Being a born and bred Wisconsin girl, it was a big change for me when I sold my equity in my house, gave away at least one third of my belongings, and moved south to Savannah, GA last October.
My son got accepted into SCAD to study film and animation, and my sister and her family live two hours north of Savannah, right outside Charleston.It was a big step, the hardest being leaving behind friends and family that I grew up with. Except for several years in New York City back in the eighties, I spent my whole life living in Wisconsin.
Every where from a ballroom on the Wisconsin River in Sauk City to a restaurant/bar/hotel right outside Antigo, called Tigerton. That’s where I made forts in the lilac bushes, ran wild into the dark until I could hear my mother yelling for us to come home. The summer nights up in northern Wisconsin are the best. The air smells like pine trees, and the stars are so close to the ground, it looks as if you could pluck them out of the sky. We lived right off the Menomonee Reservation, and every weekend the bar would be filled with locals, music, smoke and the sound of pounding feet prancing across the wooden floors.
When there wasn’t a live band, there was always a jukebox. That’s where I fell in love with the voice of Hank Williams and Patsy Cline. Ironic considering I wrote a book about Hank Williams decades after I had heard his voice for the first time.
Another favorite family activity was going to the movies once a week. While my parents owned a restaurant on Main Street in Lodi, WI, we would frequent the local theater that showed one movie on Friday night and a different movie on Saturday and Sunday nights. It cost a quarter to get in, and boxes of candy sold for ten cents. That’s the same theater that I saw “You’re Cheatin’ Heart,” starring George Hamilton. I knew his music, but had no idea who he really was. Seeing that movie changed my life that night. I walked out of that theater determined to someday work in the music business. And I didn’t want to be a performer, I wanted to be the brains behind the talent. The manager, mentor and muse. Tall order for a nine year old.
So I bided my time, read a lot of books and started writing about rock and roll because by then I was living in Madison, WI and taking in all the incredible talent that came through the Coliseum. There I saw Pink Floyd, The Who, Deep Purple, Fleetwood Mac, James Gang, Uriah Heep, Peter Frampton, Billy Preston, Humble Pie and the Allman Brothers.
By the time my path crossed with a local newspaper, we at the paper were writing about the new talent rolling through town like Billy Joel, Aerosmith, Van Halen, AC/DC, The Ramones, Kiss, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Elvis Costello. This was the late seventies, and interviews were done in person backstage after the show. Of course that included hanging out with the bands, chatting them up and coming back to the paper with a story. I couldn’t have asked for a better time in rock and roll history to be writing about it. Ted Nugent, Cheap Trick, AC/DC, Van Halen, all went on to become superstars, and we got to see it up close and personal.
Madison’s love and support of local music and music in general afforded me to follow my dreams and keep writing about it. Including publishing a rock newspaper, Rock Central, for six years. Which turned into seven years on the radio and now over a decade writing books. So it goes without saying that Madison, Wisconsin will never be far from my heart.
I got my start there, I became friends with some of the best musicians I have ever known, and was fortunate enough to be part of that scene for quite sometime. This trip home was a whirlwind of activities, including attending my brother’s wedding anniversary party, my sister’s high school reunion, taking in Brat Fest on several nights, driving to Baraboo to see family and to the Dells for a Monks burger.
Sunny days and starry nights reminded me of how sacred Wisconsin really is. And talented! I caught Aaron Williams and the Hoo Doo at the Brink Lounge, where they never fail to make you want to get up and get your groove on.
One Saturday night my sister and I drove to the Mt. Horeb Frolics to take in Madison County, who had the whole town sweating, drinking and dancing the night away. With a mix of great tunes and the rabid musicianship of every member of that band, they always leave their fans wanting more.
Driving, dancing, good food, family and friends, that is what I miss most about the great state of Wisconsin. It’s a wonderful place to raise a family, and I know firsthand that you can’t be a sissy and grow up in Wisconsin.
We are hard working, straight forward, shoot from the hip kind of people and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I may be south of the Mason Dixon line at the moment, but a part of my heart with always in Madison.
Thanks to my sister Kathy for putting me up for a month! My family, Gale, Betty, Teal, Sandy, Mike, Kathy, Larry, Dave, Erin and Joanie. And to my incredible friends, Jennifer, Terry, Dawn, Tamara, Dawnette, Lisa, Lisa Rae, Dan and Loretta, Tori and Logan, Raven, Mickey and Jeri, Chad, Doug, Merritt, and the boys in Last Crack, Aaron Williams and the Hoo Doo and Madison County.
Besides, they don’t call Madison, Madcity for nothing! We are a hardy stock that will walk in snow up to our hips for a cold beer. Scrap the ice off our windshields with our bare hands and survive New Years Eve in mini skirts, heels and a wind chill factor below zero.That’s right, I am proud to be from Wisconsin, and you never know when you will see me again without warning or fanfare. I’m still a teenager on the inside, and thanks to my upbringing, I’m from a place that is like no other; Wisconsin, a place that will always be home.