Excelsior's Claim to Fame:
The Rolling Stones will return to the Twin Cities this weekend, which means the people of Excelsior are talking about Mr. Jimmy again.
"Everybody," longtime west metro resident Stephanie Smith said, "knows about Mr. Jimmy."
His real name was Jimmy Hutmaker, and if we choose to believe the age-old tale, he met Michael Philip Jagger on June 13, 1964, in Excelsior, Minn., which was the night after the Rolling Stones played a concert at the Excelsior Amusement Park during their first tour of the United States.
The legend, we are told, goes something like this: Mick Jagger, the shaggy-haired lead singer of the emerging English rock band, walked into Bacon Drug on Water Street in downtown Excelsior to fill a prescription. He supposedly recognized Mr. Jimmy from the concert the previous evening. The two got to talking, allegedly, and Mick Jagger asked Mr. Jimmy why he looked so down, to which Mr. Jimmy replied that he had wanted a Cherry Coke from the drug store counter but ended up getting only a regular soda.
Of course, "You can't always get what you want," Mr. Jimmy added to Mick Jagger.
Or so he said.
Five years later, the Rolling Stones released their 1969 album, "Let It Bleed," with a now-iconic final track, "You Can't Always Get What You Want." In the song, Mick Jagger sang about a drugstore, a cherry soda, and most importantly, a Mr. Jimmy.
According to Bob Bolles, a longtime Excelsior business owner and one of Mr. Jimmy's closest friends, many kids in the neighborhood in 1969 alerted Mr. Jimmy to the song the moment they heard the lyrics.
Hey Jimmy! They got your song on the radio! You gotta listen to the radio!
"He was kind of, a little bit, dumbfounded," Bolles said. "'What song?'"
Mr. Jimmy, who died in 2007, would soon stake his claim to the song. He even printed business cards for himself: Roving Ambassador, Excelsior, Minnesota, James "Mr. Jimmy" Hutmaker, "You Can't Always Get What You Want." To this day, a bench across the street from the former Bacon Drug store carries Mr. Jimmy's name, and local breweries and restaurants in Excelsior have named beers and hamburgers after him.
In this small town on the shores of Lake Minnetonka, folks seem split about whether Mr. Jimmy actually met Mick Jagger on that summer day in 1964, which if true, would mean that a small-town Minnesotan provided the Rolling Stones with the material for one of their most popular songs ever. Mick Jagger has never acknowledged the story, and the fact that a Stones producer was also named Jimmy -- the late Jimmy Miller -- casts major doubt on the whole saga.
"Some people believe it. Some people don't," Bolles said. "It's like a lot of things in life, I guess."
Ralph Paro, who owns the barber shop in town where Mr. Jimmy often frequented, said he believes there's about a "50-50" chance that Jimmy Hutmaker of Excelsior was responsible for "You Can't Always Get What You Want."
"Whether it's truth or fable," Paro said, "who knows?"
Mr. Jimmy swore by the encounter until the day he died, gaining many devoted followers along the way. When the Stones played at the Metrodome in November 1997, fans mobbed him in the concourse as he stood in line for a hot dog, asking him to retell the story over and over again. They all wanted their moment with the famous "Mr. Jimmy."
This Sunday night, when the Rolling Stones play at U.S. Bank Stadium, a few of Mr. Jimmy's surviving relatives will be in attendance, perhaps for the last time ever if the "No Filter" tour becomes a farewell. The band hasn't said whether it will tour again.
Regardless, Mr. Jimmy's possible connection to music history — whether we believe the story or not — will live forever in Excelsior.
"Oh, no question," Bob Bolles said. "Absolutely, he was a part of the fabric of Excelsior."
Mr. Jimmy: Town Ambassador:
Born in 1932, Jimmy Hutmaker moved to Excelsior with his parents and older brother at the age of 16, just as the country was entering a post-World War II boom. Previously, Jimmy had lived in several small towns west of the Twin Cities, including New Germany, Watertown and Hector, but he never advanced past ninth grade, according to family members. His niece, Cindy Larson, said that Jimmy witnessed a horrendous incident as a young child, when the family's nanny suffered severe burns from a cooking accident. The trauma and anxiety shaped Jimmy for the rest of his life.
From the late forties until his death in 2007, Jimmy roamed the streets of Excelsior almost every day, earning the nickname "Mr. Jimmy." He became widely known in town for eccentric trademarks: a soggy cigar, funny-looking top hat, a fondness for discussing religious topics with complete strangers, a near-photographic memory. Many people in Excelsior judged Jimmy for his disheveled looks and falsely assumed he was a homeless person, but he did in fact have a home, living with family in the heart of Excelsior on Third Street.
Some parents kept their kids away from Mr. Jimmy, based solely on his appearance, but most knew he was harmless.
"The people that were willing to stop to talk to him would know him as a very caring person," Bob Bolles said. "He always wanted to know more about you. Where'd you go to school? Where did you grow up? He'd usually ask you what your religion was. He just wanted to get to know people and he wouldn't forget it. The next time he saw you on the street, he'd quote some things that he'd learned the previous time he met you."
Bolles had first encountered Mr. Jimmy in town in the late 1960s, but the two didn't become close friends for another three decades, when Bolles began asking Mr. Jimmy more about his upbringing and family life. That curiosity led Bolles to discover a treasure trove of information about the mysterious Mr. Jimmy, including the fact that he boasted a tremendous singing voice. Shocked by Mr. Jimmy's hidden talent, Bolles invited him to sing at the Christmas Pageant in Excelsior and bought him a tuxedo to wear at the event. The tuxedo became another trademark of Mr. Jimmy's, and his performance of "White Christmas" and "Silent Night" became an annual tradition at Excelsior's holiday extravaganza.
"There were a smaller portion of people that knew him as well as I did," Bolles said, "but for the most part, people didn't really know him to the [same] depth."
But they all knew that tale about Mick Jagger.
"I probably heard it one of the first couple weeks or months that we were in town," Bolles said. "It was such a dominant story."
The legend of Mr. Jimmy and Mick Jagger has been told often over the past half-century, by media outlets and through word-of-mouth in Excelsior, usually with some slight variations depending on the source. One thing we know for a fact: The Rolling Stones did play at the Excelsior Amusement Park's "Danceland" on June 12, 1964, in front of a few hundred people who didn't quite know what to make of the British rock band. Mark Nesset, who lived across the street from Mr. Jimmy in Excelsior, said he remembered hearing the Stones were "booed off the stage." Indeed, Gary Reins, who attended the concert as an 18-year-old, told KARE 11 several years ago that "it was really poorly attended" and "yeah, there was some booing. Like, what are these Beatle wannabes? Or, what are these guys?"
Mr. Jimmy Hutmaker was supposedly in that audience at Danceland and, in some fashion, might have interacted with Mick Jagger after the performance. That initial encounter set in motion the rest of the tale: Mick Jagger walked into Bacon Drug the next day, remembered Mr. Jimmy, asked him what was wrong, and then listened as Mr. Jimmy told him he wanted a Cherry Coke, which he couldn’t have.
Because, you know, "you can't always get what you want."
"You Can't Always Get What You Want":
Listen to those lyrics again.
The drugstore... standing in line with Mr. Jimmy... soda... cherry red...
Bonnie Eiss, who claims to have worked the counter as a high school student at Bacon Drug on that day in 1964, told KARE 11 she remembers Mr. Jimmy expressing disappointment about not getting a Cherry Coke because the store had run out of the syrup flavoring. After that, Eiss recalled, Mr. Jimmy did say something along the lines of, "you can't always get what you want." There is a caveat: Since the Rolling Stones weren't internationally famous yet in 1964, Eiss said she doesn't know if it was really Mick Jagger sitting next to Mr. Jimmy.
She wouldn't have recognized him from a stranger, at that point in time.
But she remembers a long-haired fellow that, perhaps, might have been Mick Jagger.
And she believes the story.
"Yeah, a lot of people are trying to disprove it," Eiss said. "But I was there!"
For years afterward, Eiss said that whenever she saw Mr. Jimmy, he would boast: "You were the one who gave me the Coke!"
Unfortunately, the alleged site of the encounter, Bacon Drug Store, no longer exists. Having cycled through several occupants, the building on Water Street now houses the restaurant Red Sauce Rebellion. Joel Bohlin, a catering chef, said people often come into the restaurant inquiring about Mr. Jimmy, demanding to see where he met Mick Jagger all those years ago.
"Mr. Jimmy was a loveable person, and everybody was friends with him and had a story about him," Bohlin said. "He certainly relished the idea that he was part of that historical fabric of Excelsior."
Bohlin loves the story.
But that's all he thinks it is — a story.
"Everybody likes a tall tale," Bohlin said. "Knowing the history of the song... No. I do not believe the story. No."
Mr. Jimmy: Jimmy Miller?:
There is a hard truth that even hardcore Mr. Jimmy believers must acknowledge.
The Rolling Stones had a producer Jimmy.
His name was Jimmy Miller, and his work on Rolling Stones' albums including "Let It Bleed" made him a household name in the close-knit music world. According to Keith Richards, Miller "could handle a band — especially this band — and gave everybody the same level of support." The Brooklyn native, who died in 1994, gained a reputation for creativity as a producer.
His sister, Judith Miller — the journalist who spent time in jail protecting a source in the Plame Affair — wrote a 2019 article for Tablet Magazine commemorating her brother's legacy. "His innovations were often small–accelerating a tempo or a shift in percussion, and sometimes major," she wrote, before adding, "supporting Mick and Keith's idea of using the London Bach Choir in an English gospel version of "You Can't Always Get What You Want" (with its shout-out to Mr. Jimmy in the middle)."
As Judith Miller alludes to, many believe that Jimmy Miller is the real "Mr. Jimmy," rather than Jimmy Hutmaker of Excelsior, Minn.
In an exchange of Twitter messages earlier this month with KARE 11, Jimmy Miller's stepson expanded on this theory.
"The song is what it says it is," Steve Miller wrote in his message. "Mick talking to his Producer about a song he has and Jimmy not thinking it is very good. So you can't always get what you want."
Over the years, people have tried to ask Mick Jagger to confirm the real Mr. Jimmy's identity. Before a show at Target Center in February 1999, KARE 11's Allen Costantini came within feet of Mick Jagger on the airport tarmac and launched an inquiry: "Mick, can you make one comment about..."
Mick Jagger had already turned to walk away.
Over the past few weeks, KARE 11 sent emails to Mick Jagger's representatives, but they are not holding media availability ahead of Sunday's concert.
The Final Verdict:
Swirling questions about "Mr. Jimmy" are likely not a top priority for the Rolling Stones, as they prepare to travel to Minneapolis.
Twenty miles west in Excelsior, however, it's still the occasional talk of town.
"I don't believe the story," Chris Butzow said as he took a stroll down Water Street a few weeks ago. "Never did believe the story."
But Butzow, recalling great memories of Mr. Jimmy and Bacon Drug, didn't completely rule it out.
"Apparently, the Rolling Stones did play at the Excelsior Amusement Park before they were famous. So it's possible Mick Jagger could have gone into Bacon Drug," Butzow said. "It makes for a possible story."
A possible story.
That's how Ralph Paro, the barbershop owner, sees it too, although he'd like to believe it.
"Why ruin a good fable with a fact?" he said.
But there are plenty of other people in Excelsior who believe the tale with all of their hearts.
"Yeah, I do. Yeah. There's no reason not to," said Mark Nesset, Mr. Jimmy's former neighbor.
"Yeah. Sure. Why not?" said Randy Marks, who has lived in the area for three decades.
"Sure," Stephanie Smith said. "I believe in things like that."
The biggest believer is Bob Bolles. To him, Mr. Jimmy was so much more than what the public saw. Beyond the stale cigar, the tuxedo, the odd-shaped hats, the mumbling about religion, Bolles knew Mr. Jimmy as a beloved and loyal friend.
"He was just very plain and straightforward. He didn't embellish stories. He just told it like it is," Bolles said. "For that reason, I believe it."
Fourteen years after his friend's death, Bolles still grows emotional when he thinks about Mr. Jimmy, cherishing in particular his singing performances at the annual Christmas pageants. He especially remembers that first pageant in the 1990s. That night, Bolles recalls, the crowd fell silent at the sight of Mr. Jimmy taking the stage. He had pulled out his glasses and placed music sheets in front of himself on the podium, so that he could make sure he had the songs exactly correct.
It was the first time, Bolles said, that anyone in Excelsior knew that Mr. Jimmy could read.
"For the most part, people did not give him the credit that he deserved," Bolles said. "Jimmy always used to ask, 'Will anyone ever remember me after I die?'"
For Bolles, the answer was simple.
"Oh, Jimmy," Bolles replied. "People will remember you."