The story below is a tribute to the Albuquerque DJ who turned me on to blues and radio back in ’65. Lanny Mintz played a part inspiring me to create a new podcast radio show–“Big River with DJ Butter”
CLICK TO PLAY–“Butter’s Blues” 1-hour show.
Big River is a 1-hour riverboat trip through the greatest music in the USA, blues, rock n roll, r&b, country, soul, funk, cajun, zydeco, jazz that comes from the Mississippi River and Highway 61, Minneapolis to New Orleans.
There are several references to Lanny Mintz, from Howlin’ Wolf to Slim Harpo and Paul Butterfield. Titled “Butter’s Blues” this show is dedicated to Lanny Mintz and the original Butter, Paul Butterfield.
Big River with DJ Butter ‘Butter’s Blues’
Country Sugar Mama Howlin Wolf
3 O Clock Blues BB King
Further On Up the Road Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland
Cool Drink of Water Blues Tommy Johnson
Eyesight to the Blind Sonny Boy Williamson
In My Own Dream Karen Dalton
Born in Chicago Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Bright Lights Big City Jimmy Reed
Little Boy Blue Robert Lockwood Jr., Otis Spann
I’m Gonna Miss You Slim Harpo
Dust My Broom Elmore James
Country Blues Greg Spradlin Outfit
High Temperature Little Walter
Fan It Lightnin Hopkins
Boom Boom John Lee Hooker
Cross Road Blues Robert Johnson
Highway 61 Revisited Bob Dylan
Baby Please Don’t Go Better Days
link to facebook page for ‘Big River with DJ Butter. Playlists, features about artists on show.
Originally published August 23, 2011
My friend Lanny Mintz–The Mintz Man all night on KQEO
Albuquerque loved Lanny Mintz. 1965 wouldn’t have been the same without him. Just think: You’re in love, albeit unrequited, with the most beautiful sophomore at Highland High. Her name is Marguerite. She’s going steady with Gordon the Moron. You’d never try to grab someone else’s girl, not even Gordon the Moron’s, but you sure would like to get Marguerite into the back seat of dad’s Impala at the Terrace Drive-In.
Meanwhile you’re dialing a familiar number ON THE DIAL of the green hall phone, on a long extension into your darkened bedroom. That number is busy 95% of the time, the time being 1:30 am. It’s ringing–tingle– ringing until the next song comes on the transistor radio by your pillow: The Everly Brothers’ “Let it be Me.”
“KQEO, good morning.” It’s a cool, no bullshit kind of voice on your phone. You ask, “Hey Lanny would you play ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ from David to Marguerite?”
“Sorry, Lanny says, that’s not on the playlist. I can play it on Comedy Corner at 2:00.”
He explains the top-20 playlist, how it’s put together by the programming guy at KQEO, Albuquerque’s #1 top-20 station and can’t be deviated from by the all-night DJ (or any others for that matter) except for oldies that had previously been on the top-20. Lanny had one outlet for odd requests or ones that he appreciated, called Comedy Corner: 5-minute segments at midnight, 2:00 and 4:00 when Lanny played comedy records like Lord Buckley, Brother Dave Gardner, Bill Cosby, and sometimes, when he’d get a request he couldn’t play otherwise, he’d sneak it into Comedy Corner.
‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ was first played on KQEO’s Comedy Corner in 1965–months before Dylan’s first chart single, ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ made the top 20 playlist. No dedication to Marguerite but, hey!
Now the reader should shift the person gear from you to me, for it is I who am telling you this.
Over the next months I made quite a few “requests” in the wee small hours. One night Lanny asked who I was and how the hell had I heard of Dylan? He pronounced it correctly and simultaneously hipped me that my own, “dialin,” wasn’t right. Lanny would quiz me on musical knowledge, especially THE BLUES, which at that point I thought was The Rolling Stones. He told me about the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, hearing I shared the last name. He told me about Jimmy Reed and Little Walter, his two idols, and played their records on Comedy Corner. I kid you not. Lanny was WAY ahead of everyone west of Chicago. I’d heard the first Bob Dialin album right after it came out in 1962, when my brother Jerry, on Christmas leave from the US Navy, brought it home from Record Rendezvous–the original neighborhood shop on SE San Mateo. Thus I was the first teenager (at least that’s how it seemed for years) in Albuquerque to know of (and love) Bob Dylan. Lanny loved Dylan, too, and I guess that’s how we became friends.
One night when I called in another weird request, I think Lanny’s curiosity got the best of him. He invited me to the KQEO studio, down in the Valley on Indian School Road. This involved sneaking out the bedroom window, taking the VW, evading the APD and another curfew bust, down the back roads toward the transmitter tower blinking in the dark above the studio.
Lanny flew solo at KQ from 10pm to 6am, Monday through Friday. A true one-man band, he had all kinds of duties besides answering hundreds of requests and spinning 45s. This kind of responsibility required an FCC 1st Class license, or First Phone as Lanny called it. Had to have the first phone to fly solo. He’d put on a record then go check the transmitter output levels, then, hit ‘record’ on a 15-inch reel-to-reel tape deck, answer a call, tape the request, rewind the tape and cue it, pick the 45 out of the rack, cue it, fade-up his microphone while fading out the on-air record, make a station ID, play the request, play the record, turn down the “air” audio in the studio, cue up another 45 on the second platter, play that 45 at top volume in the studio: a DJ copy Chess 45, ‘Country Sugar Mama’ by Howlin’ Wolf! At 3 in the morning on my first visit with the Mintz Man! Then the amazing Mintz pulled out his chromatic harp and blew some mad blues himself, all the while keeping an eye on the progress of the needle in the groove of the 45 playing on the KQEO airwaves and before it ended, turn off the Howlin Wolf, fade up his mic and start all over again. Not only was he entertaining all of Albuquerque, Bernalillo, Belen and Los Lunas, he was putting on a show and lecture for this dumb kid sitting in the studio. Talk about a multi-tasker!
He was also very funny and did things in the wee hours that were completely unknown to all but studio visitors. He also let me do stuff. Like answering the request line. “KQEO, good morning!”…”Who’s this?”…”Lanny.”…”Not either”… “Yes it is, what’s your request, Ma’m?”…” “Don’t call me Ma’m. Who is this?”…” Lanny’s elf.” Or Lanny would answer in the voice of someone who’d just been awakened at 2am, “Hullo, who is it?”…”KQEO???”…”Don’t ever call this number again!” Click, he’d hang up. When they called back he’d answer in the normal DJ voice like nothing had ever happened. It doesn’t sound that funny now but it sure as hell was at the time.
Lanny was the first real music man I came across and he had a big influence on me. Around this time I joined eternal nothings, a very fine teen band, started by the Farfel brothers, Doug and Tim– covering pretty much the KQEO top-20. I was the tambourine-bashing lead singer. I picked up the harmonica and started playing harp with my band. The Mintz Man sat in with the nothings when he MC’d a dance we played at Sandia Base Officers Club. He gave me duplicate DJ 45’s: Howlin Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Bob Dylan–the rare misprint titled ‘Positively 4th Street’ which was actually ‘Please Crawl Out Your Window’ live with The Hawks. I still have (and cherish) all of those singles.
My last visit with Lanny at KQEO was around December, 1966. I’d dropped out of Highland High, quit eternal nothings, sold my PA and Shure microphones to the FeeBees–Albuquerque’s great all-girl band, and moved to San Francisco. I only lasted about eight eventful months in Frisco, fortunate to get out alive in July of ’67. The so- called “Summer of Love” was anything but.
About a year later, back in Albuquerque, I got a call from Jerry Landis, who’d also been in Frisco going to SF Art Institue briefly in ’66. I roomed with him in a big top-floor Victorian flat at 844 Page St. for a few months. Jerry (known as Sebastian then) was the master tenant with the magnificent, mahogany-panelled, gas-lit, living room overlooking Page Street, with Jack’s Records store on the corner. Jerry had moved back to Albuquerque soon after me. “Hey Dave I was just talking about you with Lanny Mintz. Why don’t you come over.” Turned out Jerry and Lanny lived in the same apartment complex off Monroe NE, near Lomas. Thus I, briefly, renewed my friendship with Lanny. He had a guitar and we’d jam occasionally. Never did go back to KQEO to visit. On one of our last visits, he gave me a 7-inch reel-to-reel mix tape of rare blues. I’m listening to a hissy cassette copy as I type: Slim Harpo’s ‘I’m Gonna Miss You.’
I moved back to San Francisco in 1973, stayed for 33 years. Lanny passed away sometime in the 90’s (I was unsuccessful Googling the date) but my memories of him loom large. The Detroit hipster brought Chicago electric blues and a lot more to culture-starved Albuquerque. He’s still my hero. The Mintz Man was cool.