A Great Northern Radio Show for the ages

From a post in the Atlantic:

1956 is not terribly long ago. People born then and after are still working. Their parents are often still alive. Their grandparents, if alive, would be in their 90s. But the above clip from a 1956 TV show includes a 96-year-old man who saw John Wilkes Booth shoot Abraham Lincoln at the Ford Theater in Washington, D.C. in 1865.

Because so many generations have passed since Lincoln, we assign that time to a fixed place in history books. But we are barely two lifetimes past that time. Stories shared between the generations are so important.

When Lincoln was president there was but a dim notion that anything more than great timbers lie north of St. Paul or west of Lake Superior. Traders knew the Indians valued it for its land, game and lakes, but in this northern Minnesota was not much different than much of the West. In 20 years, Charlemagne Tower would open the Vermilion Range and the Merritt family — a father and large collection of strapping brothers — discovered more even richer ore on the Mesabi.

I’ll have the great-granddaughter of the matriarch of the Merritt family on this Saturday’s Great Northern Radio Show. Lauren Nickisch is a teacher, writer and actress, but carries with her the old, but not-as-old-as-you’d-think story of the Iron Range we know today.

The show features some great Minnesota musicians, including two headliners: Matt Ray and Those Damn Horses and the Sam Miltich Trio. Our friend Iris Kolodji is back with some really great Range-themed songs. Casey Aro and Paul Paulisich each bring unique sound steeped in Range music tradition. St. Paul musician and Range native Paul Seeba is a late edition, coming on to sing an original song that ties to one of our sketches. Our house piano player and composer Nickolai Koivunen will once again display his versatility and creativity.

Our actors include Louisa Guggisberg, Kat Gritzmacher, C.J. Anderson, Bill Lah and our sound man Scott Hanson. KAXE’s Steve Downing will perform a piece inspired by his Taconite roots. Students from the Eveleth-Gilbert Drama program will also appear.

The big difference for me in this show is that I’ll be doing longer monologue segments, more like my “Between You and Me” segments but woven together in what I approximate to be a creative thematic choice.

We’re trying some edgier material this time, but our goals is the same. The Great Northern Radio Show seeks to be an entertaining bridge between the generations, spanning people to place and place to the ages. With jokes.

Tune in Saturday night, 5-7 p.m., on 91.7 KAXE in northern Minnesota (89.9 Brainerd) and 90.5 KBXE Bemidji. Please, do yourself a favor and join us in person at the Boardman Auditorium at E-G High School in Eveleth. Free admission; all we ask is that you arrive by 4:30 to be seated before the broadcast begins.

(h/t Patrick Garmoe for the Lincoln story)


  1. My husband’s grandmother remembers sitting on the steps with the soldiers home from the civil war.

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