Minnesota Music HOF inductees include Denver, McGuire

Showcase at the museum Saturday

NEW ULM — The 40-member Apollo Club male chorus celebrated their induction into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame Friday, singing “Hail! Minnesota,” a tribute song to John Denver, and his hit “Sunshine On My Shoulders” at the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame 2017 Banquet and Induction Ceremony at Turner Hall Friday night.

The chorus followed the induction of John Denver, whose marriage to Annie Martell of St. Peter, made him one of ours. His annual concerts at the Gustavus Adolphus campus were his first, large venue concerts before he had a hit song with “Country Roads.”

Denver recorded and released about 300 songs, 200 of which he composed, with a total sale of more than 33 million records around the globe. Performing mostly on acoustic guitar, he sang about his joy in nature, disdain for city life, his enthusiasm for music and his relationship trials.

Recording for three decades, he later focused on environmental issues and lent vocal support to space exploration. He testified before Congress, protesting music censorship.

Denver’s signature songs were “Take Me Home Country Roads, Annie’s Song (for Annie Martell), Rocky Mountain High, Thank God I’m a Country Boy and Sunshine on my Shoulders.”

An avid pilot, he died at 53 om 1997, flying his personal, experimental aircraft when it crashed near Monterey, Ca.

Annie Martell’s younger sister, Teri, of Le Sueur, talked about Denver.

“He was a blessing in our lives. He really loved doing what he did. He was a wonderful person,” Martell said. “Thanks for sharing his music and keeping it alive.”

A personal friend of Annie Martell, John Ahlstrom of St. Paul, also talked about Denver.

“He sang with as much passion at Gustavus as he did in Carnegie Hall,” Ahlstrom said. “He had an overt kindness to friends and strangers alike.”

Ahlstrom talked about how he traveled in Europe, meeting Denver and Martell, when Denver performed in the Chad Mitchell Trio in London decades ago when he was broke.

“He talked about going solo, sang ‘Country Roads’ and the rest is history. God rest his soul,” Ahlstrom said.

Inductee James McGuire taught guitar for more than 40 years at a number of Minnesota colleges and universities. Many of his classical guitar compositions received frequent performances. Some were recorded by internationally-recognized artists.

McGuire said earning his masters degree in music opened the door to his career of teaching music and opened up all kinds of other opportunities.

“It’s kind of a crazy life giving music lessons at colleges and playing on weekends,” McGuire said. He thanked his wife Ann for her support during their 49 years of marriage.

Retired from teaching, he continues to perform in and around the area.

Jim Johnson began his musical career in 1962 as one of the original founders of The Underbeats, another one of this year’s inductees, one of the top Minnesota dance bands in the 1960s. Johnson was drafted and served in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968.

The band was playing on the Hollywood strip in 1968 when it was renamed Gypsy, “because we were living like gypsies,” said band member Ray Berg, who accepted the award for Johnson.

In 1993, Johnson returned to Minnesota and played with a new version of the Underbeats and with Gypsy for reunion concerts.

Veteran sideman Myron Wolf’s first job was with Don Frank and The Skinny Dutchmen at the Klossner Ballroom on Easter Sunday in 1955. In 1993, he and the Ivan Kahle Band played at President Bill Clinton’s victory party on the mall in Washington, D.C.

The Meire Grove Community Band is believed to be the oldest, active community band in the state. Organized in 1883, the band has three generations of some families performing.

“You couldn’t find a happier group of people,” said band member Vern Meyer. “Many of us drive many miles to rehearse once a week and perform in parades and concerts. It’s been a great ride. We do a variety of music and we do it well. We pre-date the zipper, photograph records, radio and even the erection of the Statue of Liberty.”

The free 2017 Inductee Showcase at the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, 27 N. Broadway, will include museum tours, refreshments and music by Donnie Klossner, The Apollo Club and others.

Minnesota Music Hall of Fame Museum Administrator Linda Schroeder was named 2017 Volunteer of the Year.