Proud to preserve Podipto: 70s-era Bemidji band's story on being signed, the Wrecking Crew and its new life on CD
By Joel Froemming / Bemidji Pioneer
BEMIDJI—A son's project to remaster and release material from his father's long-ago band took longer than he expected.
In fact, it became a 15-year project that, in the end, unearthed material to the degree that many didn't know what they had been sitting on for the past 40-odd years.That band is Podipto, a country-rock outfit from the Bemidji area that formed in 1969 and eventually went on to tour with the likes of Elton John, James Taylor, The Guess Who and many others until coming to an abrupt end in 1975. The band was John Collins (rhythm guitarist and vocalist), Dan Lund (lead guitar), Karen Regnier (Lund) (piano and vocals), Jack Sundrud (bass and vocals) and Steve Rundquist (drums)
Josh Collins, son of late Podipto member and founder John Collins, has been working on the current Podipto releases since about 2000. It was a journey that illustrated just what exactly the band went through, the frustrations they had when they signed on to a major label that insisted other musicians play their parts on their own album.
"It's a story that not a lot of people know," Josh said. "There are a lot of people (in Bemidji) who know the band, know people in the band, but they don't know a lot about their story."
Josh and his family already have re-released Podipto's self-titled first album (which includes bonus live tracks) and a double album called "The Woodcut Sessions/Live at Chateue Paulette." He plans on re-releasing Podipto's second album "Homemade," along with a live show from BSU in 1973, sometime this summer.
According to guitarist Dan Lund, the start Podipto was a core of musicians who seemed to gel quite well together in the late 60s in the Bemidji area. The members all had been playing in different bands at the time. Lund and his then-wife Karen Reginer (Lund) were playing with drummer John Calder.
"We were putting together a band with the best players we could find," Lund said. He said there was a little trepidation at first, but they decided ultimately to forge forward.
They then began to practice in Bemidji, and Lund said the chemistry was right.
"What was great was that we had these great voices, with Jack and John being really prolific at writing," Lund said. "At the time, most people were doing covers, but with those three, we had a wealth of original material." He added that it was this core group that brought a lot of energy to the band.
He said that they decided to run with the band because, for the most part, they were not really doing much outside of music at the time and the band was working well. When John Calder was drafted to fight in Vietnam, they found Steve Rundquist to replace him on the drums."That first year was tough," Lund said. "We toured a lot, and we started to get people interested. But it was a lot of traveling"
They found a manager, who had them fly out to Chicago to record some demos (some of which appear on "The Woodcut Sessions"). Those were then shopped to labels, and got them signed on with a label out of Canada called GRT.
"It was exciting," Lund said. "Things moving fast, going well and we started getting some buzz."
When the album "Podipto" was recorded, the band and GRT had planned on releasing "(Lola) You Ease My Achin' Heart." But another band at the time had a similar sounding title for their current single.
"The Kinks had released 'Lola' a week before we were going to release our single," Lund said. "So there was this sort of panic, there was all this promotion that was going on and they decided to flip the album over." The single they released then was "Karen's Song."
Lund said the album did pretty well when it was released, but the making of it was not an ideal situation for the band.
The band recorded an album at the former Chateau Paulette in Dorset, now a pizzeria.
The Wrecking Crew
Podipto's signed to GRT in 1970. A label that made certain decisions about the recording process that Podipto did not agree with.
"I always wondered why my father didn't talk about making that album," Josh said. "But now I understand it because it was such a painful thing."
That process included having a group called the Wrecking Crew come in and record on Podipto's self-titled first record label release.
The Wrecking Crew was a group of musicians music labels used to record on artists' albums to streamline the recording process, especially newer bands who were still testing the waters with the music and recording. They performed on albums by Jan and Dean, The Beach Boys and were used by producer Phil Spector to create his "wall of sound" in the 60s. But for a band known for their live shows, bringing in others to record their parts did not sit well with Podipto.
"We were not happy at all about that," Lund said. "But that was happening to so many bands at the time. The labels would bring these guys in to get the recording done and done quickly."
Lund was able to record some of his guitar parts on the finished album, and the vocalists were allowed to sing, but the rest was the Wrecking Crew.
"It's interesting piece of history," Josh said. "From a marketing standpoint, they didn't want people to know this was happening. (Podipto) was kind of embarassed by it."
"When they recorded their second album it was sort of 'do the opposite of what GRT did.' That's why they called it 'Homemade.' They recorded it, engineered it themselves," Josh said.
Lund said the second album was recorded in band members' houses, and they particularly liked the echo it added to some of the vocals.
That second album was released independently, as GRT folded shortly after Podipto released their self-titled first album. The band, too, would end up disbanding a few years later.
During his search, Josh also found a wealth of material the band recorded. Podipto always had a tape recorder going at their live shows, according to Josh, so there was a lot of good material—and some not-so-good material.
"They say it depends on how much whiskey the sound guy had," Josh said with a laugh.
The material, especially the demos, were sitting in many of the band members' basements over the years.
"About 15 years ago, around when I got out of college, Chester Ellingson (who joined the band on drums in 1973) contacted me saying he had some reels of music of my dad's. He said 'I don't know what's on them, I don't know if they are any good, but I think you should have them.'" Josh went to Chester's place, where he had an old reel-to-reel and listened to the material.
"We're here listening to this stuff, and it's so good. And Chester knows this stuff, but he didn't know what he had ... and he grows emotional from remembering these times," Josh said. "It was just this great moment I got to have with an old friend of my dad discovering this treasure trove of music."
After that, Josh began calling other members of the band, wondering what they had. Jack Sundrud has some reels, as well as Josh's mother. From there, he began to assemble the material over the years.
"The plan was to do this in a couple of years, but sometimes life gets in the way," Josh said. "Things happen and suddenly it's 15 years later."
While Lund still has the records on vinyl, he said he hadn't listened to Podipto's material in a long time until Josh gave him some of the new material.
"It was cool to listen to this music again," Lund said. "Josh did a great job on this project. It's generating interest in the band again."
The process wasn't cheap, and the Collins wanted to do it justice. They were able to search and find a way to remaster this music properly. Josh said this was important because the music was a big part of his family.
"My children never got to know my dad, but they get to know him through his music," Josh said. He added it is also important because it is a piece of Bemidji's history. "People there know this band, they love Podipto," he added.
"He invested a lot into this," Lund said. "He invested money, time ... he has done an excellent job. With the website and everything, it's cool that people still have an interest in our music."
For more information on Podipto, visit www.podipto.com.