The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 3, 2013

Mary Jane Alm back home for HOF induction

Singer started with City Mouse in the late '70s

By Tim Krohn
The Mankato Free Press

---- — NEW ULM — Only in New Ulm: Rock singer Mary Jane Alm and jazz singer Dennis Spears moving to the sound of an oompah band playing at the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame museum.

Dodie Wendinger, CEO of the the Hall of Fame, said that's what the New Ulm-based organization is all about.

"When we were starting in 1988 we were going to do a polka hall of fame, but decided why not incorporate all of Minnesota music?"

On Saturday, the public came to the museum to meet this year's inductees, including Alm and Spears.

For Alm, who got her start with Mankato-based City Mouse in the late '70s, it was a bit of a homecoming.

"City Mouse was my first time being in a real band," said Alm, who moved to the Twin Cities in the early '80s and started the Mary Jane Alm Band, opening for numerous national acts, recording albums and CDs and touring the Midwest.

Alm, who graduated from Mankato High School (now West) in 1973, and from Minnesota State University, said four decades of performing hasn't dampened her love of singing.

"It never gets old. I still feel like I always did, I have the same passion for singing and still feel that fire when I hear a song I love," she said.

"I'm thankful I'm still singing and feel I'm better than ever and I think I haven't peaked in song writing."

But writing — something she's doing this winter for her next record — is a love hate relationship.

"I love singing more. Writing seems like work, singing never seems like work."

Besides Alm and Spears, the other inductees this year were guitarist Leo Kottke, accordionist Lorren Lindevig of Cloquet, old-time band leader Leon Olsen of New Ulm and the St. Olaf Choir from St. Olaf College in Northfield.

Olsen carries on the rich tradition of New Ulm old-time music that Wendinger admits is fading some.

"There used to be 28 old-time bands booking out of New Ulm. We're down to probably 10 booking now," she said. "All of the ballrooms are gone, our entertainment spectrum has widened so much."

The Hall of Fame picks about six inductees each year, working off of a list of up to 300 names submitted from across the state.

Wendinger said the group is funded through memberships and from money from musicians who left money to the group in their wills.

Previous Minnesota Music Hall of Fame inductees include Prince, Bob Dylan, Bobby Vee, The Trashmen and Judy Garland.

The Hall of Fame museum is located at First North Street and Broadway in New Ulm and is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Admission is $5.