La Crosse music legend lives on

Concert honoring Lindy Shannon Aug. 27 will benefit scholarships

Aug. 30, 1992, the date of the first concert honoring Lindy Shannon, was declared Lindy Shannon Day in the City of La Crosse.

In the late 1950s, America was experiencing arguably one of the greatest revolutions in its history. And Lindy Shannon was piping it into La Crosse homes.

Rock ‘n’ roll — a blend of western country music and rhythm and blues — was like nothing radio audiences had heard before.

Shannon, a popular La Crosse disc jockey, forecasted this new form of music was coming. When it hit La Crosse, he was an influential figure in it. He interviewed Elvis Presley. He helped national music icons like Bobby Vee and The Fendermen gain traction in the industry.

Shannon was responsible for catapulting many a young musician onto the air waves, into homes and ultimately into successful careers in music. Shannon died in 1995, but his influence on young budding musicians has not stopped.

The Lindy Shannon Scholarship Fund has awarded more than $30,000 in scholarships to more than 60 UW-La Crosse students since 1993. Funds for the endowed scholarship have been raised through a number of Lindy Shannon tribute concerts and other gatherings celebrating his memory over the last 25 years.

The first concert honoring Shannon’s contributions to the local music scene was in 1992. “People came in droves,” explains one of the primary organizers, Bill Harnden, ‘77. More than 5,000 people attended the concert featuring artists who Shannon had helped.

After 25 years, fans and musicians continue celebrating Shannon. A Silver Anniversary Concert is set for Sunday, Aug. 27, at the Moose Family Center, 1932 Ward Ave., La Crosse. Doors open at noon and the concert starts at 1 p.m. Indoor and outdoor seating will be available. Ticket details below.

The first Lindy concert

Harnden, a music buff and Lindy Shannon fan, and Tari Tovsen, a local musician, planned the first tribute concert for Shannon on Aug. 30, 1992. Shannon was in poor health at the time.

“We wanted to honor a modest man who did a lot for the community, so his name would go on forever,” says Harnden.

National recording artist Bobby Vee, Lindy ’96, as well as many local bands, pay credit to Shannon for helping to launch them into the music scene. In addition to playing their music on the air waves, Shannon promoted their work and used his connections to help them book gigs. Among the local music success stories was “The Unchained Mynds” which had the No. 1 single out of La Crosse, “We Can’t Go On This Way.” “The Fendermen” from Madison had a national hit, “Mule Skinner Blues,” with the help of Shannon. Jim Sundquist, the lead guitarist, has been a staple of all the Lindy shows.

Shannon was released from the hospital to come to the 1992 concert. He sat in a recliner, hooked to an oxygen tank, which ran out mid-show, recalls Harnden.

Afterward, Shannon remarked to Harnden that if he had died there and then, it would have been the happiest day of his life.

Shannon ended up living several more years. “We think it rejuvenated him,” says Harnden.

A humble man, Shannon later asked about all of the attention. “When is it ever going to end?” he asked Harnden.

“I looked at him and I said, ‘I don’t think this is ever going to end,’” recalls Harnden. “Little did I know how true of a statement that would be.”

Harnden, Tovsen, and Dan Hanson from “The Unchained Mynds,” as well as several other band members, have organized Lindy concerts in ‘94, ‘96, ‘02, ’07 and ‘12, as well as Lindy dance parties and other gatherings.

When there wasn’t a concert planned, Harnden was reminded of that fact.

“We billed a couple of the shows as the final show, but there was still interest. I get asked and Tari gets asked all the time, ‘Is there going to be another show?’” says Harnden. “With this being the 25th year, it is hard to say no.”

Every show has moments that make the planning all worthwhile, says Harnden. He remembers that moment vividly in 2012. As the band “Fax and Friends” was playing, a video tribute to the late performer and band member, Michael “Maynard” Palmer, was projected on the big screen behind the stage. After the show, a young woman came up to Harnden who was very emotional. She told him she was grateful to have seen her father — Palmer — on the stage again.

Harnden says music connects people to each other and to good memories. Shannon facilitated those music connections in life and he continues to do it in death.

“As humble as he was, I think he would be smiling ear-to-ear if he were to see this in 2017.”

If you go —
What:
Lindy Shannon Silver Anniversary Concert
When: Doors open at noon, concert starts at 1 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 27
Where: Moose Family Center, 1932 Ward Ave., La Crosse
Tickets: Tickets are available at several Festival Foods locations including: Copeland Avenue, Village Shopping Center and Onalaska. They are also at Moose Family Center, $10 in advance, $13 the day of the show.

Who benefits?

In addition to funding the UWL scholarship for music majors, proceeds from Lindy Shannon tribute concerts have also benefited the “Arts for All” program at Viterbo University and other non-profit organizations.

Live in concert:

  • Molly Maguires
  • The Headliners
  • LB & The Hi-Volts
  • Craig Olson Project

With special guests:

  • Rick Blomquist
  • Ronny Craig
  • Linda Hall
  • Dr. Rock – Rick Pervisky
  • The Unchained Mynds
  • Randy Purdy & Dan Hanson
  • Todays Tommorrow’s
  • Alex Campbell
  • The Fax
  • Steve Noffke & Greg Haskell