Duluth’s Best Guitar Slingers

The Chaperone Records post (congrats on that – great to see here) reminded me of a conversation at Bayfront regarding the area’s best guitarists.

IMHO, the Twin Ports Bridge Festival featured three of the area’s top ten, maybe even five. Charlie Parr, who seems to have become a master of his genre. Jimi Cooper of the Fractals, who I have seen do many styles effortlessly. Barry Pirkola, also of the Fractals, who exhibits a similar smoothness to Jimi and works the steel as well.

We’re lucky to have so many great artists right here in our community (Twin Ports area – I titled w/Duluth because this is PDD). I’m curious and would enjoy hearing who others think are the area’s top five or ten if you feel like going deeper.


Stephenos LaFleur

about 12 years ago

My superbly objective survey of the scene:

Steve mofo'in Carlson! 

Lee "Country" Martin, burnin' down the barn w/ heavy country licks!

Pete Knutson (Ripples)will jazz your face!

Russ Sackett murders the keys so much, you forget about guitars..

Hot Shot

about 12 years ago

Two that I've worked with and that are genuinely amazingly great guitarists:

Rich Mattson (Tisdales, Ol' Yeller, Glenrustles)
Patrick Nelson (The Hotel Coral Essex, Giljunko)


about 12 years ago

Randy Anderson of Azure du Jour

Though both of them don't live in Duluth, they are from the Range do perform in town a bit -
Paul Mayasich and Paul Metsa.  
Erik Koskinen ain't too bad either...


about 12 years ago

Jim Hall 
Flip Arkulary
Ben Marsen (irony)
Mindy from the Keepaways (chunky sound)
Bill Isles 
Aaron Ashley (rock out)
Jamie Ness (hangout mood)
James Moors

agreed about many of the others above


about 12 years ago

Big House Bob
Slim Jimmy Jr
Darin Bergsven
Aaron Ashley
to name but a few


about 12 years ago

Number one hands down up here is Bob Olson of Black Eyed Snakes and Little Black Books fame. Gomez from Accelerattii and Toby Churchill each rock in different ways too. Rich Mattson.


about 12 years ago

A few more

Gregg Nelson

Mark Anderson

Ron Koivisto can play anything

Steve Isaksen

Al Sparhawk

and the late great Billy R.

Slim Jimmy M

about 12 years ago

Sammo Militch:  Performing at Carnegie Hall speaks for itself, not to mention authoring lessons in Guitar Player Magazine.

Tony Bennett from Cars & Trucks:  Stand too close to his amp on a good night, you will be disembowled.


about 12 years ago

I second ericswan's nod to Billy R - he will be missed.
Tom Wotruba of Virgil Caine


about 12 years ago

I second Pete Knutson and Rich Mattson. I'd like to add Scott Filipovich.

Ted Heinonen

about 12 years ago

I'd have to add:

Jim Madison along with his current partner in crime Ron Koivisto. Sammy Militch of course and my two brothers Tom Heinonen and Tyler Kaiser are both outstanding guitarist. And a tip of the hat to the late JD (Jim) Grusendorf.


about 12 years ago

Who was that disabled fellow who played jazz guitar with his left hand over the top of the neck?  He was amazing. R.I.P.


about 12 years ago

In addition to many of the others, Lew Orsoni (R.I.P)

DaVe, I was also trying to remember that guy's name. You're right, he was amazing. Also used to sit in from time to time during Saturday Jazz at the 'Toga. Anyone else know his name?


about 12 years ago

That was Eric Johnson.  He was a great player and a super positive guy.  He played a lot at the Toga and the Bluenote Cafe with Railroad Street Jazz and at UMD.  Man, those tunes are hard enough right side up, I couldn't imagine playing them upside down.  First lesson learned playing with Eric: no excuses.  Also: put a feather in your cap.

I second Jimi.  Billy Barnard!  Never sure if I want to practice or give up after playing with Billy.

Ted Heinonen

about 12 years ago

Billy Barnard, probably the finest jazz guitarist in the twin ports. John Soderberg was another picker that still amazes. I remember years ago there was a Glenn Hendricks, Mike Meyer and Jim Jimnack could make a strat cry

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