Ken Lonnquist

Ken Lonnquist: Lost Songs of Kenland

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Artist: Ken Lonnquist

Artist: Ken Lonnquist
Title: Lost Songs of Kenland
Product Type: COMPACT DISCS

THE LOST SONGS OF KENLAND 'The Lost Songs Of Kenland inhabits a pop-fantasy world that Lennon & McCartney would have recognized; in some ways, it's like Sgt. Pepper's for kids. Lost Songs' multi-layered-but-controlled production values, colorful imagery, affection for old-fashioned showmanship and feel for the light and dark sides of a kid's inner world make it a young American cousin to the Fab Four's masterpiece.' '' Maureen Gerarden, Isthmus Kenland U.S.A. Ken Lonnquist has made his mark in the world of children's music. By Dwight Allen Isthmus Weekly Arts Newspaper The Culture Early one Friday evening in November, Ken Lonnquist sang a bunch of his children's songs to an S.R.O. crowd at the Meadowridge Branch Library, out on the southwestern edge of Madison. Lonnquist wore blue jeans, a striped t-shirt, galluses, one gold-hoop earring and no shoes. He accompanied himself on a custom-made, small-bodied acoustic guitar. About halfway through the show, a boy who was sitting up front, a curious, pesky kid of about 9 or 10, asked Lonnquist what the metal thingamabob was on the floor there, next to Ken's empty boots. The boy picked the thingamabob up and examined it. "That's called a capo," Lonnquist said, politely. "Would you like to see me use it?" The boy said he would. Lonnquist said, well, he might do that, sometime, and then he went into a song called "My Mother's Snoring" which didn't require him to use a capo but did give him a chance to snore noisily and profoundly. Lonnquist, who is 35 and has lived in Madison since he was 13, has been performing for children for almost a dozen years. He has written, by his count, a "gazillion" songs for kids, as well as several hundred others for taller people. "My Mother's Snoring" is among his most popular numbers''he recorded it on his first cassette for kids, Kengos Bongos, which was made in 1986 in his living room''but it is probably not quite as popular as his fast, funny, "Alligator Rag (Don't Get Caught With Your Pants Down When There's An Alligator Around)". This song, which Lonnquist adapted from a ditty he wrote for broad-minded adults back in the early days of the Reagan administration, appeals directly, if not unimaginatively, to children's interest in butts. If you are Ken Lonnquist, "Alligator Rag" is a good song to sing if you don't seem to have a firm grip on your audience. One reason that Lonnquist didn't always have a firm grip on the Meadowridge audience was that it contained quite a few toddlers, in addition to the people whom Lonnquist regards as his ideal listeners, the Kindergarten through 6th grade crowd. "I've been told by parents and teachers that I'm very good at holding kids' attention," Lonnquist said later. "But whenever there are toddlers around, you can throw everything out the window. I don't do toddler music, the â€-Wheels On The Bus' kind of thing." "Alligator Rag" seemed to concentrate the minds of many of the children at Meadowridge. Lonnquist's next number, "One Speed Bike", which is on a just-released cassette called Welcome 2 Kenland, got the joint jumping. "One Speed Bike" is irresistible rock â€-n roll, a classic portrait of a red-blooded, speed-obsessed kid. Lonnquist even managed to get a boy in untied high-top sneakers who was reading a stack of Spider-Man comic books to look his way. Then, after doing a funny, swaying song about a tree-climbing boy named Morgan Menezes who "never worries about stuff like gravity", Lonnquist tried out a soft, pretty tune called "Count On Me". This song includes the refrain "I love you." The first time Lonnquist sang the refrain, a kid sitting up front''the boy interested in the capo, it turned out''said, "Oh, gross!" This comment led to others''"Yuck!" and "Euuuu!" being the chief ones. Lonnquist absorbed all of this calmly, and converted the refrain into "I love yeeuuuu", thereby acknowledging the kids' feelings and deflating them a little, too. But these kids were a tough audience, or, perhaps, simply a forgetful one; they didn't applaud when the song was over. Lonnquist pulled a long face and said, "Hey, did you know that if you don't clap the performer will have to go through years of very expensive therapy?" A Little Dreaminâ€- A week or so later I met Lonnquist for lunch at Monty's Blue Plate Diner, on the east side, his stomping grounds. He was wearing shoes''high-top canvas sneakers (tied). He had an artiste's beret on his head, and a few days' worth of whiskers on his face, and some burrs on his sweater which suggested that he'd been messing around in nature. He hadn't, he said, unless you considered walking the dogs in the park messing around in nature. However, he had been working on a new cassette collection of his environmental for kids. And later that afternoon he was going to perform some of those songs at Glendale Elementary School, which was having a Science Extravaganza Day. It was noon''rush hour at the Blue Plate, which, earlier in the day, serves as the broadcasting site for WORT's "Breakfast Special." Lonnquist, whose association with WORT goes back to 1978, hosted "The Breakfast Special" in the late '80s, when it emanated from Cleveland's Lunch on Wilson Street. (Last winter, he filled in as host, while WORT looked for a permanent replacement). Though Lonnquist describes himself as "a morning person", he doesn't especially enjoy rising at 4:30 AM and spending the hours after 9:00 AM, when the show was over, as a zombie. However, he enjoyed being a radio host much more than the only other day job he has held. In 1989, when he had, as he put it, "album debts up the wazoo," he taught debate and acting at Middleton High School. He wore a tie and tight-fitting shoes. "The job really reinforced my desire to be an itinerant musician," he says. Unlike many itinerant musicians, Lonnquist makes a living, nowadays, at his trade. He gives about 250 concerts a year, most of them for the K-12 crowd, which means, among other things, that he gets to perform in a smoke-free, alcohol-free environment and is able to go to bed at a decent hour. Children's music has become a big business, and though Lonnquist isn't well known beyond the upper Midwest, he has managed, by dint of talent and energy, to stake out some territory for himself. "If I weren't occupying the unique niches I occupy," he told me, "it would be impossible for me to make my living solely from music." Lonnquist ordered a Blue Plate veggie burger and a tall glass of milk, and told me about his parents and his seven older brothers and sisters. His father, who was born in northern Wisconsin, was a corn geneticist, one of the key figures in the so-called Green Revolution which led to improved grain production in Third World countries. Like everybody else in his family, his father played an instrument (guitar) and sang a little (cowboy songs). He was also a champion snorer, a fact that isn't obvious in "My Mother's Snoring." "When I wrote that song," Lonnquist said, "my father had been dead for several years, so I decided to make my mother the snorer. It's more fun to tease the living." Lonnquist composed his first song one day when he was 7, walking home from school in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he lived until he was 10. He made up a melody for some lyrics he found in a book called The Ghost Of Dibble Hollow. Many years later, he re-used that simply, bouncy melody in his version of "The Princess And The Pea", which is on Kengos Bongos. In 1967, when he was 10, he got his first guitar. (His family had since moved to Mexico City.) Soon thereafter, inspired by The Beatles ("I was a Beatlemaniac, and still am") and his own problems as a budding adolescent, he began to make a habit of writing songs. He wrote so much that his sister Peg, who is three years older, decided to prove that there was nothing mysterious about songwriting. She produced a one-verse nonsense song called "Be-Boppa-Doodley-Oppa." Later, Lonnquist added a verse of his own and put the song on A Little

Tracks:
1.1 Sunny Side Up!
1.2 Something in the Bathroom
1.3 Who Are You?
1.4 Alligator Rag
1.5 Rhino
1.6 Say Please!
1.7 Gentle Wind
1.8 A Very Special Day
1.9 Kengos Bongos
1.10 Natalie
1.11 Cinders and Cinderbugs
1.12 Princess and the Pea
1.13 Doin' the Dishes
1.14 Makin' Bacon
1.15 My Mother's Snoring
1.16 A Little Dreamin'
1.17 In the Jungle
1.18 Monkey Talk
1.19 The Dolphins and the Mermaid
1.20 Boogedy Blues
1.21 Zinger
1.22 The Girl and Mister Moon
1.23 Dagger
1.24 Be-Boppa-Doodley-Oppa
1.25 Backwards!
1.26 Just Like You
1.27 Barefoot Blues
1.28 Chasing After Moonbeams
1.29 The Last Lost Song of Kenland

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