The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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December 26, 2006

Celebrating the past in Mankato

Band, bar owner commemorate 35 years together

MANKATO — As two men sit and talk about 35 years of progress and change, history literally lies beneath their feet.

It was on this very spot on New Year’s Eve in 1972 — at the front of what is now T.J. Finnegan’s Pub on Front Street in Mankato — that Billy Steiner of City Mouse was on the verge of something. He was in the early stages of a band that would go through more than 30 members, that would become a Mankato country-rock staple at bars and festivals, that still is going strong today, playing about a hundred gigs a year.

Nearby — watching this young group play the second gig ever at his brand new bar then called the Hurdy Gurdy Saloon — Ron Doty also was at the beginning of something. It was a business that would evolve with the times, change identities as entertainment interests went from live rock to disco to comedy, that would last decades as various other bars came and went.

Doty’s bar wasn’t the first gig for City Mouse. The Hurdy Gurdy Saloon wasn’t Doty’s first bar in the Mankato area, either. He had owned Pappy’s Bar since 1971 until opening the saloon a year later.

But both Steiner, who turns 57 today, and Doty, 64, got started with their respective 35-year histories as a band and a Mankato bar owner around the same time. And, throughout the years, as City Mouse developed a following and played numerous gigs at the Hurdy Gurdy, these histories overlapped.

That’s why, a couple of months ago as Steiner and fellow band members realized City Mouse was turning 35 this year, their first thought was to celebrate the occasion at T.J.’s.

For the 35th anniversary show to be held Saturday, they invited as many of the 30 or so former band members as they could to join them on stage throughout the night — except, of course, for five who have died, including longtime member Gus Dewey. They invited friends and fellow musicians to jam with them, too.

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