The golden horses on top of the Minnesota State Capitol have one less rider. The Hartbeat won't be able to call across the hall of the basement press area for confirmation on a song lyric or musical artist. My colleague, since we were teens, is mounting a new steed and traveling a different trail along the side of the mountain. The Jackal Den will have a changed atmosphere now that one of its vets is over the wall and running for the tree line.
This edition of Hartbeat will add to the lore about Eric Eskola from the perspective of one who knew him back when we worked together at the Broadcast Center for the Upper Midwest located in the heart of one of the Big Baghdads by the lake.
How the Web Was Woven
I first met Eric at KDAL TV in Duluth in the spring of 1973. We were among the college kids who helped out at the station. Our help was cheap. We were paid minimum wage, which in 1973 was $1.65 an hour. We received raises when the Federal Wage and Hour law changed.
Eric's title was then film filer. As photographer/film processor operators and film editors, we built the newscasts on reels of film. The stories wound on the reels in the order they aired (hopefully) and we printed out a list of the story names (called "slugs") that we taped on the reel. After the show the reels came back to the photo lab and Eric wound each film story into a small roll ranging in size from a nickel to a quarter (following our wage scale). He would label the story with the date and slug and put the rolls into a film can on which he wrote the date. He then took the contents of the can into the newsroom and typed out (using a manual typewriter) a recipe card with the slug, date and a brief story description. Eric's descriptions were his summing up of the story, so one had to be able to see the news from his perspective. It was clear to me that Eric could successfully synthesize a story into sentence - a challenge to many journalists, including the author of this blog.
Follow that Dream
A dream for my then future wife Vivian was to see Elvis Presley in concert. One of our friends had his own 16mm copy of the Elvis concert film, "That's the Way it Is." We had seen it countless times and were devoted fans of the King. (This devotion continues today.)
Vivian was recovering from surgery at a Duluth hospital when she heard the radio announcement that Elvis Presley would be playing at the Duluth Arena on October 16, 1976. She was not able to walk at the time. I could not take her to the concert since I had accepted a position at a Twin Cities television station and wasn't able to get time off. From her hospital bed, Vivian called Eric at KDAL and asked him if he could get tickets to the show. A true friend, Eric went to the Arena and waited in line so that when the box office opened, he could procure tickets for this once in a lifetime event. Eric's patience was rewarded with tickets and Vivian, recovered enough from surgery to walk with crutches was able to follow her dream of being in the same room with Elvis...
Big Boss Man
Though Eric didn't consider himself as the leader of the Capitol jackal pack, to me and others, he was. He would often walk down the narrow hallway past the offices where his fellow journalists were toiling and ask who would be joining him at the rotunda rally, legislative leader news conference or other political occurrences. Most of the time, we would follow him to cover the events. Over the years the KARE legislative assistants learned a great deal from Eric. Working with Eric for them was like a short and intensive Masters program. He always said that anyone we hired became a helper for him given our geographic proximity across the way from his office. Eric sometimes described himself as the long time resident sitting on the old sofa in his yard throwing rocks or empty cans at his neighbor's house to get their attention. During the 2004 Metro Transit bus strike, Eric employed a KARE legislative assistant to transport him to the Capitol to start his day.
Eric had cassette tape recorders stacked in his office like keyboard player Rick Wakeman of Yes stacked his instruments. Eric would sometimes have several recorders rolling at Capitol events and the KARE legislative assistants often monitored them to make sure they were recording. When the news conference was over they would return the machine to Eric and he would play the tapes to find some of the quotes (as he named the sound bites) for his newscasts.
As a man who was "taking care of business in a flash" every day at the Capitol, the rest of us relied on him to explain a parliamentary play or what the purpose of all of those hours of mind numbing debate was really all about. He could always get to the heart of the matter.
In addition to being someone who can boil down a news story to an understandable size, Eric Eskola, or Double E, is also an accomplished guitar player. He has studied guitar for years and knows many complicated jazz chords as well as rock riffs. As someone trying to learn a few basic guitar techniques, I really respect Eric's knowledge and abilities on the fret board. Now, he can devote more time in search of the lost chord.
He also collects guitars and sometimes brought them to his office. The most memorable one he showed me one day was a Fender Marauder. A guitar that was built between 1965 and 66, the Marauder was supposed to combine the attributes of the Fender Stratocaster, Jazzmaster and Jaguar into one instrument. Curt Cobain may have designed the Jag-Stang (a combination of the Fender Jaguar and Mustang), but Eric had the original factory rarity of a combined guitar. Despite its attributes, the Marauder never got past the prototype stage. Eric had a rare Type I where the pickups are hidden under the pickguard. Guitar collectors covet the Marauder, since it is believed that only eight of these instruments exist today.
I'll miss Eric for his wit and wisdom of all things musical, political and legislative. Plus, we have a strong connection to the King-another big E whose quality work we'll always remember.
The Hartbeat goes on...
What's cooking on the Hartbeat Grill?
While grocery shopping recently I decided to check out the magazine rack for the latest Rolling Stone. I usually get it out of the library, but I like to preview the most current issue. What caught my attention was the Special Collectors Edition Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Along with song titles and artists this publication is full of vital information about each song including record chart positions, writers, producers, release date, record label and the album on which the hit appeared. There are also excellent photos of the artists and images historic guitars and some of the original 45 rpm records.
Of course, I had to buy it and the 122 pages will provide blog food for future Hartbeats.
The Musical Notes (about those Hartbeat subheads)
"How the Web Was Woven" appeared on "That's the Way It Is," the 36th album by Elvis. Released in November of 1970, it contains studio and live material. Clive Westlake one of the writers of "How the Web Was Woven," had songs recorded by 135 artists including Tom Jones, Dusty Springfield and the Hollies. The Elvis version of "How the Web Was Woven" has a gospel sound and though not a big hit, it captures Elvis and his early 70s sound as well as doing what he always really wanted to do, be part of a gospel group.
"Follow That Dream" is from the 1962 movie "Follow That Dream: Elvis Rocks the Beach." The song was recorded in Nashville in July of 1961 and was written by two of the King's chief song writers of the 1960's Ben Weisman and Fred Wise who also wrote "Wooden Heart." In addition to writing 57 hits for Elvis, Weisman wrote "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" for Bobby Vee. "Follow that Dream" is a favorite of Bruce Springsteen who has performed the song as part of his live shows. His acoustic arrangement of the song is well worth a listen.
"Big Boss Man" was covered by Elvis in 1967 and was part of his 1968 Comeback Special. Elvis was a great admirer of bluesman Jimmy Reed and recorded two other Reed songs: "Baby What You Want Me to Do" and "Ain't That Loving You Baby." Elvis had an affinity for music of another man named Reed and that connection produced some memorable music.
"Guitar Man" was cut in the same session as "Big Boss Man" and featured the fast picking guitar of the song's writer, Jerry Reed. "Guitar Man" was also featured in the 1968 Comeback Special. Elvis also recorded another Reed song, "U.S. Male." Jerry Reed in addition to his work with Elvis, had a notable career of his own with chart topping singles including "Amos Moses" and "When You're Hot You're Hot."
The Photo Notes
The photo of the Golden Horses is a still from a Sony DVCAM tape.
The photo of Eric and noted author Rick Shefchik was taken in the Duluth Mount Royale parking lot in the mid 70's on Ektachrome 64 slide film. The current picture of the two men was taken with an Olympus digital camera at Eric's farewell party. Rick's next novel will have an Elvis and Beatles storyline. You can't go wrong with that!
The image of Todd Anderson, an Elvis impersonator and candidate for Lt. Governor was taken with a digital camera at the Minnesota State Capitol the day after the legislative session ended.
(Copyright 2010 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)