Cadillac vs Cornbread
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Cadillac vs Cornbread

Band Americana Blues


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"Cadillac vs. Cornbread"

Don't let that "vs." fool you: eighty-something local music vet James Samuel "Cornbread" Harris isn't so much a rival to rockabilly revivalist Cadillac Kolstad as he is a mentor. The two pianists have been sharing double-bills in a number of local music hot-spots, including their regular Sunday gig at the beloved West Bank dive Palmer's, and you couldn't ask for a more fascinating '50s-tinged duo. Harris is a WWII vet who joined Augie Garcia to record the Twin Cities' first rock'n'roll record (1955's "Hi Ho Silver"), but also has roots in country, blues and jazz, giving him the repertoire and background that stretches all the way back to the very roots of rock and soul music. Kolstad's been spending years carrying the torch for that heritage, and the revivalism he's cultivated with his rockabilly band the Flats has carried over to a tight, ivories-based rapport with Harris, making them the must-see dueling-piano act in town.
Sundays, 8 p.m., 2009 - City Pages

"Behind the Curtain at the New Orleans Burlesque Festival with Trixie Little"

1:30am Recovered some of my dignity with the help of two Sazeracs sipped from the spinning carousal bar at the Hotel Monteleone. Now I’m ambling down the sumptuous, non-douchey section of Bourbon Street with a glamorous gaggle heading for Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. The legendary candlelit tavern was built in 1772 supposedly by a pirate named Lafitte. When we arrive there is a subdued middle-aged female piano player with long blond hair respectfully tinkling her way through ‘New York, New York’ on the piano in the back. I would have wound up here at Lafitte’s regardless because it’s one of my faves, but tonight the Minneapolis couple, Tomahawk Tassels and Cadillac Kolstad, are spear heading a juke joint takeover in this legendary place. I support this mission.

3:15am Finished a Pimm’s cup and am now slowly enjoying a shot of Chartreuse over ice. Wondering how monks in France came up with this enchanting combination of 130 herbs and spices. Piano lady has packed up and the stools are put up on the tables in back. Slowly we are all given the thumbs up to gather around the piano. Stools come back down. Crowd gathers. Cadillac settles in behind the piano and suddenly his beetlejuice-meets-Jerry-Lee-Lewis look makes sense. In mere moments, he is banging out some serious rock-n-roll, his pompadour is shaken out of its coif and Tomahawk is hiking up her green gown to climb atop the piano. The burlesque crew in attendance is perfectly dressed for the occasion and knows what to do: foot stomping, butt shaking and wild clapping commence - all with reckless abandon. The blond piano lady apparently never left and shows up to angrily use her camera phone to record the revelry. I’m sure her boss will be real furious about all of the fun we’re having. It suddenly feels like the 1950’s and the irrepressible surge of rock-n-roll is pissing off the parents.

After a few songs, I worry about how fiercely Cadillac thrashes his hair given his close proximity to the wall behind him and the piano in front of him. It occurs to me that his flying pompadour is acting much like whiskers on a cat…keeping him safe in tight places. In true New Orleans fashion, a clarinet player appears out of thin air to back up the piano and is eventually joined by some guy with a guitar. This all fuels the sexiest piano-top dancing I’ve ever seen in my life.

Part pinup, part Cherokee - Tomahawk wore a retro updo with several hawk feathers inserted somewhat horizontally and two long braids that went all the way down to her lovely waist. About five songs in - her gown is gone, she’s in a black sequin hot-pant-situation with suspenders and a black bra. She is all legs and heels, crawling and clapping like some wayward Pentacostal poster child. Tomahawk’s mixture of good, clean fun and sweaty sin combined with Cadillac’s balls-to-the-wall piano playing was truly intoxicating - and absolutely the best ending to this delicious weekend. If the boobs-n-booze alone didn’t do it, the Juke-Joint-Coup of 2009 would definitely result in a hangover. Careful to enjoy the moment, I step back one more time to soak up the delirious lack of inhibition - to see all of us holding onto the rafters, letting our hair down and shaking it because it needs to be shook.

Thank you, New Orleans, and good night! - 21st Century Pinups

"Buttered cornbread, a hot ride in the caddy, and a tomahawk to the face!"

My dear friends: in reporting on our evening at Palmer's Bar in Minneapolis on Sunday I'm not sure what should be included and what should be left to ferment in the whiskey soaked annals of the bar's checkered past. Our evening began with a white-knuckled navigation of the Minneapolis freeway system, being the first real driving experience in heavy urban traffic with the trailer. Having arrived in the West Bank (which is only marginally safer than the region of Israel bearing the same name), we scanned the dismal parking situation until we found a suitable spot large enough for Rocinante's proud and healthful girth.

A brief inspection of Palmer's interior quickly revealed that this night was likely to be among the most memorable that we've shared. An extremely diverse crowd was at once welcoming, the staff was incredibly polite and considerate, and musicians were setting up on a dimly lit stage in the corner. We noticed that the piano was held up on cinder blocks and that there were chains suspended from the ceiling. Additional musicians continued to shuffle in. We took our seats and sat attentively as the band began.

This gentleman here is Cornbread Harris. He is 82 years old, has no teeth, and has been playing music twice as long as I've been alive. There were two separate film crews present, each filming a different documentary about this man, which may give you an idea of the level of mystique that surrounds him. He doesn't drink, doesn't go to the doctor, and can still tour for weeks at a time or capture the heart of a young girl. Honestly, I've never seen anything like it. At one point, he was giving a rundown of the events that were to take place that evening. He seemed to be reading off a slip of paper and mentioned 'Tomahawk', which I thought might be a new misinterpretation of Tumbledown House. I was delightfully mistaken.. More on that later.

Cornbread shares the stage with a slick, fast-handed rockabilly piano player named Cadillac Kolstad, who recently returned from New Orleans. Cadillac wears his hair in a thick top-heavy pompadour that is reminiscent of a cross between Elvis and a funeral director. As the music heats up, Cadillac's foot starts pounding, he stands, beats his hands on the piano, and the once impecabbly groomed pompadour flails wildly, spilling greasy hair all over his face. Amazingly, after the song is over, he whips out a comb and with a couple of well honed swipes, his 'do is back to its original position. This band uses no electricity for its instruments (vocals being the only exception) which I have an increasing amount of respect for. So many acts these days rely on excessive volume to hold their audience captive, and it's extremely refreshing to see a band that doesn't need electricity to convey intensity.

After Cadillac pounded out a few more numbers, a few gals strutted in dressed as Native American vixens, and I saw that Tomahawk was not another mispronunciation of Tumbledown House, but was in fact a Cherokee themed burlesque dancer. Of course! I should have known! So she proceeded to get up on the piano and stomp her moccasin-clad feet so hard on the lid that I was almost certain she would break through the wood. Lo and behold, she commanded a keen sense of balance as well as a thorough understanding of the structural integrity of a vintage piano. As the night progressed, clothing may or may not have been removed, and I may or may not have pictures that won't be posted here.

In conclusion, I must HIGHLY recommend that anyone in the Minneapolis area go check out Cadillac vs. Cornbread on Sunday nights. Like all good things, this too will someday end, and I pity the fool who has the opportunity to witness such a unique and respectable act and passes - tumbledown house


Cadillac vs Cornbread "All The Fun (at Palmer's Bar)"
Cadillac Kolstad "& the Flats"
Cadillac Kolstad "Standards of The World"
Cornbread "Cornbread Supreme Vol. 1 & 2"
Cornbread Harris "Live at Nikki's"
Cornbread Harris Single "Hi-Ho Silver" (1955)



Cadillac Kolstad, kid from the Hub of Hell, and son
of Wes t Bank legend Papa John Kolstad, has been a
regular fixture on the West Bank since birth. This is the
6th album Cadillac has been on and his 3rd feature. With
an aptitude for boogie, and pounding bass lines, he has
performed at over 1000 shows in the last 5 years.
Writing all his songs on stage, there is no need for pen
and paper, or a set list. Combining original tunes and old
favorites, with his love of local history, Cadillac has
ushered in the next chapte r of the West Bank music
story. This duo concept has been a dream of Cadillac's
for the better part of a decade
Cornbread Harris (if you don't already know) is the
octogenarian grandfather of the "Minneapolis Sound.”
Born 1927, in Chicago, and christened James Samuel
Harris Junior. Cornbread played piano on, and co-wrote
the first rock-n-roll re cord out of Minneapolis "Hi-Ho
Silver" with Auggie Garcia in 1955. Playwright, composer
and teacher, and father of Jimmy Jam Harris. Cornbread
has released a cassette tape "Live at Nikki's" and the 2
Volume original album "Cornbread Supreme". Through
his music, Cornbread has touched the lives of thousands
performing with a myriad of musicians, and at countless
clubs. Cornbread 82, s till performs regularly, often
playing several 2-3 hour sets a night right until 2am bar
close. Cornbread loves playing music, peace, Mardi Gras
beads, balloons.
Supporting we have Scott Soule, playing more notes
than most guys have frets on the Upright Bass. James
"Jimmyapolis" Wallace steps in for a few songs and some
great melodies on tenor sax. Johann Swenson shows
how to maintain that dancin' beat while keeping the
recording going. With Mr. Big John, the party stays safe.
Some years back Cadillac discovered Mr. Cornbread
performing at a downtown café. Shortly after the two
were introduced, Cadillac began joining Cornbread at his
“gig for life ” at the Loring Pasta Bar. After a few years
Cornbread joined Mr. Cadillac and his band at their
weekly Sunday night gig at Palmer’s Bar, on the West
Bank of Minneapolis . . .
New streets intersect and overlay old Indian paths.
Freeways that criss-cross the country intersect here and
form 2 borders, our Mississippi forms the 3rd, hence the
name. The West Bank is a place where culture has mixed
for eons. Once at the heart of the "Gateway to The Wild
Wild West,” a thriving music scene evolved and
flourished for many years (chronicled in the book West
Bank Boogie). Eventually, neglected by the city, the Bank
seemed to deteriorate. Reports of drugs, assault and
robbery were common. Through changing owners,
clientele, and economy, prospects seemed bleak. When
the last live music community center, The Viking Bar
closed, to many it felt the end had come.
Months later a band started playing a secret Sunday
night dance party at the bar around the corner,
"Palmer’s" had a capacity of sixty-five people and no
music licence. Palmer’s is a century old bar of some
character, diverse clientele, and strong drinks. The
tallest residential building in Minneapolis looms
overhead, a mosque operates next door and the bus
stops right out front. Palmer's was the last bar that had
not changed for generations. Featuring the same Grain
Belt floor tile installed at the turn of the century.
With an understanding “word of mouth only” people
began to congregate Sunday nights. Young, old, hippies,
punks, Native Americans, African-Americans, East
Africans, Asian peoples, professionals, amateurs, out-oftowners,
white collar, blue collar and no collar workers.
Rich, poor, dogs, cats, rabbits, and vermin. An exchange
of ideas and experiences began.
After building crowds and a growing relationship with
Cornbread, all concerned entered and won the statewide
blues contest. The Next Level was to compete in the
International Blues Challenge in Memphis Tennessee.
The prize was a recording package and a tour. Cadillac
had been wanting to record with Cornbread for some time
and this seemed like it had potential. On the Sunday of
our going away party Cornbread came down to Palmer’s
and sat in for the first time.
Raising money and getting ready for Memphis over
several months was complicated by the unfortunate loss
of our Cadillac Limo. Tom Asp (GTCM blues society /
photographer / Distinguished Vietnam Veteran) offered
a lift. Six of us and our piano (Compliments of Mr. Red
Nelson) Cornbread, Cadillac, his girlfr iend and
photographer Sarah Jean, Johann, new bass player
Auggie, and Mr. Asp.
All the way down south (and back) we stopped at
every rest s top, service station, and roadside attraction
for "bathroom breaks.” Within a few hours of hitting the
road we encountered what seemed to be an endless
blizzard. Cars, vans, even semi's (by the score) were flying
off the road like a real life demolition derby. Seeing
dozens of vehicles in the ditch between every mile marker
caused us an