's drumming was very good; Shelly was a great lead player; Stan was a good keyboard player; and I did okay on bass. Singing was the most important element in the Tweads. We did have lights and a good P.A. system. Songs we played included "Liar Liar" by the Castaways, "Time Won't Let Me," "Louie Louie," Hollies material, "Gloria," and "Turn on Your Love Light." I am drawing a blank on other songs. To sum up the Boss Tweads: we were perfectionists that were very concerned what our music sounded like, and that probably still haunts us today as we are writing new music. We like things right. We were not a hard rock band.

[Shelly] We had a lot of fun on stage, but were very serious about our music. We enjoyed just being together. We were all very good friends. Sometimes we would ad-lib and do something like "Wild Thing" in John Kennedy style with that great accent. People at the dances seemed to enjoy our craziness. [We did] the garage band classics like "Gloria," "Hang on Sloopy," "Kicks," "Roll Over Beethoven," "Time Won't Let Me," "Goin' Away," "It's Best You Go," or another original Boss Tweads song in each set.

[Tim] We emulated the British groups: the Kinks, the Animals, and the Beatles. [We also performed] original music, [as well as songs by the] Young Rascals.

[Gene] Our act was fairly low key. We were all EXTREMELY serious about our music and our act was fairly low key. We were all EXTREMELY serious about our music and our sound. Consequently, we generally stood like statues concentrating on chords and lyrics! We never were as wild as our audience--which in itself was nothing like what you see today! My memory isn't great, but I seem to remember songs like "Louie, Louie," "Mickey's Monkey," "Good Lovin," "Surfin' Bird," "Blue Suede Shoes," "Look Through Any Window," "Ferry 'Cross The Mersey," "As Tears Go By," "All Day and all of the Night," and, of course, a few originals.

[LM] The Boss Tweads' only single, "Goin' Away" b/w "It's Best You Go," were both group originals. Tim mentioned the British Invasion bands were an influence.

[Shelly] I think the Beatles mainly, and other groups with good harmonies . . . like the Hollies.

[Paul] Hollies. Kinks.

[Tim] The Kinks, the Animals, the Beatles, Elvis, and the Young Rascals.

[Gene] I always loved groups that incorporated a lot of harmony and soulful interpretational songs. The Beatles were probably at the top, followed by The Hollies, Gerry and The Pacemakers, The Walker Brothers, The Kinks, and The Young Rascals. I always seemed to gravitate toward songs that were moody and had a minor chord flavor to them. I don't know why.

[LM] Your single was recorded at Dove Studios. What were the circumstances leading to the band's recording session?

[Paul] Talking parents into backing the Boss Tweads with $500.00 to record a 45 record! That was the easy part . . . no problem. The band just wanted to record an original record.

[Shelly] [I'm] really fuzzy on the details of this one, but I think it involved about $300 bucks, a trip to the Twin Cities, and a thousand records. Maybe because the TrashMen recorded there we thought it would be a good place to record.

[Tim] Our manager, Leroy Clark, arranged the recording session.

[Gene] I think a gentleman by the name of "Bad, Bad" Leroy Clark had a lot to do with it. He must have had some connection with someone in the Cities who had some connection with someone who knew someone else at Dove Studio; I really can't remember. But I seem to remember Leroy, who was our manager/booking agent for a while, coming to us one day and telling us he had a really good opportunity waiting for us. After we came to the realities of our age, the distance and the cost hit us like bricks! Luckily for us, we had very supportive parents who were willing to help us chase our dream for a while! They made it happen for us!

[LM] How popular locally was "Goin' Away?" Any thoughts as to why it wasn't a bigger national hit?

[Gene] Lack of marketing, contacts, location, savvy, etc., etc., etc. "Goin' Away" was a rather hastily crafted song that was simple (three chords), musically stylish for the times (guitars, keyboard and drums), a lyric that was somehow mysteriously garbled but somehow profound to the teenage mind and it had a great beat with a percussion break: the perfect formula for a garage band sound! Unfortunately we didn't live in New York, California or Hays, Kansas at the time! I remember the technician at Dove taking us to a 24' X 30' room that was stacked from top to bottom with other 45's and saying, "Well guys, here's your competition!" I think we were all hit with a sudden dose of reality!

[Shelly] It was pretty popular with everybody we knew and most of their friends. We got a lot of attention from our surrounding towns, but never really got much feedback from the rest of the state. Around our area it was put on the jukeboxes by a friend who was in the jukebox business. He bought 50 records and put them on the jukeboxes. As far as nationally, I think it had no BMI [affiliation] and the radio stations (KDWB) stopped playing it. Also, the studio was [supposed] to promote it and kind of forgot to. HA HA . . . they liked our money though. Seriously, we should have had more time to record it, and much more control on the production end. It was a great dance song! Even the way it is.

[Paul] The song "Goin' Away" was very big locally, but [we] had some real problems getting it played in the big market areas. It was played for about two weeks on KDWB in Minneapolis but, because the label contained no BMI or ASCAP copyright stamp, it was pulled from the station's playlist. Dove had told us that they had taken care of all that legal stuff, but did not.

[LM] Who exactly was responsible for the BMI or ASCAP affiliation?

[Paul] Rod Eaton, the drummer for TC Atlantic, was the producer and engineer for our recordings, but I don't know who was in charge of the copyright stamp. [Editors' note: Many of the '60s groups were unaware of the workings of BMI, ASCAP or other royalty protective organizations designed to help writers and publishing companies collect royalties for the broadcasting, licensing, and reproductions of their materials. Copyrighting material, on the other hand, is filed with the Library of Congress usually with a copy of the recording of the song(s) and a twenty-dollar fee. If the writer of "Goin' Away" had become a member of BMI or ASCAP etc. (which would have cost nothing), that person could have registered his or her song free of charge with one of these companies and had the information printed on the record label. Radio stations log air play and pay three cents per spin to BMI (five cents to ASCAP) with half given to the writer. If the work is published, the half is split between the publishing company and the writer. Because of legal problems, commercial radio stations do not like to spin tunes that are not affiliated with one of these royalty protective organizations.]

[LM] What other original songs did the Boss Tweads write?

[Paul] Gene and Shelly could tell you more, and how many songs we did. Those two were always trying different things and ideas. We did perform an original song on TV besides "Goin' Away" but [I] can't remember the name. [We] did not ever record that song.

[Shelly] We were always writing songs--but never recorded any others--like "Lost Love," "Heaven's Devil," and "Headache." The last one involved a whammy bar and lots of noise.

[Gene] I couldn't think of any until Shelly remembered "Headache," "Heaven's Devil," and one that I seemed to remember called "Soho Hobo." I'm not sure that writing was necessarily what we did. I think it was more like accidentally coming up with interesting chord progressions and riffs and fitting some clever words around them.

[LM] What other local bands do you recall including those which shared the stage with the Boss Tweads?

[Paul] The Hot Half Dozen the weekend that they came out with their hit record, "Heat Wave"; P.J. and the Sleepers (the band Dennis Morgan played with. Dennis now resides in Nashville and is a successful song writer and has a recording studio); Prime Authorities; Black Ides. This was the era of garage bands. [There were] so many bands in rural and urban Minnesota during those times.

[Shelly] Hot Half Dozen and Rare Factions.

[Tim] PJ & the Sleepers and the Shantays.

[Gene] Hot Half Dozen was probably the most notable. The Vanguards, Rubber Band, Shantays, The Moss, Lichen, and Algea! We had incredible imaginations back then!

[LM] Why didn't the Boss Tweads record any other singles?

[Paul] Good question. The ability was there but with so much on our plates from school, part-time jobs, girlfriends, [and] preparing for college, we were just too busy--and maybe too lazy-- to pursue that angle.

[Tim] [No] money or time.

[LM] Paul has already touched upon this briefly, but please elaborate on the circumstances leading to the band's break up?

[Paul] Stan [left] the group first but the four of us (Gene, Shelly, Tim and Paul) did go on. Graduating from high school--and each of us going in separate directions--made things difficult. Music was changing; we geared up with new equipment, but I believe our girl friends were pulling us [in] different directions. College was pulling. Jobs [were] pulling. And responsibilities were getting greater. The Battle of The Bands was a disappointment, but it was time to move on. I think we always will wonder what might have happened. We had a good chemistry, and we always enjoyed each other's company. We would not have become a national group, but we lived a great dream during an exciting time in Rock and Roll Music.

[Shelly] We were all getting pretty involved with other aspects in our lives, like school (college), girl friends, etc.

[Gene] Other interests split the group up. Girlfriends, college, work, whatever. We had lost that drive; that love to perform.

[Tim] Different musical styles developed.

[LM] Are there any unreleased Boss Tweads' recordings in the can, or do any vintage live tapes survive?

[Gene] Man, I hope so. That would be a real hoot to hear those young guys singin' again!

[Paul] No . . . but this summer, it would be nice if Shelly could return from Oregon, Stanley could make it down to the studio in Minneapolis, and Gene, Tim and I could record one more original song with the five guys that were called The Boss Tweads. No vintage live tapes survive. The Get Hip Archive Series (P.O. Box 666, Canonsburg, PA 15317, phone number 412-231-4766), however, distributed our old "Going Away" tune, and has distributed it to vinyl record stores.

[Shelly] I think I have a tape of when the Boss Tweads played in Echo Minnesota, and maybe a tape of the "Welcome Inn" gig. I have to dig into my archives.

[LM] Did you stay active in music in the years immediately following the break up?

[Shelly] I played with The Fox for a short time, and then tried to form a couple of bands at SW State.

[Gene] In 1970, shortly after I was married and in my sophomore year in college, I met some guys on campus who wanted to put a group together. We practiced in an old warehouse in Marshall, Minnesota and called ourselves Montana. The highlight of that group, which lasted about a year and a half, was playing at a peace rally on the SWSC campus to more than 3,000 college students. That night we shared the stage with bands called Wire and Twentieth Century Fox, a couple of hard rockin' bands. We came out and did the theme from "Midnight Cowboy" and an original instrumental of mine called "Hacksaw Blues." I was playing bass at the time. We were a very good band. Personality conflicts brought it down. After that I got back together with Brian Schweer, from the wayback original Boss Tweads, his brother Todd and a friend of his named Kenny Handeland Jr. They had just broken up a band called "Metropolitan Pig" and were looking to get back to gigging again. We rehearsed for a few weeks and started taking dance jobs. Thirty three years later we are still playing under the name of Spurline! I'm nearly totally retired from active playing but I do manage to play with them three or four times a year. Some things never seem to die. We still like the sound that harmony makes and we still like to perform just like Tim, Paul and Shelly do!

[Paul] I played for one band in the St. Cloud area during my sophomore year in college, and played in some bars in St. Cloud to the college crowds. I sold my equipment during my Junior year and never played again. I was married my senior year of college, then drafted into the Army. After my college deferment ran out after the service, I went to Mortuary Science School and have been a funeral director since 1975. I'm still married to [my wife] Nancie, and have two boys: Brian and Jaymz.

[LM] What was the name of the St. Cloud band?

[Paul] That would be the Prime Authorities [Editors' Note: Since it's been more than 30 years, Paul is not entirely certain that the name of the band was the Prime Authorities. This is a reasonable guess on his part]. These guys were from the Granite Falls area, and played with the Tweads during the Star-Lite Outdoor Theatre many times in Montevideo. When I played with them, [they had] maybe just a couple of original members attending college in the St. Cloud area. I maybe only played with them for six to eight months. We mostly played at Club Domino in St. Cloud, Minnesota. [It was a] wild bar for college kids and young adults. I believe we used their old name, the Prime Authorities.

[LM] The Boss Tweads (Gene, Tim, and Paul) reunited in July 1995. What led to the band's reformation?

[Tim] Jim Oldsberg, the author of the 'Lost & Found' book, got us together.

[Paul] [We] had a reunion of the Boss Tweads in Marshall, Minnesota in July of 1995 after hearing of a writer by the name of Jim Oldsberg [who] wanted to do a story on the Boss Tweads for his magazine, 'Lost and Found'. We were all present except Shelly from Oregon. Tim Hofstad told us he had a recording studio in his basement and invited us down to record. Gene, Paul and Tim started recording in October of 1995 and the first song we did was "Goin' Away." [We] have been doing this since October of 1995 and enjoy being back together.

[Gene] I wanted to see how these young rascals, Tim and Paul, had turned out after nearly 30 years of not seeing them! It was an exciting experience. Just like me, they hadn't changed a bit!

[LM] What can you tell me about the band's recent CD release, "Yesterday's Friends?"

[Paul] "Yesterday's Friends," [a] fitting title for three guys getting back together to have fun producing music. It is a CD that has all original material, but some of the songs are 25 years old. [They're songs] from the old days with a new twist. It was a reunion type of CD and with different styles of music on it. When we sent a copy to Dennis Morgan, he called Tim back and said "Guys, get into the '90s. You're still in the '60s." So it was a reunion CD that means so much to us. Our next CD will be all new material and dated to 2000 music.

[Gene] The title tells it all. We found out we all had a few musical embers still burning and an itch to try out Tim's studio just to see what we could do. It has been a great experience for me to be reunited with these guys and to be able to make music again with them after all these years. They feel like long lost brothers to me.

[Tim] [It's been a] fun experience . . . like riding a bike. We clicked!

[LM] What are your plans for 2001?

[Paul] 1999 and 2000 was about making a three-song demo package. Lyrics were very important and Dennis Morgan made that very clear to us. [The] lyrics had to be much better. We would have a round table to discuss lyrics, and would rewrite words sometimes three times over for each song. We had a friend named Theea Daniels, who is an up and coming country singer, and we wrote a song for her and she came to the studio to perform it. She did not like the song but we enjoyed writing for a female singer. So I found a 17-year-old singer, Alison Swoboda, when attending a wedding this past summer, and she has her voice on these three songs. The music is performed by the Boss Tweads but has her voice on it. She did a good job and she will be coming back to the studio since she will be attending the University of Minnesota. She plays harp, flute and other instruments, and [we] would like her to use those instruments in our new recordings.

[Shelly] We are writing songs and have some plans for long distance recording. I would like to have the Boss Tweads reunion gig somewhere, just for laughs and giggles. And just to get back to being close friends once more.

[Tim] Basically writing music. We're pitching new material to Nashville.

[Gene] Living and enjoying life and pursuing what Maslowe calls the "highest level of personal reward" - creative freedom through our music! We plan to continue writing when we can and you never know . . .

[LM] Best of luck to the Boss Tweads!

[Paul] Thanks, Mike, for asking these questions. We feel a real honor for being included in your writings.

[Gene] Thanks for the opportunity to ramble. It was fun! To order a copy of the Boss Tweads' 'Yesterday's Friends' CD, or for more information on the band, please send an email to: bosstweads@hotmail.com, or visit: http://soli.inav.net/~sbrown/boss.html


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