U sidewalk musicians play eclectic mix

The musicians’ experiences range from Vietnam to the “Montel” show.

Standing on a turquoise chair, Mike Gould plucked a riff on his acoustic guitar, turned upside down.

“You better brush your teeth. You better comb your hair,” Gould sang, as students passed, seemingly disinterested.

He is just one of the anonymous minstrels seen on the University campus.

They play an eclectic mix of blues, rock, folk and beggars’ songs for an audience that’s always moving and only sometimes listening.

Gould said he comes out to play on campus at least twice a week, but people seldom stop and talk to him, except for “the people that try to convert me Ö they’re taking things back to the (Spanish) Inquisition.”

Gould plays some old Rolling Stones songs, a few Bob Dylan tunes and a few original compositions – including an ode to a former next-door neighbor titled “Mrs. Schumacher,” that began with the words “dirty people on the lawn.”

“When I’m hot, I’m playing fast and good,” Gould said, “but most of the time I’m out here struggling.”

Surviving the past

Gould’s life story contains a laundry list of notable names, from Prince (whose hand he shook before one of the artist’s surprise shows at First Avenue) to Garrison Keillor, whose son had a party at a Wisconsin cabin in which Gould played, he said.

He also said he appeared on the Montel Williams show when one of his three daughters called in because he had blue hair and was in a band with her mom.

He said he came a long way from being committed to the Anoka State Hospital for mental illness. His life turned around when he started taking his medication.

“Don’t be self-conscious about (taking medication),” he said.

He said he works four days a week at Fairview-University Medical Center.

“It’s the first time I’ve had the day job gone right,” he said.

Gould also plays in a band with his wife, Noralva.

Another campus musician, Terry Redington, is getting back to music again. On Tuesday, he chose the Washington Avenue Bridge as his stage for the afternoon, using the walls as a makeshift amphitheater to amplify his 8-inch speaker.

Redington started playing the guitar in 1965. At first he learned to play a song or two, and a couple months later he joined his first band.

Then he was drafted

“I had various tours around the states, training and a year in ‘Nam,’ ” he said. “It was a thankless job.”

He said he decided to start playing again after quitting his day job as a security officer -another “thankless job.”

Redington was on the bridge Tuesday playing blues and rock ‘n’ roll on his black, silver-speckled Danelectro guitar. His homemade percussion section – a tambourine tied to an L-shaped bracket with a wood-and-roller-skate-brake base – only hints at his penchant for building musical instruments.

“I built (a guitar) out of a frying pan, with Telecaster parts,” he said. “I called it ‘The Frymaster.’ “

He said he also built a guitar out of a toilet seat, dubbed “The Flying Crapper.”

“It was really a good-sounding guitar,” he said, “because of the ash wood.”

Both guitars won the “Twin Cities’ Ugliest Guitar Contest” at a local music store, Redington said.

Not panhandling

“I’ve had ‘U’ cops hassle me. They said I was panhandling,” Redington said. “I’m not out here to hassle people. I’m here to entertain whoever wants to listen.”

He declined to say how much he makes each time he plays, saying he fears the police will hassle him again.

Gould, on the other hand, displayed a $10 bill someone dropped into his case.

He counted $30 for his three hours of playing. He said his spot in front of Smith Hall is the best place to play because “students listen to music.”

“I think it’s fun; I think it’s enjoyable,” said Mike Ethan, a musicology graduate student. “I don’t stop and listen. I just pass ’em.”

“I don’t like feeling like I have to pay him though,” fellow musicology student Nikki Busick said.

“I don’t think he’s asking us to pay,” Ethan said.

Gould said he has played at many bars and also at the 7th Street Entry and the mainroom at First Avenue with his 80s punk band Rendered Useless.

The band, he said, dabbled in politics and social commentary.

Redington said he has yet to record any compact discs, but said he hopes to have one out by the end of the summer.

“The trouble is, you have to deal with musicians when you’re in a band,” he said.

Both musicians said they plan to play on campus as long as the weather is nice.

Gould said his music is “demonic, but with a lot of gratefulness toward the Lord for letting me do this.

“I’m not afraid to make a fool of myself.”

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